The USA’s Spearhead-class, expeditionary fast transports
March 20/19: Shipyad Availability Colonna Shipyards won an $8.9 million deal for an 80-day shipyard availability for the emergency dry-docking of Navy Ship Spearhead (T-EPF 1). The Spearhead Class Expeditionary Fast Transport shipbuilding program to provide “a platform intended to support users in the Department of the Navy and Department of the Army. The Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) program is a cooperative effort for a high-speed, shallow draft vessel intended for rapid intratheater transport of medium-sized cargo payloads. The Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) is a shallow draft, all aluminum, commercial-based catamaran capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo lift, providing combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility with inherent cargo handling capability and agility to achieve positional advantage over operational distances. Work will take place in Norfolk, Virginia and is expected to be finished 2020.
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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