MOBILE, Ala. The future USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13) returned pier side having successfully completed acceptance trials for the U.S. Navy.
During acceptance trials comprehensive testing is conducted on the ship’s major systems and equipment in order to demonstrate their successful operation and mission readiness. The U.S. Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey participates throughout the trials to validate the quality of construction and compliance with U.S. Navy requirements.
“EPF 13 is the first Spearhead-class ship with capabilities for V-22 Osprey flight operations and enhanced medical support. It is also the Navy’s largest ship with the capability to be an unmanned surface vessel,” said Dave Growden, vice president of new construction programs. “This is a significant achievement for our team as we not only demonstrated new capabilities but also proved the ship is ready for operations at sea.”
After a successful Builder’s Trials, EPF 13 went to sea five times over the past several months allowing Austal USA, L3Harris and General Dynamics Mission Systems to test and analyze not only her typical ship systems but those resulting from autonomous design and construction contract modifications required by the Navy to establish EPF 13 as an autonomous prototype.
The work included installation of a perception and situation awareness suite, an autonomy controller, an autonomous machinery control system, and automation enhancements to the machinery plant improving hull, mechanical and electrical reliability. The enhancements will allow EPF 13 to operate autonomously for up to 30 days while retaining the capability for manned operation.
Acceptance trials signify the last major milestone before delivery of the ship. Apalachicola is planned for delivery by the end of the year and will be the 13th Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport auxiliary ship to join the Military Sealift Command’s global fleet.
Austal USA is currently constructing Cody (EPF 14) and Point Loma (EPF 15) and is under contract to build EPF 16 as well. Each of these vessels will be built to Flight II specifications that incorporate Role 2E medical capability and capabilities to support V-22 flight operations.