The first of the Navy’s new catamaran transports, the Joint High Speed Vessel Spearhead, has completed its acceptance trials, builder Austal and the Naval Sea Systems Command announced last week.
Derived from an Australian-built commercial ferry that the US leased to experiment with, the twin-hulled JHSV is a smaller, cheaper, unarmed sibling of the triple-hulled General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship design, also built in the Austal yards in Mobile, Ala.; Austal is an Australian company. (There is also a very different LCS variant built by Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine in Wisconsin). The unusual catamaran-like design of both ships is intended to reduce drag by giving them the narrowest possible cross-section in the water, yet without reducing stability.
The 2013 budget slashed the planned buy of JHSVs from 21 ships to 10. Those 10 ships will cost $1.6 billion (averaging $160 million apiece), although Austal’s former president Joe Rella has said the Navy will want more once it sees them in action. The design’s high speed — over 35 knots — and shallow draft — less than 15 feet — make it well-suited to rapidly deploy small forces into primitive ports, a particularly attractive capability in the Western Pacific.
The acceptance trials were completed August 17. In a Navy tradition, a broom was hung from the mast to signify a “clean sweep” of the trial events.