The first Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) was launched into Mobile Bay, Ala., on Sept. 12, and the U.S. Navy and Army, along with shipbuilder Austal USA, are preparing for the ship's Sept. 17 christening ceremony.
The Spearhead was moved from its building shed into a floating drydock, then towed into deeper water for the dock to be submerged and the ship floated off. The new ship was then towed by tugs back to the shipyard in downtown Mobile for final fitting out.
The all-aluminum JHSVs are based on commercial ferry designs by Austal USA's Australian parent company, and are similar to dozens of ships already in civilian service. Spearhead is the first of at least 10 JHSVs the Pentagon plans to buy. Seven ships, including the first unit, are under contract.
The catamaran JHSVs displace more than 2,300 long tons, are 338 feet long and more than 93 feet wide.
Spearhead was originally intended to be crewed by uniformed Army personnel, but after a policy shift all JHSVs will be manned by civilians - the first four ships by civilian mariners employed by the Navy's Military Sealift Command and the rest by contractors. Each ship will have a crew of 21 mariners.
The ship's sponsor, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Wahlman, will be assisted by his daughter, Catherine, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps at Virginia Tech, in the christening ceremony.
Austal USA plans to deliver the Spearhead to the Navy early next year. The second ship, named Vigilant, is to be delivered by September 2012.