TAMPA — The future of the U.S. Navy arrives Sunday in St. Petersburg. It's made of aluminium. And it's big.
The Spearhead, the Navy's first Joint High-Speed Vessel, is coming to Tampa Bay so officials at U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command can get a closer look at a ship that may revolutionize the transport of troops and equipment.
The all-aluminium, $185 million vessel — 338 feet long with a 20,000-square-foot storage area — is a catamaran capable of carrying 600 tons of troops or material nearly 1,400 miles at an average speed of about 40 mph.
And with a draft of about 12.5 feet, the ship can maneuver in much shallower waters than typical Navy ships. A destroyer, for example, has a 33-foot draft.
"The Spearhead affords our nation's military leadership a new ability to quickly transport troops, equipment and supplies where they are most needed, anywhere in the world," said Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores.
The Navy plans to build 10 of these ships, and the Pentagon said the ship's speed and shallow draft will provide benefits not just in combat. It will speed delivery of personnel and supplies for humanitarian missions around the world, the Navy says.
Officials at SOCom and CentCom, which direct the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be briefed on the ship's capabilities.
No public tours of the Spearhead will be available at the Port of St. Petersburg. It departs Tuesday.