Home » Budget Industry » Low Cost Ship Options for U.S. Navy’s Drug War


Low Cost Ship Options for U.S. Navy’s Drug War

By:
Published: • Updated:
HSV-2 Swift departs from Naval Station Mayport to begin Southern Partnership Station 2013. US Navy Photo

HSV-2 Swift departs from Naval Station Mayport to begin Southern Partnership Station 2013. US Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy is examining low-cost high-speed ships to replace aging surface ships in U.S. Southern Command’s fight against drug traffickers, U.S. 4th Fleet officials told USNI News on Tuesday.

In May, the HSV-2 Swift will conduct a drug interdiction patrol in South and Central America – the first for the high-speed catamaran, 4th Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker told USNI News on Tuesday.

Swift, an aluminum catamaran originally designed as a fast ferry, will fill the role traditionally reserved for U.S. Navy frigates and U.S. Coast Guard cutters. Leased by the Navy and run by U.S. Military Sealift Command, Swift has been a test bed for the Navy and MSC in SOUTHCOM and U.S. Central Command.

Like the Oliver Hazard Perry-class (FFG-7) frigates, Swift will deploy to U.S. Southern Command with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) and patrol the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific Coast, Barker said.

Swift’s deployment could inform the next generation of SOUTHCOM military surface combatants in the drug fight.

Earlier this month, the Navy announced it would pull the two frigates tasked with interdicting drug runners in SOUTHCOM due to cuts from sequestration and a yearlong Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2013.

SOUTHCOM commander, Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday he was “gravely concerned,” about the cuts effects on operations in SOUTHCOM.

Currently cutters and frigates, with the help of U.S. Air Force and Navy reconnaissance aircraft, intercept a third of the drug traffic coming from South and Central America.

But a day could come when SOUTHCOM, “has no assigned [Department of Defense] surface assets to conduct detention and monitoring operations,” Kelly said.

However lower cost options like Swift and it’s predecessors, the $255 million Joint High Speed Vessel, could make U.S. naval involvement in SOUTHCOM more fiscally palatable.

USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1), the first of 10 Navy joint high-speed vessels designed for rapid intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment during builders trials. US Navy Photo

USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1), the first of 10 Navy joint high-speed vessels designed for rapid intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment during builders trials. US Navy Photo

Built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., the JHSV is a catamaran with the ability to move fast and deploy LEDET teams the same way current cutters and frigates do.

USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1), the first JHSV, recently delivered to the fleet. Following the ship’s completion of its post shakedown availability at the end of the year, “it will be ready for assignment, which depends on the Navy’s needs,” MSC spokesperson Jessica Alexander told USNI on Tuesday.

Fourth Fleet leadership are already interested in the JHSV for operations in SOUTHCOM, following a Feb. 14 port visit to Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

“Spearhead is a perfect match for 4th Fleet and we plan to use it across all of our lines of operations; security cooperation activities, maritime security operations and contingency operations,” U.S. 4th Fleet commander, Rear Adm. Sinclair M. Harris said in a statement.

The ship has a range of 1,200 nautical miles, can transport up to 600 tons of troops and material and can cruise at 35 kts. A crew of 22 MSC civilians operates the ship, far less than the 200 of a Perry-class frigate.

Spearhead is one of ten JHSVs planned for MSC as part of a $2.5 billion program. The second ship, Choctaw County, is plans to be delivered to the fleet later this year.

  • Peter

    The helicopter and RIBs are the best weapons for Gulf Patrols against Drug Fast Boats. As such, this HSV concept may just work because the weapons and guns will be on the helicopters and RIBs, not so much the patrolling ship.

  • aniptofar

    What this really means is there is no mission for the JHSV and they are trying to find one. Using a JHSV for drug interdiction seems a bit ludicrous as it is designed to be an intermodal cargo carrier. They are great boats, one just has to wonder why we keep building stuff we seem to have no need of. Austal must be desperate at this time to find more contracts.

    • Matthew

      Actually there is a mission for the JHSV, Primarily delivering cargo at high speeds and into port’s not suited to any other transport ship that the USN has. Its a proven concept as done by Australia in the East Timor conflict. Not all ships the USN has are intended for combat, the JHSV is a logsitics vessel that ‘may’ serve a purpose in the South though if you prefer Austal also has the Cape class patrol boat, Superior then the USCG Fast Response Cutters.

