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US Navy reveals name of its new medical ship class

Bethesda-class EMS medical catamaran ship
Photo: Austal

The lead ship of the US Navy’s new class of medical ships will be named USNS Bethesda (EMS 1), the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro announced on Friday.

Giving its name to a whole class of ships, Bethesda is the first of the new Expeditionary Medical Ship (EMS(X)) class and is currently being built by Austal.

The expeditionary medical ships are designed as a dedicated medical ship that optimizes hospital-level medical care in support of distributed maritime operations (DMO).

Based on the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports, the EMS will feature a shallow draft enabling greater reach and allowing direct access to shallow austere ports, while also providing a flight deck that accommodates military helicopters.

The navy says this design provides a full range of medical capabilities including triage/critical care, three operating rooms, medical laboratory, radiological capability, blood bank, dental, mental health, OB/GYN and primary care, rapid stabilization and follow-on evacuation of multiple casualties and combat search and rescue including recovery at sea.

The primary mission of the EMS as a high-speed forward deployed medical ship is to provide rapid responsive sea-based and near-shore hospital level critical care, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, non-combatant evacuation operations and special operations.

The EMS is designed to respond and provide care at a more rapid pace than their predecessors, USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, sailing at speeds of at least 30 knots with a range of 5,500 nautical miles at 24 knots.

Future USNS Bethesda was christened in a ceremony at Austal’s Mobile, Alabama, yard in February this year.

“For most in the armed services, the name ‘Bethesda’ is connected to the world-class medical center for healing that has served a countless number of service members since 1942,” SECNAV Del Toro said. “The real strength of our Navy and Marine Corps are our people, and if they are willing to sacrifice all for service, they deserve the best medical care available. This ship will honor the medical staff, who compassionately dedicate their time and expertise to take care of our service members. Bearing the name Bethesda will continue the legacy of life saving and medical innovation.”