Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport

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Spearhead class
USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1) - 1.jpg
USNS Spearhead (EPF-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: 3[3]
Planned: 12[4]
Completed: 8[3]
Active: 8
General characteristics
Type: Expeditionary Fast Transport
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)[5]
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Can deploy various rigid hull inflatable boats[6][7]
Capacity: 600 short tons[5]
Troops: 312
Crew: 41
Armament: Four mounts for M2 .50 caliber machine guns[8]
Aircraft carried: Landing pad for a helicopter, up to CH-53 Super Stallion/CH-53K King Stallion,[9] parking and storage area for MH-60 Seahawk[8]

The Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 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 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 EPF 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."[10][11] The vessels are a part of Military Sealift Command's Sealift Program.[12] The class was previously designated as "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)", but was changed to (EPF) in September 2015.[13]

Capabilities[edit]

Stern view of USNS Spearhead, with helicopter

The EPF 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.[10]

The EPF 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. EPF has a shallow draft (under 15 feet (4.6 m)).[10]

A EPF 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.[14] 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.[15] A vessel has 104 permanent berthing spaces. Without resupply, it can support 312 embarked personnel for four days, or 104 personnel for 14 days.[9]

The design is similar with the Hawaii Superferry, also built by Austal USA.[16]

The EPF has a greater level of comfort for the crew than larger Navy ships. The stateroom-style berthing areas for the ship's crew have private features like toilet stalls, outlets, air conditioning, and even thermostats. The same can not be said for the passengers, who may need to apply "Hot racking"-style living arrangements of available berthing bunks if necessary. There is no gym on board, nor soda machines or candy machines. There is no ship's store in the typical Navy sense of the term, but rather the ship's captain may unlock and sell ship's coins and other ship-specific paraphernalia on a case-by-case basis.

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 roll 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.[7] To achieve its top speed, the ship has to be traveling in waters not exceeding sea state 3 (waves up to 1.25 m (4.1 ft) high). At sea state 4 it can travel up to 15 knots, travel only 5 knots in sea state 5, and has to hold position in any sea state higher; while this might be seen as an operational limitation that can delay its arrival to port facilities, the ship was intended to operate closer to shore rather than in blue water conditions.[17]

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

Other roles[edit]

The Expeditionary Fast Transport USNS Choctaw County (EPF-2) awaits delivery at the Austal USA vessel completion yard.

The U.S. 4th Fleet has expressed interest in using the EPF as a low-cost ship for performing drug interdiction missions around Central and South America. U.S. Southern Command is experiencing a shortage of 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. An EPF is capable of embarking a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET).[5]

The EPF 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.[18] 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.[19] Offensive armament and defensive measures against pirates would be handled by a security team on board, and an EPF's speed would also be a good defense against an attack by pirates.[20] The Navy is experimenting with using the EPF 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 EPF can serve as a quick transit platform for rapid medical response.[21]

After various tests to explore the EPF's suitability to perform different missions, the ship was found to perform its primary role of intra-theater transport effectively, but had extreme difficulty in carrying out other suggested missions. When performing at-sea transfers of equipment with a Mobile Landing Platform (MLP), the EPF ramp used for vehicle transfers could not effectively intemperate with it in open ocean sea states of 2-3, and was determined to only be able to work in calm sea states found in protected harbors, an unacceptable constraint for operational deployment; the Navy has been aware of the current ramp's limitations and is developing one for use in up to sea states 3-4. When deploying a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV), the EPF's stern-mounted crane could launch it in up to sea state 3 conditions, but support surface craft were needed to get divers into the underwater vehicle, which could only be launched in sea state 2.[17]

Electronic Systems[edit]

The Electronic System for this class is provided by General Dynamics Mission Systems. As the ship systems integrator, General Dynamics Mission Systems’ open architecture computing infrastructure (OPEN CI) enables the U.S. Navy to rapidly upgrade mission capability. OPEN CI connects proven, innovative hardware and software technology seamlessly and reliably. The infrastructure integrates the ship's electronic systems including; ship's computing environment, internal and external communications, electronic navigation, aviation, and armament systems, remote surveillance system, and entertainment & training system.[22] The General Dynamics OPEN CI is also used on the Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), also built by Austal.[23]

Railgun testing[edit]

On 7 April 2014, the U.S. Navy announced that a prototype electromagnetic railgun would be installed onto USNS Millinocket (T-EPF-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.[24] The Navy then decided to mount the experimental railgun on USNS Trenton (T-EPF-5) instead,[25] but later decided that land-based tests would be cheaper and more useful than temporarily installing it on an EFP.[26]

Amphibious assault[edit]

The USMC is investigating changes to the EPF ramp to allow it to place Amphibious Combat Vehicles into the water near the shore.[27] A single EPF could carry and deploy as many as 20-30 ACVs.[28][29]

Marine Corps General John M. Paxton, Jr. has called the EPF "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.[30] The EPF 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.[31]

Program[edit]

The EPF 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).[32][33]

The EPF 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.[10]

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.[10]

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.[34]

