The USA’s JHSV Fast Catamaran Ships
USNS Spearhead [JHSV 1] completes IOT&E and deploys; JHSV 3 completes acceptance trials; JHSV 4 is launched; Additional Readings sections updated & upgraded.
Jan 17/13: JHSV 4. Fall River is launched at Austal’s Mobile, AL shipyard, after a side trip to BAE. Instead of moving down a slipway, launches are now float-off affairs from a BAE floating drydock. Getting to the drydock requires a transfer onto a barge, using Berard Transportation rollers. The ship was christened on Jan 11/14, and will be formally delivered to the USN later in 2014, after final fitting out. Austal adds that:
“Three JHSVs and four LCSs are currently under construction in Austal’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard. Austal will begin production of one more ship in each program before the end of January.”
Sources: Austal, “Austal Launches USNS Fall River (JHSV 4). First of four Navy ships to be launched at Austal in 2014.” and “USNS Fall River (JHSV 4) Christened – One of seven Navy vessels currently under construction at Austal USA”
Jan 16/14: JHSV 1 deploys. Operational use of the JHSV fleet begins with USNS Spearhead’s deployment from NAB Little Creek. She’ll head to “the US 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility” (Africa) until May 2014, then on to the 4th Fleet AOR (Central & South America) until December 2014. Sources: USN, “USNS Spearhead departs on Maiden Deployment”.
Jan 9/14: JHSV 3. USNS Millinocket successfully completes Navy Acceptance Trials in the Gulf of Mexico. Formal delivery is expected in late January. Sources: MarineLog, “JHSV 3 completes Acceptance Trials”.
Oct 8/13: JHSV 1. USNS Spearhead has successfully completed initial operational testing and evaluation with the US Navy. Sources: Austal, “JHSV 1 successfully completes US Navy operational testing”.
When moving whole units, shipping is always the cheaper, higher-capacity option. Slow speed and port access are the big issues, but what if ship transit times could be cut sharply, and full-service ports weren’t necessary? After Australia led the way by using what amounted to fast car ferries for military operations, the US Army and Navy decided to give it a go. Both services leased Incat TSV/HSV wave-piercing catamaran ship designs, while the Marines’ charged ahead with very successful use of Austal’s Westpac Express high-speed catamaran. These Australian-designed ships all give commanders the ability to roll on a company with full gear and equipment (or roll on a full infantry battalion if used only as a troop transport), haul it intra-theater distances at 38 knots, then move their shallow draft safely into austere ports to roll them off.
Their successful use, and continued success on operations, attracted favorable comment and notice from all services. So favorable that the experiments have led to a $3+ billion program called the Joint High Speed Vessel. These designs may even have uses beyond simple ferrying and transport.
The JHSV Ships
The JHSV Program
Supplements: From Leased to Bought
Contracts & Key Events
FY 2011 – 2012
FY 2009 – 2010
FY 2005 – 2008
Appendix A: The US Military’s HSV/TSV Experience
Additional Readings & Sources
JHSV and its Relatives
News & Views
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