      (US) Sentinel class vs (Australian) Cape class

      Length: 46.8m vs 57.8m

      Beam: 8.11m vs 10.3m

      Draft: 2.9m vs 3m approx

      Endurance: 5 days vs 28 days

      Range: 2,500 nm vs 4,000 nm

      Speed: 28 knots vs 25 knots

      Displacement: 353 long tons vs unknown (270-300t based on similarities with Armidale class Patrol boat)

      Cost: $73m each vs $35m each ($330m contract for 8
      boats, Minus the included $50m figure for in service support gives a
      rough base figure give or take).

      • aniptofar

        I have no clue what your point is. JHSVs do not carry sufficient cargo or personnel for war fighting. An MEU requires four large cargo ships minimum which carry vastly more cargo. They do carry enough cargo for minor peace making and humanitarian operations… which I don’t think we should be involved with in the first place.

        • Matthew

          An MEU has no set actual size, An MEU can be as small as a few hundred Marines and as large as 100,000 Marines.

          As for the cargo size and it’s usefulness. If that is the case then why have the C-130? The East Timor conflict showed that the HMAS Jervis Bay was able to turn around more cargo faster then what a C-130 could. The JHSV is larger, faster and more capable. JHSV are not meant to deliver large amount’s in a single go, They are there to deliver supplies quickly being able off load 600+ tons in 15 minutes if the cargo is loaded all on vehicles, They are to go into port facilities that cant handle large cargo ships. No use having a large cargo ship if the port cant handle the vessel cause yeah would be awesome to have 6+ 50,000t cargo ships sitting off the cost still loaded with supplies and no port able to handle them, The marines on shore would love that…

          • aniptofar

            So tell me what 600 tons and 300-400 personnel is good for? Because it will be a week or more before the resupply happens via jhsv.

            Marines want something that can come ashore, not something that needs a pier.

          • Matthew

            Something that can come ashore, You do realize that the cargo vessels you mentioned are not capable of that either. As for if the Marines like them or not, Well so far none have complained about them operating out of Japan and South Korea for the last decade.

            As to resupply times, All depends on the distance of the target and if there is a friendly port nearby. Could be that the cargo ships bring the supplies most of the way and the JHSV makes the last dash quickly to the area that the cargo ship cant go. If target is in range (1,200nm) for travel at 35 knots then the turn around time including unloading and loading of supplies would be 3 days tops. At lower speeds they can actually reach almost every point in the pacific within 3 days with a stryker brigade or some combat force fully ready for combat, No issues sorting out how to get the assets from the ships to the beach/shallow port etc but rather sail up, Flip the ramp down and leave 15 minutes later with a few hundred heavily armed marines on land ready for combat.

            Simple numbers are that a JHSV can redeploy a IBCT 400nm while a C-17 would have to make 245 sorties to transport the same size force.

          • aniptofar

            Ever heard of lighterage? Or the INLS? All they are used for in Japan etc is training, not operations under wartime conditions.

            The combat force that can fit in a JHSV is not a force at all. It will require multiple runs or a real cargo ship.

            I’m not getting into JHSV vs. aircraft when you just made my point about JHSV vs. real cargo carriers that travel at more than half the speed and carry a 1000x more cargo.

          • Matthew

            Have heard of lighterage and yes that would play a part but it is not the end all, There is never one single solution, Most often it is a number of solution’s and asset’s being used in conjunction with each other.

            In Japan etc they are not used as training but rather as logistics ships, They have proven to be highly capable and far more cost efficient then your large cargo ships, They also have a higher rate of availability then any other ship or aircraft the US armed forces use, 99%.

            True the force that can fit within a JHSV is not comparable to that that can be carrier by a cargo ship however the JHSV can get them there faster and deploy them faster. And some times a small force is all that is needed, No need to send more then is needed as that is just fiscally irresponsible, You dont have the cash to go wasting these days so you need to make sure you dont spend more then is really needed.

            I didnt make point of JHSV vs ‘real cargo carriers’, You did. Im not against ‘real cargo carriers’ as they serve a very important purpose for large scale operations over long distances however you seem to be adamantly against the JHSV even though the concept has been nothing but successful for over a decade.

            As to the speed and carrying capacity of ‘real cargo carriers’ compared to the JHSV. JHSV carries 600+ ton, If the ‘real cargo carrier’ can take 1,000 times that then the US must have the worlds largest hidden ship with a cargo capacity of 600,000+ tons. Odd since the world’s largest container ship the Maersk Triple E class can only carry around 250,000 ton of cargo. Use actual fact’s rather then making wild claims as doing so just ruins any credibility in your argument.

          • aniptofar

            Not sure you made a point at all. There are always multiple solutions because that is what you deal with in real life.

