by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon
Commander, Military Sealift Command
As the Navy’s first joint high-speed vessel, USNS Spearhead, begins its maiden operational voyage, Shannon reminds us that we can learn much about the character and capabilities of this amazing ship during the deployment.
Just think of it: a maiden voyage on USNS Spearhead, our Navy’s newest class of ship, the joint high-speed vessel. It will be a voyage of learning, a chance to discover even more about the capabilities and characteristics of this technological marvel. What an opportunity for Capt. Doug Casavant and his crew. I can almost taste the tang of the salty air and feel the sensation of power and speed as Spearhead begins building legends of naval service.
This ship class will play an important part in the future of our joint forces with its affordability, flexibility, speed and agility. Spearhead’s performance to-date is solid, and I think this first deployment will offer us an amazing opportunity to further demonstrate the important capabilities this class of ships brings to our fleet.
We spent a long time learning about high-speed catamarans as we chartered HSV 2 Swift and Westpac Express. Then we were involved in the concept and design of the JHSV – a purpose-built ship with enormous capabilities for speed, austere port work and cargo carrying. The logistics missions Spearhead will take on during her first year of operation will write a new chapter in the book of high-speed movement of military cargo and the widespread coverage for civic assistance and humanitarian aid that is gained through the simple expedient of speed.
Spearhead’s size, speed and capacity supports a wide range of operations including operational maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, global fleet station operations, flexible logistics support and rapid transport as an alternative to airlift.
Spearhead can transport 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots; its aviation flight deck can support day and night flight operations for a wide variety of aircraft, including CH-53 Super Stallions.
Spearhead and its sister ships will bridge the gap between high-speed, low-capacity airlift and low-speed, high-capacity sealift to provide for the movement of personnel, equipment, and supplies over operational distances, sustainment of joint theater and multinational logistics, and augmenting the combat logistics force.
That said, JHSV is not replacing existing platforms; it is complementing them. One of the primary goals of Spearhead’s first deployment is to evaluate new missions that might be supported by this new ship class with an initial focus on mission options that involve little or no modification to the existing sea-frame.
The JHSV class will be able to provide a persistent regional presence that increases maritime security through the cooperative efforts of joint, inter-agency, and multinational partners, as well as non-governmental organizations.
Spearhead’s first deployment to the European Command, Africa Command and Southern Command areas of operation directly supports our Navy’s commitment to presence and partnerships in these regions, and will also provide an opportunity to test new concepts and new missions that the ship wasn’t originally designed for and to allow us to capture the lessons learned that are so critical for the first deployment of a new ship class.
Spearhead’s crew will work with regional navies that operate comparable-sized ships during maritime missions such as Africa Partnership Station and Southern Partnership Station.
Our JHSV design has already evolved to include a range of missions with adaptable sensor, communication and support payloads. This maiden voyage will examine additional innovative missions for JHSV and will likely influence updates to the ship’s concept of operations.
The whole program, especially this first operational deployment, is the stuff of dreams for Sailors and mariners alike. I can’t wait to see how the story comes out.
Thanks for your service.