Sunday, February 08, 2009

Australian design selected for US Military Transport Ships

Artist's impression of the Austal design for the Joint High Speed Vessel
The design from West Australian based Austal has been selected by the US Department of Defence for the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), worth around US$1.6 billion, if all ten ships are built. The aluminium 103-metre ship design is derived from that of Austal's car ferries, one of which, the “WestPac Express” was leased to the US Marines. Austral's main rival is also Australian: Incat of Hobart, who have also leased ships to the US military. One reason for Australia's success in building such ships is expertise in welding aluminium.

The JHSV ships will be built in Mobile, Alabama, USA, not in Australia. These vessels are likely to be less controversial than the Littoral Combat Ship, USS Independence (LCS 2), being completed by Austal. The Independence was due for sea trials in early 2009. But both it and the competing design from Lockeed Martin (USS Freedom LCS1) have had problems with delays and cost overruns. See: "Checkered Past, Uncertain Future" By Commander Otto Kreisher, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired) in Proceedings U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE, January 2009.

Unlike the complex weapons and sensors used in the LCS ships, the JHSVs are more basic conversions of civilian transport ship design. Also the role of the transport ships is less controversial. This raises the interesting possibility of using the JHSVs for some of the roles envisaged for the LCSs.

The LCS are designed to use removable "mission modules". These are typically housed in ISO shipping container sized units loaded onto the ship as required. Some of these modules contain off board sensors and weapons, such as UAV helicopters and some the control consoles. Such containers could easily be accommodated in the JHSV's large interior . Modern computer technology may make much of the mission modules unnecessary.

Modern sensors and weapons can be controlled from ordinary laptop and desktop computers, with no need for specially designed operator consoles. Therefore the ships could be equipped with general purpose computer consoles which could be used for whatever sensors or weapons were placed on board. In other cases the operators of the modules could arrive carrying the laptops needed to operate the equipment.

The JHSV's are designed for roll-on/roll-off operation with a rear ramp allowing large articulated trucks with shipping container sized units to drive on board.
Equipment designed for field use by the military could therefore be driven onto the ship and operated on-board, without the need to develop special modules or interfaces. Equipment from the Army, Navy or Marines could be used on the ship. The generous space available would remove the need for expensive compact packaging of equipment and the design lead time which goes with it.

Clearly the JHSV's could not do every role the LCSs are intended for, but could many of them and at a lower cost.

1 comment:

MauiBrad said...

Professor,

Nice overview comparing JHSV and LCS. Like your Proceedings and JHSV-1 links. You had some good original writings on the Australian Designed Chinese Type 022 Houbei Class catamaran.

You seen this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz4cOgOKSgA

And these pics:

http://www.sinodefence.com/navy/littoral/type022.asp

Aloha, Brad