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March 2013

USNS Spearhead patch

USNS Spearhead: Fast, flexible, first in class
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JHSV 1 makes first port call

By Jessica F. Alexander, MSC Public Affairs

Military Sealift Command's first joint high-speed vessel, USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1), made its first port visit to the Port of St. Petersburg Feb. 10.

Congressman C.W. Bill Young, Mayor Bill Foster and other distinguished visitors from City of St. Petersburg joined Rear Adm. John Kirby, Navy Chief of Information and St. Petersburg native, Capt. Sam Norton, commander, MSC Atlantic, and Capt. Doug Casavant, the ship's civil service master, during an arrival ceremony in honor of the ship, its crew and the Navy.

The three-day port call was primarily a working visit and an opportunity for senior officials and military personnel from U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command to visit the ship and receive briefings on Spearhead's capabilities.

"I am pleased that the USNS Spearhead, the first in a new class of ships, will make its first official port visit in St. Petersburg this weekend," said U.S. Rep. C. W. Bill Young, the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. "The Spearhead affords our nation's military leadership a new ability to quickly transport troops, equipment and supplies where they are most needed, anywhere in the world," he said.

"St. Petersburg is known as a city of firsts with an eye to the future and by hosting this new ship's first official port visit, we demonstrate our support of the military and its commitment to safeguarding our country now and into the future," said Mayor Bill Foster.

Spearhead is designed for rapid, intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment. The ship is a 338-foot-long aluminum catamaran designed for speed, flexibility and maneuverability. 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.

"St. Petersburg is Spearhead's first official port visit and it's an honor to be here as the master of this great ship. We have a highly trained, experienced and capable crew to operate and navigate her, and we're excited to be part of MSC & the Navy's future," said Casavant.

Following its brief stop in St. Petersburg, Spearhead transited to Mayport, Fla., for a port visit there before arriving at its final layberth, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va., in mid-February.

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. MSC owns and operates Spearhead, along with the nine other JHSVs that are currently under contract for construction.

USNS Spearhead facts:

  • Built in Mobile, Ala., by Austal, USA
  • Designed for rapid, intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment
  • Length 337.9 feet
  • Beam 93.5 feet
  • Draft 12.57 feet
  • Displacement (full load) 2,460 long tons
  • Cargo Stowage Area 2,000 square feet
  • Speed 35 knots
  • Civlian crew 22
  • Embarked force seating 312
  • Delivered to U.S. Navy, Dec. 5, 2012
  • Name originally chosen by U.S. Army
  • After Spearhead, the nine other JHSVs will be named after U.S. counties or small cities
  • Spearhead's sponsor chosen by the Army
    • U.S. Army Chief Warrent Officer Four Kenneth Wahlman, who served 38 years
    • Career included support to Naval Nuclear Power Unit at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and assisting the launch of the Army prepositioning fleet in 1987
    • Inducted into the Transportation Corps Hall of Fame, July 2004