Spearhead-class joint high speed vessel

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Spearhead class
USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1) - 1.jpg
USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1) during sea trials in 2012
Class overview
Builders: Austal USA
Operators:  United States Navy
Cost: $214m/unit[1]
Built: 2010s
Planned: 10
Completed: 4
General characteristics
Tonnage: 1,515 tonnes
Length: 103.0 m (337 ft 11 in)
Beam: 28.5 m (93 ft 6 in)
Draft: 3.83 m (12 ft 7 in)
Propulsion: Four MTU 20V8000 M71L diesel engines
Four ZF 60000NR2H reduction gears
Speed: 43 knots (80 km/h; 49 mph)
Troops: 312
Crew: 41
Aircraft carried: Landing pad for medium helicopter, up to V-22 Osprey.
Stern view of USNS Spearhead, with helicopter

The Spearhead-class joint high speed vessel (JHSV) is a United States Navy-led shipbuilding program to provide "a platform intended to support users in the Department of the Navy and Department of the Army. The Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) program is a cooperative effort for a high-speed, shallow draft vessel intended for rapid intratheater transport of medium-sized cargo payloads. The JHSV will reach speeds of 35–45 knots (65–83 km/h; 40–52 mph) and will allow for the rapid transit and deployment of conventional or special forces as well as equipment and supplies."[2][3]


The JHSV will be able to transport U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps company-sized units with their vehicles, or reconfigurable to become a troop transport for an infantry battalion.[2]

The JHSV will have a flight deck for helicopters and a load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive on and off the ship. The ramp will be suitable for the types of austere piers and quay walls common in developing countries. JHSV will have a shallow draft (under 15 feet (4.6 m)).[2]

The design is 70 percent in common with the Hawaii Superferry, also built by Austal USA.[4]

The JHSV has no weapons or defensive systems to fulfill combat missions, but the Navy is looking to expand its roles to include re-supplying special operations forces and conducting humanitarian assistance missions.[5] Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert has called for deploying the unarmed ships in pirate infested waters.[6]

Control system[edit]

The control system for this class is provided by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems through an open architecture computing infrastructure (OPEN CI). OPEN CI includes the information technology (IT) infrastructure for the combat and seaframe control systems. The infrastructure integrates the ship's electronic systems including, internal and external communication, electronic navigation, aviation and armament systems.[7] The General Dynamics OPEN CI is also used on the Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), also built by Austal.

Communication systems[edit]

The Communications suite for this class will be provided by BAE Systems Inc.

Railgun testing[edit]

On 7 April 2014, the U.S. Navy announced that a prototype electromagnetic railgun will be installed onto USNS Millinocket (JHSV-3) for at-sea testing in FY 2016. Though the ships are non-combatants, they were chosen for their available cargo and topside space and schedule flexibility. They will not be permanently installed on the JHSV, and the Navy has yet to decide which ship classes will receive a fully operational railgun. The tests are to offer lessons to incorporate into a future tactical design and to gain knowledge on how to integrate the system onto a ship with modifications.[8]

Amphibious assault[edit]

The USMC is investigating changes to the JHSV ramp to allow it to place Amphibious Combat Vehicles into the water near the shore.[9] A single JHSV could carry and deploy as many as 30 ACVs.[10]


The JHSV program combines the Army's Theater Support Vessel (TSV) program (dating from 2004) with the Navy and Marine Corps High Speed Connector (HSC) (requirement dating from 2004).[11][12]

The JHSV program received Milestone A approval in May 2006. The Navy awarded Phase One preliminary design contracts in early 2008, and a detail design and construction contract in the 4th Quarter of FY08.[2]

The Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships will conduct acquisition for both the Army and Navy, but each service will fund its own ships. After delivery, each service will be responsible for manning, maintaining, and providing full lifecycle support for its vessels.[2]

USNS Spearhead, the lead ship in the class, was launched in September 2011, and it is expected to be delivered to the Navy in early 2012.[13] Construction of JHSV-2 is underway.

The Navy expected to purchase 23 JHSV vessels over 30 years.[14]

On 2 May 2011, all Army JHSVs were transferred to the Navy.[15]

On 5 December 2012, the first ship in the class, USNS Spearhead, was delivered to Military Sealift Command in Mobile, Alabama.

