The first of the U.S. Navy’s new aluminum Joint High Speed Vessels, the future USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1), completed builder’s sea trials on April 19 in the Gulf of Mexico.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) says that that the ship “performed well” during trials that encompassed over 50 demonstration events. “I have never witnessed a more problem-free builder’s sea trial than USNS Spearhead’s,” remarked Joe Rella, president and chief operating officer of Austal USA.
Highlights included operating the ship’s propulsion plant with four MTU 20V8000 M71L diesels at different power levels up to full power, reaching top speeds in excess of 35 knots; testing and calibrating communication and navigational systems; ride control systems testing; and pollution control systems tests. The ship’s four steerable Wartsila WLD 1400 SR water jets were tested, and the ship performed a series of high-speed turns to demonstrate stability and maneuverability, with the JHSV exhibiting “virtually no heeling motions throughout the radical turns,” according to Austal.
Capt. Henry Stevens, Strategic and Theater Sealift Program Manager (PMS 385), said in a press release that ”getting Spearhead under way is a significant step in the ship’s steady progress toward entering the fleet.”
The next major milestones for JHSV 1 are acceptance trials – tentatively scheduled for mid-May – that will be conducted by the U.S. Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) followed by delivery later this year – perhaps as early as Q2, 2012. In the interim, NAVSEA says that shipbuilder Austal will be busy closing out a number of open corrective actions in preparation for the acceptance trials.
After delivery, JHSV 1 will go through another set of post delivery tests & trials that are tentatively planned to last from the 3rd quarter FY 2012 through 1st quarter FY 2013.
JHSV 1 is a versatile, non-combatant transport ship that will be used for fast intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles, and equipment. The ship is being built by Austal USA, and is the first of a planned ten-ship program. The U.S. Navy had awarded contracts for nine of the ten vessels to be executed between FY09 and FY13 as part of a program that is potentially worth over US$1.6 billion according to Austal, although recent budget documents indicate DoD may cut back that buy.
JHSV is designed to commercial standards, with limited modifications for military use. The 103-meter-long catamaran vessel, with a full load displacement of 2,400 metric tons, is capable of transporting 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. With a draft of 3.91 meters, it can operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-load a combat-loaded M1A2 Abrams main battle tank using a 45-degree slewing articulated quarter ramp for rapid and efficient loading and offloading.
Other joint requirements include a NAVAIR Level 1 Class 2 certified flight deck flight deck to support day and night aircraft launch and recovery operations for a medium helicopter. JHSV 1 will have airline style seating for 312 embarked forces, with fixed berthing for 104. The ship’s complement is 42 persons.
In essence, the JHSV provides combatant commands (COCOMs) a 35-knot intra-theater transport capable of carrying combat ready units over 1,200 nautical miles with the ability to off-load troops and equipment in an austere environment without reliance on shore infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Austal announced that it is getting ready to perform the ceremonial keel laying of JHSV 3, the future Fortitude, on May 3, 2012.