The Navy expected to purchase 23 EPF vessels over 30 years.[35]

On 2 May 2011, all Army JHSVs were transferred to the Navy.[36]

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 EPF-6 and EPF-7.[37]

On 27 February 2012, Austal was awarded construction contracts for EPF-8 and EPF-9.[38]

On 10 December 2012, the Navy awarded its final option under its current contract, and ordered EPF-10.[39]

On 5 April 2013, the EPF program was added to the remit of the Littoral Combat Ship Council, so that the capabilities of both ship types could be considered together.[40]

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.[41]

Funding for the construction of an eleventh EPF was appropriated by Congress in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.[42] The procurement of long-lead-time material and initial engineering support for the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 12 (formerly Joint High Speed Vessel 12) was announced on 5 May 2016 under the Naval Sea Systems Command's contracting activity (N00024-16-C-2217). On 16 September 2016, Austal was awarded a contract to design and construct EPF-11 and EPF-12.[43]

Ships[edit]

Ship Laid down Launched Delivered Status
USNS Spearhead (T-EPF-1) 22 July 2010 12 September 2011 5 December 2012 In service[44]
USNS Choctaw County (T-EPF-2) 8 November 2011 1 October 2012 6 June 2013 In service[45][46]
USNS Millinocket (T-EPF-3) 3 May 2012 5 June 2013 21 March 2014 In service[47][48][49]
USNS Fall River (T-EPF-4) 20 May 2013 16 January 2014 15 September 2014 In service[50][51]
USNS Trenton (T-EPF-5) 10 March 2014 30 September 2014 13 April 2015 In service[52][53]
USNS Brunswick (T-EPF-6) 2 December 2014 19 May 2015 14 January 2016 In service[53][54]
USNS Carson City (T-EPF-7) 31 July 2015 20 January 2016 24 June 2016 In service[53][55]
USNS Yuma (T-EPF-8) 29 March 2016 17 September 2016 21 April 2017 In service[56][57][58]
USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF-9) 18 January 2017 7 June 2017 Launched[59][60]
USNS Burlington (T-EPF-10) Under construction[57][61]
USNS Puerto Rico (T-EPF-11) Under construction[59][62]
Unnamed (T-EPF-12) On order

Related/Similar Projects[edit]

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

Also of note;

History[edit]

In June 2011, a fifty-ton module was damaged at the Austal shipyard in Mobile during the construction of USNS Chocktaw County.[63]

In 2013 a Frost & Sullivan report predicted that sales could be made to APAC countries.[64]

During operations in 2015, the first ship of the class, USNS Spearhead, experienced bow-damage from rough seas requiring more than a half-million dollars (USD) to repair. It was determined that a design change that Austral recommended to the Navy late in the design phase to save weight has resulted in a weakened bow structure. The first five ships in the class will need to have upgrades done to improve the superstructure, at a cost of $350k-$1.2M each. The remaining ships which are still various stages of construction will require upgrading following construction as well.[65][66]

Derivatives[edit]

HSSV[edit]

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 EPF 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.[67]

