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 (initial)[1]
$180m/unit (production)[2]
Built: 2010s
Building: 2[3]
Planned: 11
Completed: 5[3]
Active: 4[3]
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)
Range: 1,200 nmi (1,400 mi; 2,200 km)[4]
Boats and landing
craft carried:
Can deploy various rigid hull inflatable boats[5][6]
Capacity: 600 short tons[4]
Troops: 312
Crew: 41
Armament: Four mounts for M2 .50 caliber machine guns[7]
Aircraft carried: Landing pad for a helicopter, up to CH-53 Super Stallion/CH-53K King Stallion,[8] parking and storage area for MH-60 Seahawk[7]

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."[9][10]


Stern view of USNS Spearhead, with helicopter

The JHSV is 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.[9]

The JHSV has a flight deck for helicopters and a load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive on and off the ship. The ramp is suitable for the types of austere piers and quay walls common in developing countries. JHSV has a shallow draft (under 15 feet (4.6 m)).[9]

A JHSV is essentially an aluminum twin-hull catamaran shell containing four diesel engines, rudimentary control facilities for up to 40 crewmembers, and 312 airline-style passenger seats, along with an expansive flight deck on the top. The rest of the vessel is an empty 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2) mission bay that can be loaded to carry whatever cargo is needed.[11] Vehicles and cargo are loaded and unloaded by a ramp that can support up to 100 tons of weight. Although designed for a military crew of 46, the ships usually have a crew of just 26 mariners. The passenger room contains reclining seats with overhead televisions and racks for weapons and equipment.[12] A vessel has 104 permanent berthing spaces. Without resupply, it can support 312 embarked personnel for four days, or 104 personnel for 14 days.[8]

The design is 70 percent in common with the Hawaii Superferry, also built by Austal USA.[13]

The JHSV has a greater level of comfort for the crew and passengers than larger Navy ships for short-term embarkations. The interior is spacious and berthing areas have private features like toilet stalls, outlets, air conditioning, and even thermostats; there is no gym on board. One disadvantage of the ship's design is stability in rough seas and at high speeds. At 10 knots in calm sea states, the hull can rock up to four degrees to each side, while conventional ships would roll very little, which would increase if the ship goes faster in rougher conditions, raising the possibility of seasickness.[6]

As of late 2014, a JHSV costs $180 million to build and has an annual operating cost of $26 million.[2]

Other roles[edit]

The joint high-speed vessel USNS Choctaw County (JHSV 2) awaits delivery at the Austal USA vessel completion yard.

The U.S. 4th Fleet has expressed interest in using the JHSV as a low-cost ship for performing drug interdiction missions around Central and South America. U.S. Southern Command is experiencing a shortage of Navy frigates and Coast Guard cutters available to interdict drug runners due to ship age and budget cuts. In May 2013, the HSV-2 Swift conducted a drug interdiction patrol, showing an aluminum catamaran was capable of performing the role. A JHSV costs less than a frigate, has a smaller crew demand of 22 compared to 200 for a frigate, and is capable of embarking a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET).[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.[14] Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert has suggested using the ships as a cheaper way to perform counter-piracy missions to free up blue-water combatants.[15] Offensive armament and defensive measures against pirates would be handled by a security team on board, and a JHSV's speed would also be a good defense against an attack by pirates.[16] The Navy is experimenting with using the JHSV as a hospital ship by setting up an expeditionary medical unit (EMU) inside the mission bay. Although it wouldn't be able to conduct the same tasks as a full-size hospital ship, large hospital ships are slow, while the JHSV can serve as a quick transit platform for rapid medical response.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19] However, the Navy decided instead to mount the experimental railgun on USNS Trenton (JHSV-5).[20]

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.[21] A single JHSV could carry and deploy as many as 20-30 ACVs.[22][23]

Marine Corps General John M. Paxton, Jr. has called the JHSV "a very capable ship" for certain missions, but in consideration for serving as an alternate platform for Marines to use in amphibious operations as substitutes for amphibious assault ships, he claims several deficiencies including ability to operate in difficult sea states, ability to remain survivable in contested waters, a flight deck that cannot handle the heat of an MV-22 Osprey's engines during take-off and landing, lack of a well deck to launch amphibious vehicles at sea, as well as current lack of a "splash capability" where the ramp can allow vehicles to be driven off it into the sea.[24] The JHSV has been rejected as an alternative platform to base the MV-22 off of due to weight and the heat it generates being potentially damaging to its flight deck.[25]


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).[26][27]

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.[9]

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.[9]

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.[28] Construction of JHSV-2 is underway.

