Service members and civilians involved in the scheduled deployment of the joint high speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) this summer to the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations met March 25 and March 26 at Naval Station Mayport to finalize plans for the mission.
The Spearhead is a 338-foot-long catamaran with a top speed of 43 knots and an average speed of 35 knots.
With airline-style seating for 312 troops, a mission bay area of 20,000 square feet and a helicopter deck, it can be used in each of the 4th Fleet lines of operation: security cooperation activities, maritime security and contingency operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
During its 4 1/2 months in the joint area of operations, it will visit Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia. It also will participate in counterdrug operations and conduct experiments on behalf of the Naval Warfare Development Command.
The mission, known as Southern Partnership Station-Joint High Speed Vessel 2014, will build on the experiences USNS Swift (HSV-2), another catamaran, which participated in Southern Partnership Station 2013 and completed testing of an unmanned blimp and unmanned aerial vehicle last year.
“The SPS-JHSV 14 mission is set to be an exciting deployment,” said Ken Miller, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command’s lead planner for the mission. “The final planning conference is a key milestone in the operations planning cycle and helps to blend the detailed planning being done by all stakeholders.”
The deployment will begin in late May from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Va. After a familiarization period in Mayport, the vessel will carry what are known as adaptive force packages – in this case including a Seabee detachment, a Marine Corps security cooperation team, a riverine crew and others – to Belize. Adaptive force packages are nonstandard sets of personnel and equipment needed to accomplish particular missions.
The vessel will complete an experimentation period near Key West and then carry Marines from the 4th Law Enforcement Battalion and their equipment, including shipping containers, a truck and Humvees, to the Dominican Republic for Tradewinds 2014, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise that aims to increase regional cooperation in countering illicit trafficking.
The vessel will conduct detection and monitoring activities in support of Operation Martillo, return the Marines to Florida, and then resume its Martillo activities.
Martillo (Spanish for “hammer”) is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.
In late summer, the vessel will transport the adaptive force packages from Belize to Guatemala and transport a mobile diving and salvage unit and an explosive ordnance disposal team from Guatemala to Colombia. It will then take the same units from Guatemala and Colombia to Honduras for training there.
After additional detection and monitoring and experimentation periods, it will return the units to the United States in early October, concluding Southern Partnership Station 2014.
Capt. Sam Hancock, the commander of Destroyer Squadron 40, will be the Southern Partnership Station-Joint High Speed Vessel 2014 mission commander.
Press Release, April 1, 2014, Image: US Navy