A keel laying and authentication ceremony has been held for the US Navy’s 10th expeditionary fast transport (EPF) vessel, Burlington (EPF 10), marking a major milestone in its construction process.

The keel was laid by Austal USA vice-president emeritus William Pfister.

Austal was originally awarded the contract to design and construct the first 103m-long joint high-speed vessel (JHSV), now known as EPF, in November 2008.

The $1.9bn order comprised 12 aluminium catamarans and included options for nine additional ships.

Program Executive Office (PEO), Ships Strategic and Theater Sealift programme manager captain Scot Searles said “EPFs are incredibly versatile and an asset to the navy’s fleet.

“With the production consistency that has been demonstrated in the programme over the years, I look forward to seeing EPF 10 continue to progress toward delivery.”

The non-combatant vessels are being developed to support the navy in conducting a variety of missions and are capable of transporting 600 short tonnes for 1,200nm at an average speed of 35k.

The vessels have been specifically designed to operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways, and each EPF features a flight deck to support day and night aircraft launch and recovery operations.

In addition, the EPFs will have airline-style seating for up to 312 embarked forces with fixed berthing space for 104 personnel.

The navy previously took delivery of the eighth ship USNS Yuma (EPF 8) in April and is expected receive City of Bismarck (EPF 9) later this year.

EPF 9 is currently preparing for its second set of sea trials, while Puerto Rico (EPF 11) and EPF 12 are under various stages of construction.