The Navy expected to purchase 23 JHSV vessels over 30 years.[29]

On 2 May 2011, all Army JHSVs were transferred to the Navy.[30]

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.[31]

On 27 February 2012, Austal was awarded construction contracts for JHSV-8 and JHSV-9.[32]

On 10 December 2012, the Navy awarded its final option under its current contract, and ordered JHSV-10.[33]

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.[34]

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.[35]

Funding for the construction of an eleventh JHSV was appropriated by Congress in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.[36]


Related/Similar Projects[edit]

The Army and Navy have been operating HSVs for some years, including such notable vessels as;

Also of note;


In June 2011, a fifty-ton module was damaged at the Austal shipyard in Mobile during the construction of USNS Chocktaw County.[42]

In 2013 a Frost & Sullivan report predicted that sales could be made to APAC countries.[43]


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 with 69 berths, can seat another 250, and has a cargo capacity of 320 tonnes (350 short tons). Both are to be delivered by 2016.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs" (PDF). Government Accountability Office. March 2013. pp. 83–84. GAO-13-294SP. Retrieved 26 May 2013.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b Civilian-crewed vessels see larger role in amphibious ops - Navytimes.com, 9 December 2014
  3. ^ a b c "Austal Delivers Fourth Joint High Speed Vessel" (Press release). Austal. 16 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Low Cost Ship Options for U.S. Navy’s Drug War - News.USNI.org, 20 March 2013
  5. ^ Marines conduct crisis response exercise from USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) - Dvidshub.net, 21 March 2014
  6. ^ a b Joint High-Speed Vessel turns heads during Bold Alligator - Navytimes.com, 9 November 2014
  7. ^ a b Joint High Speed Vessel: Great Potential, But Questions Remain - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, March 2011
  8. ^ a b Joint High Speed Vessels Support Marine Corps Missions - Navylive.DoDlive.mil, 14 October 2014
  9. ^ a b c d e "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". US Navy. Retrieved 12 March 2010. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  11. ^ Navy’s Newest Ship Is Pickup Truck of the Sea - Wired.com, 19 September 2011
  12. ^ Navy explores new roles with first-in-class USNS Spearhead - Stripes.com, 29 April 2014
  13. ^ "Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs" (PDF). Government Accountability Office. March 2010. pp. 77–78. GAO-10-388SP.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  14. ^ Osborn, Kris (26 March 2014). "Navy Considers JHSV for Special Operations Missions". DoD Buzz. 
  15. ^ Larter, David (26 July 2014). "Retiring frigates may leave some missions unfilled". Air Force Times (Gannett Government Media). Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  16. ^ USNS Spearhead returns from maiden deployment - Navytimes.com, 6 May 2014
  17. ^ USNS Choctaw County Starts Concept Trial at Naval Weapons Station Cheatham - Navy.mil, 8 December 2014
  18. ^ "General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems to Integrate Ship Mission System for Austal Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)]". General Dynamics (Press release). 17 November 2008. 
  19. ^ Navy to deploy electromagnetic railgun - Military1.com, 7 April 2014
  20. ^ NAVSEA Details At Sea 2016 Railgun Test on JHSV Trenton - News.USNI.org, 14 April 2015
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ Amos rejects recent critique of amphibious combat vehicle - MarineCorpstimes.com, 25 June 2014
  23. ^ Future Marine Corps Missions Depend on New Ship-To-Shore Connectors - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, 16 July 2014
  24. ^ USMC’s Paxton: Potential Marine Deployments On LCS And JHSV Carry Risks - News.USNI.org, 2 October 2014
  25. ^ SNA: Surface Leaders Make the Case for the Modified Littoral Combat Ship - News.USNI.org, 13 January 2015
  26. ^ "Objective Theater Support Vessel (OTSV)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  27. ^ "High Speed Connector (HSC)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ Brumley, Jeff (5 October 2011). "Unusual ship visits Mayport after 6-month deployment to African waters". Florida Times-Union. 
  30. ^ "Army Transfers High Speed Vessels to Navy". United States Department of Defense (Press release). 5 May 2011. 384-11. 
  31. ^ "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. 
  32. ^ "Navy orders more JHSVs from Austal". United Press International. 27 February 2012. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  33. ^ "Navy Exercises Tenth JHSV Construction Option". Marine Log. 20 December 2012. 
  34. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (5 April 2013). "LCS council adds new member". Navy Times. 
  35. ^ Hooper, Craig (3 June 2014). "Military Sealift Command News: CIVMARs To Operate JHSV". nextnavy.com (Craig Hooper). Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  36. ^ http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141212/DEFREG/312120029/Navy-Gains-Ship-15-Growlers-Defense-Bill
  37. ^ "Austal Celebrates Keel Laying for JHSV2 - the "Choctaw County"" (Press release). Austal. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  38. ^ "Secretary of the Navy Names Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket" (Press release). United States Department of Defense. 30 May 2012. 438-12. 
  39. ^ "Future USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) completes builder's sea trials". 20 December 2013. 
  40. ^ "Fourth Joint High Speed Vessel Named". United States Department of Defense. 26 March 2010. 235-10. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  41. ^ a b c d e "Secretary of the Navy Names Multiple Ships". United States Department of Defense. 237-13. 
  42. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (14 June 2011). "JHSV Module Damaged at Ala. Shipyard". Defense News. 
  43. ^ "Joint High-Speed Vessels May Answer the Changing Logistics Needs of Navies, Finds Frost & Sullivan" (Press release). Frost & Sullivan. PR Newswire. 20 May 2013. 
  44. ^ Austal contract for two 72m High Speed Support Vessels is for the Royal Navy of Oman - Navyrecognition.com, 10 July 2014

External links[edit]