Austal USA has secured a $44m fixed-price, undefinitised contract modification to deliver autonomous capability for Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 13, the future USNS Apalachicola.

The contract, awarded by the US Navy, will include design, procurement, production implementation and demonstration of the autonomous capabilities.

The 103m-long high-speed Spearhead-class catamaran is currently under construction at Austal USA’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard.

Austal CEO Paddy Gregg said: “Winning a $44m contract is welcome from a revenue perspective, but strategically this contract award is even more significant for Austal.

“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 EPF 13, the future USNS Apalachicola.”

Austal USA has delivered 12 EPFs to the US Navy since December 2012. Two more vessels are currently under construction.

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The EPFs can support a wide range of missions by enabling rapid transport of troops, equipment and supplies.

EPF 13 will feature a large 1,800m² cargo deck, a medium-lift helicopter deck, and will be capable of transporting more than 300 troops.

Austal USA has also been contracted to deliver 19 Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to the US Navy. The company has already delivered 13 vessels since 2010.

The 15th Independence-class LCS, the future USS Canberra, was recently christened at a ceremony in Mobile, Alabama.