Austal has officially marked the construction of the US Navy's eighth expeditionary fast transport vessel (EPF 8), Yuma, with a keel laying ceremony at its shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.
The ship is being built under a ten-ship, $1.6bn block-buy US Navy contract, awarded in 2008.
Austal USA president Craig Perciavalle said: "The momentum we're experiencing on the construction of this amazing ship is evidence of the strength of Austal's EPF programme, and the continued success displayed by Austal's talented shipbuilding team."
The EPF programme was formerly known as the joint high-speed vessel (JHSV) programme, which will be deployed for fast intra-theatre transportation of troops, military vehicles and equipment.
The non-combatant vessel has the capacity to ferry a load of 600 short tonnes and can achieve an average speed of 35k, with a traversing range of 1,200nm.
The fleet can operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interface with roll-on / roll-off discharge facilities, and on / off-load a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2).
The vessels feature a flight deck to support helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that enables quick drive-off of vehicles form the ship. It can accommodate a crew of 21 people with an airline-style seating for up to 312.
Under the EPF programme, Austal delivered USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) last year and construction of three others is currently underway.
Among the other ships delivered to the navy, USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) is commissioned in Africa and USNS Choctaw County (T-EPF 2) and USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) are currently deployed in the US Navy fleet operations including international exercises.
Austal has also been awarded a $3.5bn US Navy block-buy contract to construct ten Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS).
Image: EPF vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1) during sea trials. Photo: courtesy of US Navy - US Navy Military Sealift Command.