WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 30, 2007) -- Representatives of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the shipbuilding industry met last week to discuss the current status of the Joint High Speed Vessel, a new type of fast logistic-support ship that will ultimately be acquired by all three services.

Held at Quantico Marine Corps Base outside Washington, the meeting allowed the service representatives to update prospective contractors on the vessel's design requirements, said Capt. Patricia M. Sudol, the Navy's program manager for support ships, boats and craft, and the officer in charge of the Navy-led joint acquisition program.

The JHSV's specifications and capabilities are based on lessons the services learned from operating four leased, commercial high-speed vessels over the past five years. While the Army operated one ship, Joint Venture, in conjunction with the Navy, the theater support vessel Spearhead was under sole Army control until its recent return to commercial service. Both ships saw extensive Army use in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as well as supporting other Army operations in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean. Two leased vessels remain in service, Swift with the Navy and Westpac Express with the Marine Corps.

Maj. Kyle Marolf, the Army's JHSV representative within Capt. Sudol's program office, said the goal is to have a vessel that can quickly transport several hundred troops and all their equipment and vehicles across open sea.

The design specifications so far established for the JHSV describe an oceangoing vessel 450 feet in length or less, capable of carrying 600 short tons of cargo up to 1,200 nautical miles at a speed of 35 knots. It must also have seats for at least 312 passengers, and must be able to provide long-term berthing and galley facilities for at least 104 of those passengers in addition to the vessel's 41 crewmembers.

Capt. Sudol and her staff are currently waiting for the Department of Defense to approve their acquisition strategy for the JHSV, she said, and very shortly after that approval is granted her office will release a "request for proposals." The RFP will outline all of the JHSV's mandatory specifications and capabilities, and each design submission will be measured against those criteria. A single firm will ultimately be selected to produce all eight JHSVs. Current plans call for the first ship to enter service -- with the Army -- in fiscal year 2011.

(Steve Harding is the managing editor of Soldiers magazine.)