          • Matthew

            Right, So why so against the proven concept that has made the JHSV?

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            About 3-days minimum, and 5-days maximum.

          • aniptofar

            That doesn’t solve the issue of getting a fighting force into a combat ready formation unless you have lots of time and then why not a prepo ship.

          • Matthew

            A preposition force ship would take twice as long and require hours if not days to unload there cargo. Over the last decade+ HSV have shown to be able to land a battle ready force, There is no unloading then sorting out, They sort out on the ship and drive off it ready to rock.

          • aniptofar

            It requires days because there is that much cargo.

            So JHSV is part of the amphibious assault force? News to me.

          • Matthew

            On one hand yes, On another hand it also is more labor intensive. It is not as simple as driving them all off but you also have to bring along the lighter’s to create your pier, Which is no simple task. Many of the cargo ships that the MSC has actually require developed ports, Building an ad hoc one by use of lighters is not a developed port.

            And I never stated that the JHSV was part of an amphibious assault force, rather that that is one of its capabilities, It can get in quicker, unload faster, and leave quicker then any other USN asset that can carry an equivalent cargo/force.

            Should also note its usefulness in humanitarian roles. In such situations time is everything so you are better off getting 600 ton of emergency supplies there in 24-72 hours rather then waiting a week for 100,000 ton that has to sit off shore until facilities are constructed that can handle the ship.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            That’s what the JHSV are, a Prepositioned Rapid Responce Fight Force. That can called into play, within a 72-hour’s, when the Command Decision is given.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar & Matthew.

            You two guy’s are “Grasping, But somehow it keeps Slipping Through You Fingers”. The JHSV is NOT as SUPPORT ship or Fast Light Transport. It’s main purpose is to deploy a Force Recon Marine Force, too troubled spot as soon as possible. Usually, within 72-Hours notice. It carries all the fighting equipment, too support a Force Recon Marine Force. Independently for 3-day’s. Unit a GREATER, Marine Corp Battle/Combat Group can be assembled and deployed. Its a “HARASSING” Force, not an Support Element, too a Large Force.

          • aniptofar

            My point would be if it only requires 300-400 troops, what business do we have doing it. That size is no good against any type of resistance.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            Sir, it takes only one well place Sniper, too hold up and confine a Battalion!!!

          • aniptofar

            Except most of our enemies don’t have battalions.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            What about AIR ASSETS, like Aircraft Carriers within Striking Distance, Air Force Assets, Submarine Assets, w/their Cruise Missiles. Shall I go on, and on, and on. Or do you Grasp It Now!!!

          • aniptofar

            We don’t maintain trillions of dollars in assets for those people as you well know.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            Apparently, your not a student of history. The Spartans did it at the “Battle of Thermopylae” in 480-BCE. Wiyh a force of 300 against 150,000 Persian enemies, at 500 to 1 odds. And the Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto against the Nazi’s in WW2, where the held up a Mechanized SS Division for several months. History is complete with small forces holding up a much larger enemy force.

          • Matthew

            500 Australian Militia held off 8,000 experienced Japanese along the Kokoda track and won. 20,000 poorly trained, poorly equipped Australian defeated the Italian army in NA capturing, wounding and killing 67,000 Italian, Force of 20,000 Australian, Polish and British held off Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Corps for months, The first major land defeat suffered by Germany, Italy and Japan all at the hands of under trained ill equipped forces who had far less numbers.

          • aniptofar

            Apparently I am a better student of history than you. 3-7k greeks accompanied them. In this modern era, no commander is going to put a small road blocking force in harms way.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            If your talking about the 3,000 to 7,000 Athenian’s, they join’d up at a later date, and for a different direction.

          • aniptofar

            No, they were there before the battle. And they in general weren’t athenians.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            The only OTHER’s that where there, already engaged in the battle. Were, the 7,000 Phocian’s. And the only other that fought with the Spartan’s, were 700 Thespian’s and 400 Thebans. And they were guarding the rear of the pass, as a Rear Guard.

          • aniptofar

            Like to know what history book u are reading.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            If it has Text Print, I’ll read it, FROM ANY SOURCE!!!

          • aniptofar

            GroupNumber – HerodotusNumbers – Diodorus SiculusLacedaemonians/
            Perioeci900?[54]1,000
            (including 300 Spartans)Spartan hoplites300[54]–Mantineans5003,000
            (other Peloponnesians sent with Leonidas)Tegeans500Arcadian Orchomenos120Other Arcadians1,000Corinthians400Phlians200Mycenaeans80Total Peloponnesians3,100[37] or 4,000[55]4,000 or 4,300Thespians700–Malians–1,000Thebans400400Phocians1,0001,000Opuntian Locrians”All they had”1,000Grand Total5,200 (or 6,100) plus the Opuntian Locrians7,400 (or 7,700)

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            I’m assuming […], are Foot Note References. But references, too WHAT. Please give me the Name or Title of the Book, you are referring too!!!

