Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF)

An Extraordinary Capability for a Growing Number of Expeditionary Missions

Issue 91 - May 2019

Austal’s successful Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF) program - part of the company’s High Speed Support Vessel portfolio - has recently been awarded an additional two (2) vessel contract by the US Navy, taking the total number of vessels contracted to fourteen (14). The contract award extends the T-EPF program to CY2022, with construction of T-EPF 13 to commence in late 2019 and T-EPF 14 to follow in the middle of 2020.

The 103 metre T-EPF’s were designed by Austal Australia and are manufactured at the company’s USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

Austal has delivered ten T-EPF’s to the US Navy since 2012, with all ten vessels deployed and operated by US Military Sealift Command (USMSC).

The T-EPF is an expeditionary sealift platform that provides fast, intra-theatre sea transport of embarked troops, vehicles and cargo for a variety of missions including military exercises, special joint forces operations and humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) response. The T-EPF platform is an effective ‘high speed connector’ that complements and enhances the capability of both amphibious and larger, support vessels.  

Based on Austal’s proven commercial high-speed open-sea ferry designs and technology, the T-EPF is an all-aluminium catamaran design that provides naval fleets with additional, fast sea lift capability at a lower cost than traditional (slower, monohull) naval support vessels.     

The T-EPF has a large 1,800 m² roll-on/roll-off vehicle (cargo) deck that can accept 630 metric tonnes (including tracked armoured vehicles such as the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks). Vehicles can drive on/off over via an aft slewing ramp that can be used at austere port facilities. 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. There is a large helicopter flight deck and aviation support facilities that supports most US Navy and Marine helicopters, including the CH-53E heavy lift.  

As more T-EPF’s have been delivered, the US Navy has increased deployments and application of the vessel for various missions, including Special Operations, Marine Security Rapid Response and military assistance operations. Its unique capabilities have been seen utilised for a many different missions including counter drug-trafficking, medical response, offshore logistical support, and in support of larger amphibious and expeditionary platforms.

The T-EPF’s key points of difference over traditional supply or support vessels include weight-saving aluminium construction, an optimised catamaran hull form that provides greater carrying capacity and maximum fuel efficiency, a shallow 3.92m draft that allows the vessel to get close to shore, navigate larger rivers and bays, and dock in austere ports - plus four powerful waterjets that deliver outstanding speed and manoeuvrability. 

Speed is a key feature, with the vessels able to reach between 35 and 45 knots - depending on payload - with a range of greater than 1,200 nautical miles at speed. The vessels can operate effectively in up to Sea State 7 conditions and is also capable of at-sea refuelling and underway vertical (airborne) replenishment. 

Austal’s T-EPF is part of a greater High Speed Support Vessel (HSSV) portfolio that has seen a number of customised designs developed for customers around the world.

These include the Theatre Support Vessel (TSV) Westpac Express, a 101 metre high speed catamaran chartered by the US Marine Corps in Japan for over 16 years (achieving 99% availability), the High Speed Support Vessel (HSSV) 72 designed and constructed for the Royal Navy of Oman (RNO). Two HSSV 72’s were constructed by Austal Australia and delivered to Oman in 2016.

The T-EPF has proven successful, not only because of the enhanced capability it is offering naval operators, but also from the reduced risk to operators drawing upon the proven, in-service commercial designs and construction processes (developed over 30 years of manufacturing) that offer lower development, acquisition and operating costs.  

At Pacific Partnership 2019, conducted in the Marshall Islands in March, two US Navy T-EPF’s – USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) and USNS Brunwick (T-EPF 6) participated, following Brunswick’s success as the command vessel during Pacific Partnership 2018.

“USNS Brunswick proved to be an incredibly valuable platform for Pacific Partnership. The versatility of the ship allowed us to transit shallow waters and visit ports like Yap and Palau, placed that wouldn’t be able to accommodate (USNS) Mercy.” - Royal Navy Capt. Peter Olive, Pacific Partnership 2018  Deputy Mission Command

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multi-national humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Each year, the mission team works collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships in the Indo Pacific. 

Military personnel from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Peru and the United Kingdom took part in a variety of projects to include disaster response seminars and training to improve overall disaster preparedness, sports games and band concerts with local schools, installation of rain water catchment and filtration and community-wide health fairs.

Based on the success of the T-EPF’s in Pacific Partnership 2019 and in previous years, there is now a proposal by Austal USA to develop a dedicated ‘hospital’ variant that will have greater medical and surgical capabilities on board to deliver rapid response, in-theatre support for troops and civilians.

Redefining Capability

With vessels now deployed throughout the world, including the United States, South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, the T-EPF continues to impress the US Navy and effectively support operator USMSC, while truly redefining naval capability. 

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