The USA’s Spearhead-class, expeditionary fast transports
March 27/19: EPF 13 and 14 The US Navy awarded Austal USA a $261.8 million contract modification for two additional Expeditionary Fast Transport Ships (EPFs). The modification provides for design and construction and will also definitize the long-lead-time material undefinitized contract actions for EPF 13 and 14. Australian Shipbuilder Austal builds EPF ships in support of the EPF program by the Navy. The 14-ship EPF program has been worth over $2 billion. According to the DOD, the EPF class provides high-speed, shallow-draft transportation capability to support the intra-theater maneuver of personnel, supplies and equipment for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. The vessels are to join coalition force operations of the Army and Navy. The Spearhead-Class EPF ships’ main roles include transportation of troops, military vehicles, cargo and equipment for a range of global missions. They will also support military logistics and humanitarian relief operations. The construction of EPF 13 will start in late 2019 and after that the construction of EPF 14 will commence in the middle of 2020, extending the EPF program to 2022.
When moving whole units, shipping is always the cheaper, higher-capacity option. Slow speed and port access are the big issues, but what if ship transit times could be cut sharply, and full-service ports weren’t necessary? After Australia led the way by using what amounted to fast car ferries for military operations, the US Army and Navy decided to give it a go. Both services leased Incat TSV/HSV wave-piercing catamaran ship designs, while the Marines’ charged ahead with very successful use of Austal’s Westpac Express high-speed catamaran. These Australian-designed ships all give commanders the ability to roll on a company with full gear and equipment (or roll on a full infantry battalion if used only as a troop transport), haul it intra-theater distances at 38 knots, then move their shallow draft safely into austere ports to roll them off.
Their successful use, and continued success on operations, attracted favorable comment and notice from all services. So favorable that the experiments have led to a $3+ billion program called the Joint High Speed Vessel. These designs may even have uses beyond simple ferrying and transport.
The JHSV Ships
The JHSV Program
Supplements: From Leased to Bought
Contracts & Key Events
FY 2011 – 2012
FY 2009 – 2010
FY 2005 – 2008
Appendix A: The US Military’s HSV/TSV Experience
Additional Readings & Sources
JHSV and its Relatives
News & Views
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