On July 22, 2010, the official Keel Laying Ceremony was held at Austal’s shipyard for Spearhead (JHSV 1) which is on schedule for launch in June 2011 and delivery in December 2011. Austal was selected as Prime contractor in November 2008 to design and build the first JHSV, with options for nine additional vessels expected to be exercised between FY09 and FY13. Since then, Austal has received construction contracts for JHSV 1, JHSV 2, and JHSV 3 and Long Lead Time Material contracts for JHSV 4 and JHSV 5.
As the U.S. Department of Defense’s next generation multi-use platform, the 103-meter JHSV will provide rapid intra-theater deployment/transportation of personnel, equipment and supplies. The vessel will support military logistics, sustainment and humanitarian relief operations and will be capable of speeds up to 43 knots. Proof of the value of this program for humanitarian efforts was evidenced in January 2010 when the Austal-built 113-meter aluminum catamaran, Huakai, was successfully deployed to transport members of the U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps from Ft. Eustis, Virginia, along with their equipment, to Haiti following the earthquake that devastated that region less than two weeks prior to Huakai’s arrival.
U.S. Navy Program Manager, Capt. George Sutton said, «The start of JHSV 2 represents the first Navy/MSC ship and the start of serial production. Serial production is the key to program stability, affordability and efficiency for the shipbuilder and the taxpayer.»
Spearhead (JHSV 1) is the first Austal design to be constructed using the new procedures and processes developed in conjunction with Austal’s Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF). The MMF provides Austal with assembly line efficiency, which should result in significant cost savings and reduced lead times.
Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer, Joe Rella, commented, “Since the beginning of the year, Austal has added over 800 employees to our staff of shipbuilding professionals. Our workforce is well positioned to start construction on this second JHSV.”
The Austal JHSV will transport medium-size operational units with their vehicles, or reconfigure to provide troop transport for an infantry battalion, allowing units to transit long distances while maintaining unit integrity. The vessel also supports helicopter operations and has a slewing vehicle ramp on the starboard quarter which enables use of austere piers and quay walls, common in developing countries. A shallow draft (under 4 meters) will further enhance theater port access.
The Austal JHSV team includes platform systems engineering agent General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems who is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s mission systems, including internal and external communications, electronic navigation, and aviation and armament systems.
Austal USA is also currently building a second Independence-class 127-meter Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the U.S. Navy, Coronado (LCS 4). USS Independence (LCS 2) is currently being put through trials by her crew after the U.S. Navy officially took delivery in December 2009 and she was commissioned earlier this year in January 2010. As prime contractor, Austal is in the process of completing final proposal revisions for the next LCS 10-ship contract which should be competitively awarded by the U.S. Navy before the end of the year.