On January 16, 2014, Austal USA successfully completed the launch process of the USNS Fall River (JHSV 4). Recently christened, this 103-meter high-speed catamaran represents the U.S. Department of Defense’s next generation multi-use platform. It is part of a 10-ship program, the funds for all of which have been appropriated, worth over US$1.6 billion.
The launch of USNS Fall River was conducted in a multi-step process that involved having Berard Transportation transfer the ship from Assembly Bay 3 onto a deck barge, which was then towed to BAE Systems Southeast Shipyard. The next day, Fall River was transferred onto BAE’s dry dock Alabama; it was floated then returned to Austal’s facility where it will undergo final outfitting and activation before sea trials and delivery to the Navy later this year.
JHSV 4 is now one of four Austal-built Navy ships moored in the Mobile River, joining USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3), Coronado (LCS 4), and Jackson (LCS 6).
“With JHSV 3 recently completing Acceptance Trials and preparing for delivery, and now the launch of Fall River, the JHSV program continues to progress well as we meet our commitments to the Navy. The incredible shipbuilders here at Austal should be very proud of this accomplishment” Craig Perciavalle, Austal USA President said.
USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) was delivered in December 2012 and is soon to be deployed. USNS Choctaw County (JHSV 2) was delivered to the Navy in June 2013. USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) has completed Acceptance Trials and is scheduled to be delivered within the next month. Construction is well underway on Trenton (JHSV 5) which will begin final assembly in, now vacant, Assembly Bay 3 by the end of January, and construction will begin on Brunswick (JHSV 6) by the end of this month.
The JHSV is a relatively new asset that will be an important Navy connector. In peacetime, JHSVs will be operating forward supporting Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and riverine forces, theater cooperating missions, Seabees, Marine Corps and Army transportation. Each JHSV also supports helicopter operations and has a slewing vehicle ramp on the starboard quarter which enables use of austere piers and quay walls, common in developing countries. A shallow draft (under 4 meters) will further enhance theater port access.
Austal USA is also prime contractor for the construction of ten Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), a contract totaling $3.5 billion. Four of these ships are under construction at this time, the first of which was launched just last month.
For the LCS and JHSV programs, Austal, as prime contractor, is teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics. For the JHSV program, General Dynamics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the navigation and communication systems, C4I and aviation systems. As the Independence-variant LCS ship systems integrator, General Dynamics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s electronic systems.