U.S. Navy Christens New Military Vessel in Mobile, Alabama at Austal USA.
The Navy will christen the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) Spearhead Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony in Mobile, Ala. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kenneth Wahlman, U.S. Army (Ret.) will serve as ship’s sponsor. His daughter Catherine, a Staff Sgt. in the Army ROTC attending Virginia Tech University, will assist her father in the christening, Mr. Wahlman’s wife, Chief Warrant Officer Five, Linda Wahlman, will be supporting the proceedings from afar, while on deployment with the 645th Regional Support Group in Kandahar.
The 338 foot-long aluminum catamaran, Spearhead, is being constructed by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. Spearhead and the nine other JHSVs under contract are ideal for fast, intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles, supplies and equipment. They are capable of transporting 600 short tons, 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots and can operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways, providing U.S. forces added mobility and flexibility. The JHSVs also have an aviation flight deck to support day and night air vehicle launch and recovery operations. JHSVs have berthing space for up to 146 personnel and airline-style seating for up to 312. Military commanders will have the flexibility to use the JHSV in a variety of roles to include supporting overseas contingency operations, conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, supporting special operations forces and supporting emerging joint sea-basing concepts.
The Westpac Express, an Austal-built aluminum catamaran used as a prototype for the JHSV, has, over the past decade, served as a logistical transport for the Third Expeditionary Force (IIIMEF) of the U.S. Marine Corps based in Okinawa, Japan. The Westpac Express has paved the way for the JHSV, supporting disaster recovery operations after the Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami in 2004 and the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.
Upon delivery to the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC), Spearhead will be designated as a United States Naval Ship (USNS), and will have a core crew of 21 civilian mariners who will operate and navigate the ships. The first four JHSVs – including Spearhead – will be crewed by federally employed civil service mariners, and the remaining six will be crewed by civilian contract mariners working for private shipping companies under contract to MSC. Military mission personnel will embark as required by the mission sponsors.
Construction of the JHSV began at Austal USA in July, 2010. As a world leader in the design and construction of customized aluminum and defense vessels, Austal USA is based in Mobile, AL, a city with a long history of shipbuilding. Austal USA employs more than 2,000 employees. “Our workforce is our foundation. We have the finest ship designers and builders in the country, and their dedication to this project and others is immeasurable,” said Joe Rella, Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer. In fact, despite a lagging economy Austal USA has continued to grow, in vessel contracts and work force, making it Mobile, AL’s largest industrial employer with 2,000 shipbuilders. Spearhead was the first ship built from modules fabricated entirely in Austal’s state-of-the-art Module Manufacturing Facility. The company is in the midst of a $160 million facility expansion and plans to nearly double its workforce to complete an estimated $5.2 billion in contracts with the U.S. Navy.