(Original article appears courtesy of Naval Today)
The future USNS Apalachicola is the second ship named in honor of the city of Apalachicola, Fla: the first, a large harbor tug (YTB-767), served from 1965 to 2002.
The newbuild is part of the US Navy’s T-EPF program encompassing 14 high-speed transport vessels from Austal.
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 Austal-built EPF is a shallow draft, all aluminum, commercial-based catamaran that is designed for high-speed intra-theater surface lift and serves in a variety of roles for the military branches to include support of overseas contingency operations, conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and supporting special operations forces.
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-load a combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank (M1A2). They have a core crew of 21 people, with airline style seating for more than 312 embarked forces and fixed berthing for 146.
The EPF includes a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that allows vehicles to quickly drive off the ship.
The US Navy awarded contracts to Austal for the EPF 13 in 2018 and 2019.