In a ceremony befitting a Hollywood celebrity, the U.S. Navy’s first Joint High-Speed Vessel was christened in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday. Hundreds of guests attended the festivities at the Mobile Convention Center, across the Mobile River from Austal USA, where the vessel was built.
From the large terrace aft of the convention center, those in attendance could look across the river and see Spearhead, the first of 10 JHSVs that Austal hopes to build for the Navy. (The shipyard is currently under contract to build seven more JHSVs.) The vessel measures 337’10″x93’6″, has a running speed (with payload) of 35 knots, and a range of 1,200 nautical miles.
“We hope JHSVs will continue to be built beyond the next nine vessels we expect to build over the next few years,” Joe Rella, Austal USA’s president and chief operating officer, said from the podium inside one of the convention center’s banquet halls that resembled a television studio rather than a banquet facility. “Ten years ago, when Austal USA responded to a Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command ‘Sources Sought’ for the Theater Logistics Vessel — the predecessor ship for the JHSV — we were a brand new shipyard. Today, with the christening of USNS Spearhead, we can truly celebrate our role as a member of the exclusive U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Community.”
The aluminum JHSVs are a commercial-design, non-combatant transport vessel and do not require the development of any new technology. JHSVs are built to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) High Speed Naval Craft Guide standards. The vessels do not require the survivability and ability to sustain damage like the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which Austal USA is also building a series of for the Navy.
Rear Adm. David H. Lewis, USN Program Executive Officer, Ships, related a story about how one Christmas he and his wife had given their children a gift the children wanted desperately. As the day wore on, the kids played more with the box the gift had come in than the actual gift itself. “Spearhead is a big fast box,” he told the audience. “But it has taught us to think outside the box.”
Spearhead and all of its sisterships feature no combat system capability and no ability to support or use LCS mission modules. They will leverage non-developmental or commercial technology that is modified to suit military applications. The vessels feature a crew of 41, permanent troop seating for 104, and the ability to haul 600 ST of freight.
“We built this ship as efficiently as any shipyard in the country,” Rella said in an interview following the ceremony. “We have 2,100 people working here now, and we plan to double that number over the next two years.” As a non-combatant sealift ship, the JHSV will be crewed by civilian mariners, either employed by or under contract to the Navy’s Military Sealift Command.