In a display of confidence for the 337'10"x93'6" Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessel, the Navy awarded Austal USA a $235 million contract modification on Feb. 26 for the detailed design and construction of EPF 15.

The EPF program, currently operating on schedule and under budget, has delivered 12 ships to the fleet. The versatility of the EPF design has enabled each ship to provide a significant operational capability tailored to the needs of each geographic command, Austal officials said. EPF 15 will include enhanced medical capability to increase its operational capability.

“At its core, the EPF is designed to be highly capable, flexible and affordable,” Austal USA chief financial officer and interim president Rusty Murdaugh said. “With this baseline, we’ve been able to deliver multiple ships that are performing different missions for the U.S. military. The award of EPF 15 allows the Navy to leverage a hot production line and highly trained workforce to continue producing ships that are meeting the needs of warfighters today and into the future.”

Originally designed as a high-speed intra-theater transport, the EPF has been described by many in the U.S. military as the pickup truck of the fleet. EPFs have performed humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security, surveillance, command and control, counter narcotics, and additional operations in almost every region of the world.

With a draft of only 13' and waterjet propulsion, the EPF is able to access austere and degraded ports with minimal external assistance providing flexibility to fleet and combatant commanders. With its maneuverability, large open mission bay and ability to achieve speeds greater-than 35-knots, the EPFs have the capability to support additional missions such as special operations and medical support.

Four MTU 20V8000 M7 11 diesel engines, producing 12,203 hp at 1,150 rpm each, supply the EPF with its main propulsion. The mains connect to four Wärtsilä WLD 1400 SR waterjets through ZF 60000R2H marine gears. Maximum speed without payload is 43 knots, with a running speed (with payload) of 35 knots. Its range is 1,200 nautical miles.