USNS Spearhead, First JHSV, Delivered

 

January 2013

 

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Progress continued in the Navy’s joint high-speed vessel (JHSV) program with the Dec. 5 delivery of the USNS Spearhead, the first in a planned 10-ship fleet that means new jobs for SIU members.

 

As previously reported, the first four JHSVs will be crewed by civil service mariners (CIVMARS), while the rest will be manned by seafarers employed by operating companies under contract to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command.

 

The Spearhead was delivered at Austal Shipyard in Mobile, Ala. It will feature a crew of 22, including members of the SIU Government Services Division. The vessel was scheduled to undergo “operational testing” before sailing to its layberth in Little Creek, Va.; the Navy expects the ship to start its missions in the first quarter of this year.

 

Retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Four Kenneth Wahlman is the ship’s sponsor. Wahlman was inducted into the Transportation Corps Hall of Fame in July 2004 after 38 years of distinguished contributions to the Army ranging from support to the Naval Nuclear Power Unit at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, to assisting with the launch of the Army prepositioning fleet in 1987. (SIU-crewed ships for decades have delivered vital cargo to McMurdo Station, and numerous SIU-crewed vessels help form America’s prepositioning fleet.)

 

According to an MSC news release, the Navy honored the ship’s original U.S. Army-chosen name and sponsor after the 2011 decision to transfer five JHSVs – originally slated to be owned and operated by the Army – to the Navy. Subsequent JHSVs will be named after U.S. counties, such as the USNS Choctaw County (JHSV 2).

 

By any names, the new vessels (each 338 feet long) will be fast. They reportedly are capable of transporting approximately 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. Additionally, each JHSV has sleeping accommodations for up to 42 crew members and 104 mission personnel, and airline-style seating for 312 people.

 

Flexibility is another eagerly anticipated feature of the JHSVs. Each ship will have a 20,000 square-foot mission bay area that can be reconfigured to adapt to different tasks. Examples given by MSC included carrying containerized portable hospitals to support disaster relief, or transporting tanks and troops.

 

Further, the JHSVs can operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways. Their flight decks can support operations for a wide variety of aircraft.

 

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