The US Naval Sea Systems Command has awarded Austal USA a $235 million contract for the detail design and construction of Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 15.
The yet-to-be-named EPF 15 will be the fifteenth ship in a class of non-combatant, transport ships that are being used for high-speed transportation of troops, military vehicles, and equipment.
According to a Pentagon contract announcement, the ship should be ready for delivery by March 2024.
Austal has so far delivered 12 vessels in the class, with the latest delivery taking place in September 2020. The 13th and 14th units are also under construction, according to previous company announcements.
EPF 14 is receiving modifications for enhanced medical capability. Other improvements will include habitability modifications, the capability to land a V-22 Osprey on its deck and improved small boat handling.
EPFs are shallow-draft, all-aluminum, commercial-based catamarans that are capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo transport, which provide combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility. EPFs enable rapid projection, agile maneuver and transport of personnel, equipment and supplies over operational distances with access to austere and degraded offload points.
EPFs are capable of interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank. EPFs include a flight deck to support day and night aircraft launch and recovery operations and airline-style seating for 312 embarked forces, with fixed berthing for 104.
Also referred to as the Spearhead-class, the ships have been purchased gradually by the navy since 2008, and have had few problems entering service. One of the major issues identified by government testers was the ships’ inability to transport goods at the design speed and capacity. The ships were initially supposed to be capable of carrying 1.2 million pounds of cargo for 1,200 nautical miles at 35 knots, or about 40 miles per hour. However, a 2018 report from the Defense Department Inspector General revealed that the ships could transport the 1.2 million pounds of cargo for 769 nautical miles, and that at a slower speed. Responding to the report, the navy said it was already working on addressing the issues.