          • aniptofar

            Herodotus.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            Next time I go to the Library.

          • aniptofar

            201. King Xerxes pitched his camp in the region of Malis called Trachinia, while on their side the Greeks occupied the straits. These straits the Greeks in general call Thermopylae (the Hot Gates); but the natives, and those who dwell in the neighbourhood, call them Pylae (the Gate). Here then the two armies took their stand; the one master of all the region lying north of Trachis, the other of the country extending southward of that place to the verge of the continent.

            202. The Greeks who at this spot awaited the coming of Xerxes were the following: – From Sparta, three hundred men-at-arms: from Arcadia, a thousand Tegeans and Mantineans, five hundred of each people; a hundred and twenty Orchomenians, from the Arcadian Orchomenus; and a thousand from other cities: from Corinth, four hundred men: from Phlius, two hundred: and from Mycenae eighty. Such was the number from the Peloponnese. There were also present, from Boeotia, seven hundred Thespians and four hundred Thebans.

            203. Besides these troops, the Locrians of Opus and the Phocians had obeyed the call of their countrymen, and sent, the former all the force they had, the latter a thousand men. For envoys had gone from the Greeks at Thermopylae among the Locrians and Phocians, to call on them for assistance, and to say – “They were themselves but the vanguard of the host, sent to precede the main body, which might every day be expected to follow them. The sea was in good keeping, watched by the Athenians, the Eginetans, and the rest of the fleet. There was no cause why they should fear; for after all the invader was not a god but a man; and there never had been, and never would be, a man who was not liable to misfortunes from the very day of his birth, and those misfortunes greater in proportion to his own greatness. The assailant therefore, being only a mortal, must needs fall from his glory.” Thus urged, the Locrians and the Phocians had come with their troops to Trachis.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            You know It’s kind of funny, You’ve (aniptofar) have come a long way, just too agree with US. Matthew and I, that is. That a small force can HOLD-UP and DELAY a Larger Fighting Force, until the Cavalry arrives. Congratulations, Now your one of US!!!

          • aniptofar

            Not going to say it doesn’t work although i could argue in this instance that the only thing gained was a martyr for the cause. The real battle occurred much later on both the land and the sea but first cutting off the lines of supply and communication and then the degradation of the occupying force. Nothing was really gained by the death of these soldiers other than time that was largely wasted and unimportant.

            It will never be done in the current climate which I am sure you will agree making your point mute.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            A PHITHY remark, if I’ve ever heard one.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            Martyrdom, Right! You know what Martyrdom, is Sir. 15-Minutes of Fame, and a Lifetime of FORGET. The only people who are going too remember you is you family. Too the Cause and the rest of world. NOTHING!!!

          • aniptofar

            PS – The JHSV will never go in harms way. It simply wasn’t designed to.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            Neither were the LIBERTY ships and the VICTORY ships, of WW2. But, they were there in the Thickness of Battle anyway!!!

          • aniptofar

            My point was they will not be used to transport a blocking force which is by nature in a contested area. Geez louise.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            If you read the Design Characteristics of the Ship’s Layout. Its a RO-RO design (Roll-On, Roll-Off). And from at least one online site, the plan to put either the Oto Melara 3-inch (76.2mm/62-caliber) AutoCannon or the Bofors 2.24-inch (57mm/70-caliber) AutoCannon in the Forward Position and at least (2) Turreted 1.18-inch (30/173mm) Close-In AutoCannons, Amidships near the flight deck. And, probably at least (4) M2 or M3 (12.7/99mm) Heavy Machine Guns aboard as well.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            I know, it seems to be looking that way, though.
            I suspect, the next contested area is going to be the Ukraine Republic, itself. There goint to need ships that can get INTO and OUT OF the Black Sea, Uber-FAST!!! And with speeds approaching, and exceeding 40-knots. The JHSV class, fit that bill quite nicely. And have a modicum of Gun-Fire Support and 45-knots speeds from either of the LCS class, as well.
            “It Six of One, Half A Dozen of Another”.

          • aniptofar

            That would be 100% suicidal and therefore not effective. Land/air based anti ship ensures russia controls the black sea.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            The only way Ukraine is going to survive this, is either joining NATO, or becoming an Allied too NATO. Because the Ukrainian people aren’t going to like the third-option. Being as Puppet State Controlled by the Russian Federation. And we all know how well Putin keeps his promises.

