The U.S. Navy has ordered the first of ten new Joint High Speed Vessels
(JHSV) transports. These 320 foot long, $160 million ships are refined versions
of the HSV 2 ship. All this began seven years ago, when the U.S. Navy began
leasing a high speed (60 kilometers an hour) catamaran, the Westpac Express,
from an Australian firm, to move U.S. Marine Corps equipment around the
Pacific. In this it was very successful, and this has served to prove the
ability of such a catamaran design to serve in a military role.
This led to
a new class (HSV, or High Speed Vessel) of transport ships. In 2003, the navy
leased an improved design, to further test the concept. The USS Swift (HSV 2),
was a twin hulled catamaran, designed and built in Australia. Based on that
very successful experience with the Westpac Express, many modifications were
made and the Swift was built in ten months. The HSV is actually a small ship,
320 feet long and displaces 1900 tons. It can carry up to 800 tons of cargo and
has airline style seating for 300 troops, although up to 600 can be carried.
The cargo can include vehicles of up to 70 tons each, including M-1 tanks.
Vehicles are driven on and off. There is a tradeoff between tonnage carried,
and speed and range. The twin hull design is also slowed down quite a bit in
rough seas. This is not the kind of ship you can use much in the north Atlantic
also a helicopter pad and space for two UH-60 or CH-46 class choppers. The
basic crew is only 20, but there are crew quarters for 51 and the galley can
feed up to 150. The important aspect of the HAV is speed. The Swift maintained
a speed of 83 kilometers an hour for four hours during sea trails. The ship can
cruise at 63 kilometers an hour for 2,000 kilometers, or 7,200 kilometers at 36
kilometers an hour before it has to be refueled. The HSV has four water-jets,
making it very maneuverable. The Swift is going to be used mainly as a mine
warfare support ship, but additional HSVs will serve as high speed transports.
Weapons can include manned 25mm automatic cannon and remote controlled 12.7mm
machine-gun or 40m grenade launchers. The HSV design is also being studied as
the basis for a new class of coastal warships.
JHSV will enter service in three years.