Austal USA has handed over the 13th Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport (EPF), the future USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13), to the US Navy.

Delivery of the new vessel was accepted by the Navy on 16 February.

EPF 13 is the second US Navy vessel to bear this name. It is also one of the largest surface vessels in the Navy to feature autonomous capabilities.

The latest milestone comes after the company completed several sea and uncrewed logistics prototype trials of USNS Apalachicola for over a period of five months.

Primary objective of these trials was to assess the performance of autonomous systems and design of the ship along with other traditional ship systems.

The tests were carried out in close coordination with Austal’s industry partners L3Harris Technologies and General Dynamics Mission Systems.

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Programme Executive Office (PEO), Ships Strategic and Theatre Sealift programme manager Tim Roberts said: “The Navy and our shipbuilding partner, Austal USA, are proud of the work accomplished and look forward to EPF 13 providing capability and capacity to Military Sealift Command, the fleet, and the US Marine Corps.”

The new Spearhead-class EPF vessel has been constructed to operate in shallow waterways to undertake a wide range of operations, including quick, intra-theatre transport of equipment and personnel.

It is a non-combatant transport ships that can support various disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, support special operations forces and overseas contingency operations.

Austal USA president Rusty Murdaugh said: “Apalachicola will also be the first EPF with the ability to conduct V-22 flight operations and launch and recover 11m Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs).”

The company is also working on the construction of the next vessel of the same class, named USNS Cody (EPF 14).