Saturday, July 24, 2010

Keel Laid for First Joint High Speed Vessel

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Army and Navy authenticated the keel for the future U.S. Army Vessel (USAV) Spearhead (JHSV 1) July 22, at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., symbolically recognizing the beginning of ship construction.

Spearhead is the first ship to be built as part of the DoD's Joint High Speed Vessel program, managed by the Navy's Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships.

Though in development for less than four years - a relatively brief time for a major acquisition program - the ship underwent a rigorous production review process prior to the start of construction, where the ship's design maturity, the availability of materials and components and the shipbuilder's ability to successfully start fabrication were all closely evaluated.

"Our commitment to fully maturing the design prior to the start of construction has already paid huge dividends," said Capt. George Sutton, strategic and theater sealift program manager for PEO Ships. "Additionally, the use of proven commercial technologies and the shipbuilder's improvements to their production processes have paved the way for an already very successful program."

This commercially designed, non-combatant vessel leverages commercial technology and merges the previous Army Theater Support Vessel and the Navy High Speed Connector to decrease costs by taking advantage of the inherent commonality between the existing programs.

Leveraging the Navy's extensive experience in surface ship acquisition, PEO Ships has taken the lead on acquisition of both the Army and Navy high speed transport vessels. The future Spearhead is expected to be delivered to the Army's 7th Sustainment Brigade in 2012. The second ship of the class, the future USNS Vigilant, will be delivered to the Navy the following year.

"The JHSV's aggressive and streamlined acquisition process and the service's ability to leverage commercial investments has allowed us to provide a more maneuverable and flexible vessel to our warfighters," said Army Col. R. Eric Fletcher, the Army's project manager for Force Projection. "As a multiuse platform, the JHSV will provide our nation's warfighters with the capabilities to operate in a variety of missions, across the globe."

The vessels will be used for fast intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment for missions ranging from contingency operations and humanitarian assistance, to disaster relief and emerging seabasing concepts in austere port environments. The ships will be capable of transporting 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. They will be capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2).

Other joint requirements include an aviation flight deck to support day and night air vehicle launch and recovery operations.

To further improve production efficiencies, JHSV shipbuilder Austal has constructed a Modular Manufacturing Facility (MMF), completed in November 2009, which provides a five-fold increase in existing capacity and reduces construction duration.

PEO Ships is responsible for the development and acquisition of U.S. Navy surface ships and is currently managing the design and construction of 10 major surface ships classes and small boats and craft.

The PEO is committed to ensuring that prior to the start of ship construction, each program completes an exhaustive production readiness review to demonstrate that design is mature and the requirements are well understood. Fully maturing the design prior to the start of construction is one of a number of initiatives the PEO is undertaking to reduce costs in shipbuilding.