The keel for the US Navy’s first Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport (EPF) Flight II configuration, the future USNS Cody (EPF 14), has been successfully laid.

Announced by the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the keel was laid at Austal USA’s shipyard.

It marks the start of the ship’s construction which will see the joining of its modular components and the authentication of the honouree’s initials into a keel plate.

The future USNS Cody (EPF 14) is the first ship named in honour of the city of Cody, Wyoming in the US naval service.

EPF 14 will be 338ft-long, have a waterline width (beam) of 93.5ft, and a displacement of about 2,362t. It will have a cruise speed of more than 35 knots.

US Navy Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships Strategic and Theater Sealift programme manager Tim Roberts said: “The new capabilities of this variant of EPFs fulfils a critical need for the Navy and Marine Corps.

“Ensuring that the fleet has fast access to the right medical care increases both the safety and readiness of our sailors and marines.”

The EPF 14’s Flight II configuration is designed to enhance the existing EPF capabilities of the ship by including health services and help stabilise postsurgical cases.

It features an integrated forward resuscitative care capability with a limited Intensive Care Unit and medical ward.

The Military Sealift Command operates the EPFs, which will support various roles such as intra-theatre manoeuvre of personnel, supplies and equipment, high speed, shallow draft transportation, humanitarian assistance, maritime security, disaster relief among others.

Austal USA has also started production efforts for the construction of the future USNS Point Loma (EPF 15).