The future USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13), the US Navy’s 13th Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport (EPF) has completed acceptance trials and unmanned logistics prototype trials.
Acceptance Trials consists of a series of in-port and at-sea demonstrations that allow the navy and the shipbuilder, Austal USA, to assess the ship’s systems and readiness prior to delivery to the navy.
EPF 13 also completed Unmanned Logistics Prototype trials assessing autonomous capabilities integrated into the shipboard configuration, demonstrating that a large ship can become a self-driving platform.
In transit from Mobile, Alabama, to Miami, Florida, Apalachicola’s autonomous system completed a stress test in high-traffic coastal areas by taking appropriate ship handling actions while operating around other ships, boats, sailboats, and craft. Overall, the ship was in autonomous mode for approximately 85 percent of the multiple day at-sea period.
The development of autonomous capability on Apalachicola is a result of collaborative efforts with the navy’s shipbuilding and industry partners, Austal USA, L3 Harris and General Dynamics.
“The ability to expand unmanned concepts into the existing fleet was validated by these trials,” said Tim Roberts, program manager, Strategic & Theater Sealift, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships.
“The capabilities integrated onto EPF 13 set the groundwork for future autonomous operations.”
EPFs are shallow draft, commercial-based, catamaran designed for rapid, intra-theater transport of personnel and equipment.
The EPF’s high speed, shallow draft, and ability to load/unload in austere ports enables maneuver force agility in achieving positional advantage over intermediate distances without reliance on shore-based infrastructure.
USNS Apalachicola is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy later this year.
To remind, the US Navy ordered 16th EPF from Austal USA in May this year.