Austal has received a new A$369 ($261.77m) contract to build and deliver two additional Expeditionary Fast Transport Ships (EPF) for the US Navy.

The vessels will be the 13th and 14th EPFs for the US Navy under the 14-ship EPF programme, which is worth more than $2bn to date.

According to the company, the contract could facilitate a potential transition to more medically based variants for high-speed transport.

Austal also noted that the contract award extends the EPF programme to 2022. The company expects to begin construction of EPF 13 later this year and EPF 14 in the middle of 2020.

In December last year, the company secured the award for long-lead-time materials on EPF 13 and EPF 14.

“The extension of this programme to 14 vessels is a result of the versatility of the EPF platform to perform an increasing range of roles for the US Navy.”

Austal CEO David Singleton said: “The extension of this programme to 14 vessels is a result of the versatility of the EPF platform to perform an increasing range of roles for the US Navy combined with the confidence our customer has in it. We continue to believe that the EPF vessel, in various configurations, has a long future ahead of it.”

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To be built at the company’s manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama, the EPF features a shallow draft of 13ft and an advanced water jet propulsion system.

The ship can reach speeds in excess of 40k and has the potential to access degraded ports with minimal external assistance.

This ability can be leveraged by the Navy during special operations, command and control, and support operations, the company said.

The EPF will be deployed in support of a range of missions including engagement and humanitarian assistance to disaster relief, maritime security support operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance across the world.

To date, Austal has delivered ten EPF ships with two more currently under construction.

In December, the firm was awarded a contract to build two additional Independence-variant littoral combat ships, LCS 36 and 38, for the US Navy.