The shipbuilding firm has been tapped to develop autonomous capability for the future USNS Apalachicola.
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The US Navy has officially awarded a US$44 million ($56.8 million) contract to Austal USA for the design, procurement, production implementation, and demonstration of autonomous capability on the future Spearhead Class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 13, USNS Apalachicola.
Austal USA is currently developing 15 EPF vessels for the US Navy, delivering twelve ships since December 2012.
Austal had disclosed in its half-year results presentation that the funding for an autonomous EPF conversion contract had been appropriated in the US government 2021 budget.
“[We] are pleased that it has now been converted into a formal contract,” Austal CEO Paddy Gregg said.
“Winning a $44 million contract is welcome from a revenue perspective, but strategically this contract award is even more significant for Austal.
“Autonomous vessel capability has been identified as an area of strategic importance by the US Navy, so it is promising for Austal that the US Navy has awarded Austal USA a contract for the design, procurement, production implementation and demonstration of autonomous capability of one of our vessels, the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 13, the future USNS Apalachicola.”
The Spearhead Class EPF is a 103-metre high-speed aluminium catamaran, built with an 1,800-square-metre cargo deck, medium-lift helicopter deck and seating for over 300 embarked personnel.
The EPFs are designed to provide a fast, high-payload transport capability to combatant commanders, supporting a number of missions, including maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
Two EPFs are currently being developed at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama — the future USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13) and the future USNS Cody (EPF 14).
Austal USA is also contracted to deliver 19 Independence Class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for the US Navy, of which 13 have been delivered since 2010.
The LCS fleet includes future USS Canberra, christened earlier this month.
Austal USA was also recently awarded a US$3.6 million ($4.7 million) functional design contract to develop the new Navajo Class Towing, Salvage and Rescue Ship (T-ATS) for the US Navy.
The firm is set to prepare a functional design for the T-ATS — an 80-metre steel monohull vessel with multi-mission capability, built to support a variety of towing, salvage, search and rescue, oil spill response, humanitarian assistance and surveillance activities.
In addition to its US operations, the Australia-based shipbuilding company recently confirmed it would submit a proposal for the Commonwealth government’s LAND 8710 (Phase 1) program.
The $800 million project aims to develop a new amphibious vehicle (AV) to replace the Army’s Lighter, Amphibious Resupply, Cargo – 5 tonne vehicle (LARC-V), and Independent Landing Craft (ILC) to replace the current Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM-8) vessels.
The shipbuilding firm has offered to design, build and sustain the locally-developed fleet, used to transport land forces with enhanced speed and protection.
The new vehicles and vessels are proposed for introduction from 2026.