On 30 June 2011, Austal was awarded construction contracts for JHSV-6 and JHSV-7.[16]

On 27 February 2012, Austal was awarded construction contracts for JHSV-8 and JHSV-9.[17]

On 10 December 2012, the Navy awarded its final option under its current contract, and ordered JHSV-10.[18]

On 5 April 2013, the JHSV program was added to the remit of the Littoral Combat Ship Council, so that the capabilities of both ship types could be considered together.[19]

In 2014, the USN considered outsourcing the management of the fleet, but concluded that the ships would continue to be manned by civil service mariners.[20]



The Army and Navy have been operating HSVs for some years, notably HSV-X1 Joint Venture (joint Army/Navy), HSV-2 Swift (Navy), USAV Spearhead (TSV-X1) (Army), and MV Westpac Express (HSV-4676) (Navy).

In June 2011, a fifty-ton module was damaged at the Austal shipyard in Mobile during the construction of USNS Chocktaw County.[26]

In 2013 a Frost & Sullivan report predicted that sales could be made to APAC countries.[27]


In early 2014, Austal announced it had been awarded a $124.9 million contract for two High Speed Support Vessels (HSSV) for a foreign customer, later revealed to be the Royal Navy of Oman. The HSSV has a similar catamaran hull design as the JHSV and supports naval operations including helicopter operations, rapid deployment of military personnel and cargo, and search and rescue missions. It is 72.5 m (238 ft) long and can travel at 35 knots. An HSSV has a crew of 69 personnel, can seat another 250, and has a cargo capacity of 320 tonnes. Both are to be delivered by 2016.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)" (pdf). Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. Government Accountability Office. March 2013. pp. 83–84. GAO-13-294SP. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". US Navy. Retrieved 12 March 2010. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  4. ^ "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)" (pdf). Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. Government Accountability Office. March 2010. pp. 77–78. GAO-10-388SP. 
  5. ^ Osborn, Kris (26 March 2014). "Navy Considers JHSV for Special Operations Missions". DoD Buzz. 
  6. ^ Larter, David (26 July 2014). "Retiring frigates may leave some missions unfilled". Air Force Times (Gannett Government Media). Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems to Integrate Ship Mission System for Austal Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)]". General Dynamics (Press release). 17 November 2008. 
  8. ^ Navy to deploy electromagnetic railgun - Military1.com, 7 April 2014
  9. ^ Freedberg Jr., Sydney J. (16 April 2014). "Marines Seek New Tech To Get Ashore Vs. Missiles; Reinventing Amphib Assault". breakingdefense.com (Breaking Media, Inc.). Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Amos rejects recent critique of amphibious combat vehicle - MarineCorpstimes.com, 25 June 2014
  11. ^ "Objective Theater Support Vessel (OTSV)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "High Speed Connector (HSC)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  13. ^ Seal, Laura M. (17 September 2011). "Navy's First Joint High-Speed Vessel Christened". Navy News Service. US Navy. NNS110917-10. Archived from the original on 22 September 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  14. ^ Brumley, Jeff (5 October 2011). "Unusual ship visits Mayport after 6-month deployment to African waters". Florida Times-Union. 
  15. ^ "Army Transfers High Speed Vessels to Navy". United States Department of Defense (Press release). 5 May 2011. 384-11. 
  16. ^ "Navy Awards Construction Contracts for JHSV 6, 7". Navy News Service. US Navy. 1 July 2011. NNS110701-10. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  17. ^ "Navy orders more JHSVs from Austal". United Press International. 27 February 2012. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  18. ^ "Navy Exercises Tenth JHSV Construction Option". Marine Log. 20 December 2012. 
  19. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (5 April 2013). "LCS council adds new member". Navy Times. 
  20. ^ Hooper, Craig (3 June 2014). "Military Sealift Command News: CIVMARs To Operate JHSV". nextnavy.com (Craig Hooper). Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  21. ^ "Austal Celebrates Keel Laying for JHSV2 - the "Choctaw County"" (Press release). Austal. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  22. ^ "Secretary of the Navy Names Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket" (Press release). United States Department of Defense. 30 May 2012. 438-12. 
  23. ^ "Future USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) completes builder's sea trials". 20 December 2013. 
  24. ^ "Fourth Joint High Speed Vessel Named". United States Department of Defense. 26 March 2010. 235-10. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  25. ^ a b c "Secretary of the Navy Names Multiple Ships". United States Department of Defense. 237-13. 
  26. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (14 June 2011). "JHSV Module Damaged at Ala. Shipyard". Defense News. 
  27. ^ "Joint High-Speed Vessels May Answer the Changing Logistics Needs of Navies, Finds Frost & Sullivan" (Press release). Frost & Sullivan. PR Newswire. 20 May 2013. 
  28. ^ Austal contract for two 72m High Speed Support Vessels is for the Royal Navy of Oman - Navyrecognition.com, 10 July 2014

External links[edit]