USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1): a virtual “welcome aboard”

 Built in Mobile, Ala., by Austal U.S.A., USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1), a joint high-speed vessel or JHSV, is designed for rapid, intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment. MSC owns and operates Spearhead, along with nine other JHSVs that are currently under contract.

Ship characteristics:

  • Length 337.9 feet
  • Beam 93.5 feet
  • Draft 12.57 feet
  • Displacement (Full Load) 2,460 long tons
  • Cargo Stowage Area 20,000 square feet
  • Speed 35 knots
  • Civilian crew 22
  • Embarked Force Seating 312
  • Delivered to U.S. Navy by Austal December 5, 2012

About the ship:

Spearhead is a 338-foot-long aluminum catamaran designed for speed, flexibility and manueverability. The reconfigurable 20,000-square-foot mission bay area can be quickly adapted to support a number of different missions – anything from carrying containerized portable hospitals to support disaster relief to transporting tanks and troops.

Spearhead’s crew of 22 civil service mariners works for MSC which operates, navigates and maintains the ship. JHSVs are capable of transporting approximately 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots, and are designed to operate in austere ports and waterways, providing added flexibility to U.S. warfighters worldwide.

Spearhead has sleeping accommodations for up to 42 crew members and 104 mission personnel; and airline-style seating for 312 people. Its aviation flight deck can support day and night flight operations for a wide variety of aircraft, including CH-53 Super Stallions.

The first four of the 10 projected vessels, including Spearhead, will be crewed by civil service mariners, while the next six are slated to be crewed by civilian mariners working for a private company under contract to MSC. Military mission personnel will embark as required by mission sponsors.

Construction of Spearhead began July 22, 2010, by Austal in Mobile, Ala., followed by its christening, Sept. 17, 2011. Spearhead was delivered to the Navy Dec. 5, 2012, and immediately began undergoing sea trials and tests in Pensacola, Fla.

Spearhead’s designated layberth is Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.    

The name Spearhead was chosen by the U.S. Army and honored by the Navy after the 2011 decision to transfer five JHSVs – originally slated to be owned and operated by the Army – to the Navy. Subsequent JHSVs will be named after U.S. counties or small cities, such as USNS Choctaw County (JHSV 2).

The ship’s sponsor, also chosen by the Army, is retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Four Kenneth Wahlman. Wahlman was inducted into the Transportation Corps Hall of Fame in July 2004 after 38 years of distinguished contributions to the Army ranging from support to Naval Nuclear Power Unit at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, to assisting with the launch of the Army prepositioning fleet in 1987. 

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