The Navy wrapped up the maiden deployment of its new high-speed catamaran on Tuesday, when the USNS Spearhead pulled into Norfolk, Va., after a five-month tour of Europe and Africa.
The first of 10 planned Joint High Speed Vessels to be fielded by the service and operated by its Military Sealift Command, the Spearhead is designed for fast cargo and troop transport outside conflict zones. Its speed and low draft also make it attractive for other missions, a versatility explored during the deployment.
Military detachments embarked on the ship throughout the tour, including Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Riverines and special operators.
The vessel made port calls across Europe and Africa, participated in a law enforcement operation off the coast of Ghana and plugged into two exercises with African and European navies. It ferried a Marine unit to shore in Liberia.
Navy officials have been positive about the ship’s performance and its potential for missions that don’t require the heft or firepower of a warship.
“I think it provides a very flexible option across the spectrum of operations, and we’ve just started to tap that potential,” said Capt. John Rinko, commander of the logistics task force for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
The JHSV effectively replaces the Swift, a similar high-speed catamaran leased by the Navy through 2013 and used for exercises in waters that rarely see U.S. warships, such as those near Africa and South America.
After a few weeks in Norfolk to swap out its military detachment and undergo routine tests, the Spearhead will begin a four- to five-month deployment around South America. Most of the civilian crew, about 25 mariners, will remain.