New ship arrives at Mayport

Published On: Feb 14 2013 06:44:36 AM EST   Updated On: Feb 14 2013 12:22:10 PM EST

It's an exciting day for Jacksonville's Navy community as the newest ship arrived at Naval Station Mayport on Thursday morning.

The USNS Spearhead is the first of nine new high-speed vessels the U.S. Navy has acquired.

The United States Fourth Fleet is stationed and headquartered at Mayport.

One of its main missions is securing the waters in South and Central America, disrupting the flow of drugs from there into the United States.

The fast, light, state-of-the-art ship will give sailors even more capability.

The ship is 338 feet of aluminum and can go as fast as 35 knots, or 40 mph.

The USNS Spearhead is the first of nine high speed catamarans ordered by the Navy, and one of her first stops was Mayport on Thursday.

"It can conduct counter drug operations. It can do medical operations ashore, responding to humanitarian disaster," Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker said. "It can put marines ashore, equipment. It's just very, very versatile and it just matches perfectly with U.S. Fourth Fleet mission."

Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris and his staff will inspect the Spearhead so they have firsthand knowledge of the ship's capability when planning for operations.

"With that speed and ability to go into more austere ports is a perfect vessel to work with," Harris said. "Partner Navy's in ports that we couldn't put a traditional ship in and then contingency operations."

The most similar ship to the new Spearhead is the Swift, which was used to provide support during hurricane Katrina and also to evacuate people from Lebanon.

"We unfortunately in the Caribbean and in the Central American waters are prone to disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes," Harris said. "A vessel like the Spearhead will be used for contingency operations almost right away."

The Spearhead has a huge cargo base so it can hold different vehicles including trucks and up to 500 people.

"If you can imagine something the size of a helicopter hangar ... or an aircraft hangar, but with a lower ceiling," Harris said. "It's huge."


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