Austal USA holds keel laying ceremony of future US Navy USNS Apalachicola expeditionary fast transport ship

According to a Tweet published on January 21, 2021, American company Austal USA holds keel laying ceremony for the future U.S. Navy USNS Apalachicola (T-EPF- 13) expeditionary fast transport ship. The laying of the keel is the formal recognition of the start of a ship's construction.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Future USNS Apalachicola (T-EPF- 13) expeditionary fast transport ship for U.S. Navy. (Picture source U.S. Navy)

The USNS Apalachicola (T-EPF-13) will be the thirteenth Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship built for the U.S. Navy and will be operated by the MSC (Military Sealift Command). The MSC is an organization that controls the replenishment and military transport ships of the United States Navy. Military Sealift Command has the responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all US military services as well as for other government agencies.

The US Navy's Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF) ship program is procuring 14 high-speed transport vessels from Austal for the fast, intra-theater transportation of troops, military vehicles, and equipment with aviation support. Austal has delivered twelve T-EPF’s to the US Navy since 2012, with all ten vessels deployed and operated by US Military Sealift Command (USMSC).

The USNS Apalachicola is a Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship designed to be used to transport U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps company-sized units with their vehicles or can be reconfigured to become a troop transport for an infantry battalion.

The 103-meter T-EPF is capable of transporting 600 short tons up to 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ships can operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interface with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2).

The T-EPF has a large 1,800 m² roll-on/roll-off vehicle (cargo) deck that can accept 630 metric tones (including tracked armored vehicles such as the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks). Its passenger deck has airline-style seating for 312 troops and berthing for 140. The ship can sustain 312 embarked personnel plus the crew for four days or 104 personnel for 14 days without re-supply.

The EPF has a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that allows vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. The ramp is suitable for the types of austere piers and quay walls common in developing countries. EPF’s shallow draft further enhances littoral operations and port access. This makes the EPF an extremely flexible asset for support of a wide range of military and other (humanitarian and disaster relief) operations to small or damaged ports.

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