Shipbuilder Austal USA has been awarded a $44 million fixed-price, undefinitised contract modification for the design, procurement, production implementation and demonstration of autonomous capability on US Navy’s expeditionary fast transport (EPF) 13, USNS Apalachicola.
Austal USA is constructing 15 Spearhead-class EPF vessels for the US Navy and has delivered twelve EPFs since December 2012.
EPF 13 is currently under construction at Austal USA’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard.
Austal Limited Chief Executive Officer Paddy Gregg said the highly-anticipated contract was another significant, strategic step towards greater autonomous vessel capability.
“Austal noted in our half year results presentation that the funding for an autonomous EPF conversion contract had been appropriated in the USA Government 2021 Budget, so we are pleased that it has now been converted into a formal contract,” Gregg said.
“Autonomous vessel capability has been identified as an area of strategic importance by the US Navy, so it is promising for Austal that the US Navy has awarded Austal USA a contract for the design, procurement, production implementation and demonstration of autonomous capability of one of our vessels, the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 13, the future USNS Apalachicola,” he added.
The Spearhead-class EPF is a 103-metre high-speed aluminium catamaran with a large, 1,800 square metre cargo deck, medium-lift helicopter deck and seating for 300+ embarked troops; providing a fast, high-payload transport capability to combatant commanders around the world.
The Austal-designed and built EPFs support a wide range of missions – from maritime security operations to humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Two EPF’s are currently under construction at Austal USA’s shipyard – the USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13) and the USNS Cody (EPF 14).