US-based shipbuilder Austal USA has conducted keel authentication of the US Navy’s ninth expeditionary fast transport (EPF), the future USNS City of Bismarck, as well as fabrication for its 11th EPF, USNS Puerto Rico.
The keel for EPF 9 was laid by North Dakota former attorney general Robert O Wefald.
The commencement of construction on Puerto Rico marks procurement of materials and components, as well as the shipyard's capability to commence fabrication on the ship’s hull.
In September last year, Austal USA secured a contract to definitise long lead-time materials, and for the detail design and development of EPFs 11 and 12.
Programme Executive Office Ships Strategic and Theatre Sealift programme manager captain Henry Stevens said: “As we mark these milestones, the programme is benefitting from serial production efficiencies at all stages of the construction process.
“Our industry and navy teams are committed to delivering these highly-capable platforms, and today's milestones marks our progress in delivering two more ships.”
The 103m long catamaran EPFs have been developed as non-combatant vessels, and are designed to serve in shallow-draft ports and waterways.
The catamarans are deployed to help enhance operational flexibility for activities, such as manoeuvre and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support, and primary enabler for rapid transport.
Equipped with a flight deck to carry out day and night aircraft launch and recovery operations, the vessels can interface with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on-/off-loading vehicles such as a fully combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank.
An EPF ship can transport a 600t weight for 1,200nm at an average speed of 35k, and accommodate 312 embarked forces, containing fixed berthing amenities for 104.
The vessels are currently used for a variety of purposes, including conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, supporting special operations forces, overseas contingency operations, and supporting emerging joint sea-basing concepts.
Image: North Dakota former attorney general Robert O Wefald welds his initials into the keel plate of EPF 9. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by David Stoltz / Released.