Austal launched the first HSSV on 31 October 2015 at its Henderson, WA facility. It is RNOV Al Mubshir.[68] The first HSSV was delivered to Oman on 20 May 2016.[69]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs (pdf) (Report). Government Accountability Office. March 2013. pp. 83–84. GAO-13-294SP. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Civilian-crewed vessels see larger role in amphibious ops - Navytimes.com, 9 December 2014
  3. ^ a b "Austal Delivers Eighth Expeditionary Fast Transport, USNS Yuma, to U.S. Navy" (Press release). Austal. 22 April 2017. 
  4. ^ http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141212/DEFREG/312120029/
  5. ^ a b c Low Cost Ship Options for U.S. Navy’s Drug War - News.USNI.org, 20 March 2013
  6. ^ Marines conduct crisis response exercise from USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) - Dvidshub.net, 21 March 2014
  7. ^ a b Joint High-Speed Vessel turns heads during Bold Alligator - Navytimes.com, 9 November 2014
  8. ^ a b Joint High Speed Vessel: Great Potential, But Questions Remain - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, March 2011
  9. ^ a b Joint High Speed Vessels Support Marine Corps Missions - Navylive.DoDlive.mil, 14 October 2014
  10. ^ a b c d e "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". US Navy. Retrieved 12 March 2010. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  12. ^ http://www.msc.navy.mil/inventory/inventory.asp?var=PM5
  13. ^ A New Class of Ship – 'Expeditionary Support' - Navytimes.com, 3 September 2015
  14. ^ Navy’s Newest Ship Is Pickup Truck of the Sea - Wired.com, 19 September 2011
  15. ^ Navy explores new roles with first-in-class USNS Spearhead - Stripes.com, 29 April 2014
  16. ^ "Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)". Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs (pdf) (Report). Government Accountability Office. March 2010. pp. 77–78. GAO-10-388SP. 
  17. ^ a b Eckstein, Megan (16 October 2015). "DOT&E: JHSV Effective At Intra-Theater Transport But Challenged In Other Missions". usni.org. USNI. Retrieved 16 October 2015. 
  18. ^ Osborn, Kris (26 March 2014). "Navy Considers JHSV for Special Operations Missions". DoD Buzz. 
  19. ^ Larter, David (26 July 2014). "Retiring frigates may leave some missions unfilled". Air Force Times. Gannett Government Media. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  20. ^ USNS Spearhead returns from maiden deployment - Navytimes.com, 6 May 2014
  21. ^ USNS Choctaw County Starts Concept Trial at Naval Weapons Station Cheatham - Navy.mil, 8 December 2014
  22. ^ "General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems to Integrate Ship Mission System for Austal Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)]". General Dynamics (Press release). 17 November 2008. 
  23. ^ "Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) - General Dynamics Mission Systems". General Dynamics Mission Systems. Retrieved 2016-12-09. 
  24. ^ Navy to deploy electromagnetic railgun - Military1.com, 7 April 2014
  25. ^ NAVSEA Details At Sea 2016 Railgun Test on JHSV Trenton - News.USNI.org, 14 April 2015
  26. ^ Navy Railgun Ramps Up in Test Shots - Breakingdefense.com, 19 May 2017
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ Amos rejects recent critique of amphibious combat vehicle - MarineCorpstimes.com, 25 June 2014
  29. ^ Future Marine Corps Missions Depend on New Ship-To-Shore Connectors - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, 16 July 2014
  30. ^ USMC’s Paxton: Potential Marine Deployments On LCS And JHSV Carry Risks - News.USNI.org, 2 October 2014
  31. ^ SNA: Surface Leaders Make the Case for the Modified Littoral Combat Ship - News.USNI.org, 13 January 2015
  32. ^ "Objective Theater Support Vessel (OTSV)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  33. ^ "High Speed Connector (HSC)". GlobalSecurity. Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
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  35. ^ Brumley, Jeff (5 October 2011). "Unusual ship visits Mayport after 6-month deployment to African waters". Florida Times-Union. 
  36. ^ "Army Transfers High Speed Vessels to Navy". United States Department of Defense (Press release). 5 May 2011. 384-11. 
  37. ^ "Navy Awards Construction Contracts for JHSV 6, 7". Navy News Service. US Navy. 1 July 2011. NNS110701-10. Archived from the original on 28 February 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
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  40. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (5 April 2013). "LCS council adds new member". Navy Times. 
  41. ^ Hooper, Craig (3 June 2014). "Military Sealift Command News: CIVMARs To Operate JHSV". nextnavy.com. Craig Hooper. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  42. ^ http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141212/DEFREG/312120029/Navy-Gains-Ship-15-Growlers-Defense-Bill
  43. ^ "Austal Awarded new A$434 Million US Navy Contract" (Press release). Austal. 16 September 2016. 
  44. ^ "Spearhead". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  45. ^ "Choctaw County". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  46. ^ "Austal Celebrates Keel Laying for JHSV2 - the "Choctaw County"" (Press release). Austal. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  47. ^ "Millinocket". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
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  49. ^ "Future USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) completes builder's sea trials". 20 December 2013. 
  50. ^ "Fall River". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  51. ^ "Fourth Joint High Speed Vessel Named". United States Department of Defense. 26 March 2010. 235-10. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  52. ^ "Trenton". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  53. ^ a b c "Secretary of the Navy Names Multiple Ships" (Press release). U.S. Department of Defense. 12 April 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  54. ^ "Brunswick". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  55. ^ "Carson City". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  56. ^ "Yuma". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  57. ^ a b "Navy Names Multiple Ships" (Press release). U.S. Department of Defense. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  58. ^ LaGrone, Sam (24 April 2017). "Eighth Expeditionary Fast Transport USNS Yuma Delivers to Navy". United States Naval Institute News. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  59. ^ a b "Navy Marks Milestones for Two Expeditionary Fast Transports" (Press release). U.S. Navy. 19 January 2017. NNS170119-03. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  60. ^ "City of Bismarck". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  61. ^ "Burlington". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  62. ^ "Puerto Rico". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 25 August 2016. 
  63. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (14 June 2011). "JHSV Module Damaged at Ala. Shipyard". Defense News. 
  64. ^ "Joint High-Speed Vessels May Answer the Changing Logistics Needs of Navies, Finds Frost & Sullivan" (Press release). Frost & Sullivan. PR Newswire. 20 May 2013. 
  65. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-14/navy-s-fast-sealift-ships-can-t-stand-buffeting-from-high-seas
  66. ^ https://www.wired.com/2016/01/yar-the-navy-is-fixing-its-busted-high-speed-transport-ships
  67. ^ Austal contract for two 72m High Speed Support Vessels is for the Royal Navy of Oman - Navyrecognition.com, 10 July 2014
  68. ^ Austal launches Oman Navy support ship, Richard Tomkins, www.SpaceWar.com, 26 October 2015, accessed 3 November 2015
  69. ^ Austal Delivers First High Speed Support Vessel - Austal press release, 20 May 2016

External links[edit]