The USA’s Spearhead-class, expeditionary fast transports
December 5/18: EPF-14 Austal is being contracted to build another Spearhead-class vessel for the US Navy. The cost-plus-fixed-fee undefinitized contract action is priced at $40.4 million and procures long-lead-time material and production engineering services for Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 14. EPF ships are the go-to platform for fast, intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment. These vessels bridge the gap between low-speed sealift and high-speed airlift. Their capability to access austere, minor and degraded ports make them very suitable for operations in underdeveloped countries. Work will be performed at multiple locations, including – but not limited to – Novi, Michigan; Chesapeake, Virginia and Iron Mountain, Michigan. The US Navy’s 14th EPF is expected to be completed by July 2022.
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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