          • aniptofar

            I wasn’t commenting on global politics. IF I WERE, i would state that Clinton got them to give up their nukes on the promise we would protect them. If they had nukes, none of this would be happening.

            The Clinton’s are lying grifters.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            Yeah, and Putin said he wasn’t going too invade the Ukraine Republic either. And we can see where that lead too. If the Ukraine had Nuke’s, Putin would be there. But, because it doesn’t have Nuke’s, Putin is there!!!

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            If the Clinton’s are lying grifter’s. What does that make Putin, then. Liitle Shirley Temple on “The Good Ship Lollipop”, then.

          • aniptofar

            Putin is a dictator. The clintons screw over everyone else to make money and retain power. They are too incompetent to be dictators. Putin buried a lot of clintons on his climb to the top.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            And exactly, how that different from the CHENEY’s and the BUSH’s!!!

          • aniptofar

            Bush and Cheney worked for their money. The clintons fake charity.

          • Secundius

            @ aniptofar.

            FUNNY, That’s a good one. LOL!!!

          • Matthew

            In the modern era commander’s will make the decision on the ground. They dont just base it off of numbers but also of the quality of the opposition, The oppositions logistics and weaponry, and the geography. The oppositon having lot’s of troops wont mean squat if they are poorly trained, equipped and in a bad tactical position.

          • Matthew

            Except it is a transport vessel, The MV Westpac Express that has operated in Japan and South Korea has acted as such, The USN has stated that one of the roles will be transporting smaller amount of goods when they are better suited to do so then using C-17, C-130’s and the larger cargo ships.

          • Secundius

            @ Matthew.

            Your not getting any arguments, or gripes out of me. Its your friend at your “Six”, that seems to be have a “Learning Curve” problem.

      • Secundius

        @ Mathew.

        I thing you are getting you ship’s confused.

        The JHSV, Joint High Speed Vessel is of the FORTITUDE class.
        Full-Load, Displacement 2,395 tons
        Length 337.9-feet
        Breadth 93.5-feet
        Draught 12.6-feet
        Powered by (4) MTU 20V8000 M71L diesel engines producing 48,800-horsepower w/(4) Wartsila WLD 1400 SR waterjet propulsion units.
        Maximum Speed of 43-knots, with a range 1,200-nm @ 35-knots.
        It has a Troop Capacity of 462 Marines w/612-tons of supplies.
        And has helicopter servicing of (1) Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion
        Armament is unknown as of this posting.

        MEU, Marine Expeditionary Unit: ~2,200 Marines for 15-days of combat.
        MEB, Marine Expeditionary Brigade: ~14,000 to 1~18,000 Marines for 30-days of combat.
        MEF, Marine Expeditionary Force: ~60,000 Marines of 60-days of combat.

        There are no MEF, forces in exist, yet.

        • Matthew

          Actually JHSV is the Spearhead class to my knowledge.

          The cape class that I mentioned was as another option for the drug war in the South.

          • Secundius

            @ Matthew.

            Try Jane’s Fighting Ships 2013-2014 edition.

      • Secundius

        @ Mathew.

        Additional information. The JHSV are going the be used to transport Force Recon Units. Not regular Marines.

        • Matthew

          They are going to be used to transport a range of forces, All depends on the mission and where they are deployed.

  • Secundius

    The Royal Australian Navy’s, OHP class Frigates operate with a crew of only 180, including air crew.

    • Matthew

      176-221 to be exact, Depends on mission. Either way they are still an expensive ship to operate in an environment that they are simply over kill for.

  • Secundius

    JHSV, Joint High Speed Vessels, are to the MEU. What the Jeep Carrier of WW2 was to the ESSEX class Aircraft Carriers. There “Stop-Gap Ship”. There to get the ball rolling so-to-speak, until the MEU forces can arrive and save the day In other words, a Rapid Reactionary Force, not a Support Element of the Main Force.

  • Secundius

    Keep in mind, that the JHSV is designed to carry the equivalent of a Stryker Brigade in its holds. And a Striker Brigade can cause a lot of damage.

  • Secundius

    JHSV-1, Fortitude
    JHSV-2, Vigilant
    JHSV-3, Spearhead
    JHSV-4, Fall River
    JHSV-5, Trenton

    • Matthew

      JHSV-1 is actually the Spearhead, Fortitude was meant to be JHSV-3 but that was renamed Millinocket.