The future USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13), the U.S. Navy’s 13th Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport successfully completed Acceptance Trials and Unmanned Logistics Prototype Trials. Acceptance Trials consists of a series of in-port and at-sea demonstrations that allow the Navy and the shipbuilder, Austal USA, to assess the ship’s systems and readiness prior to delivery to the Navy. EPF 13 also completed Unmanned Logistics Prototype trials assessing autonomous capabilities integrated into the shipboard configuration, demonstrating that a large ship can become a self-driving platform.
“The completion of this milestone is another win for our Navy and industry partners and a testament to the hard work of our shipbuilding team. USNS Apalachicola will enhance the operational flexibility needed by our Sailors. he ability to expand unmanned concepts into the existing fleet was validated by these trials. The capabilities integrated onto EPF 13 set the groundwork for future autonomous operations,” said Tim Roberts, program manager, Strategic & Theater Sealift, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships.
In transit from Mobile, Alabama, to Miami, Florida, Apalachicola’s autonomous system completed a stress test in high-traffic coastal areas by taking appropriate ship handling actions while operating around other ships, boats, sailboats, and craft. Overall, the ship was in autonomous mode for approximately 85 percent of the multiple day at-sea period. The unprecedented development of autonomous capability on Apalachicola is the culmination of collaborative efforts with the Navy’s shipbuilding and industry partners, Austal USA, L3 Harris and General Dynamics.
EPFs are shallow draft, commercial-based, catamaran designed for rapid, intra-theater transport of personnel and equipment. The EPF’s high speed, shallow draft, and ability to load/unload in austere ports enables maneuver force agility in achieving positional advantage over intermediate distances without reliance on shore-based infrastructure. USNS Apalachicola is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy later this year. As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, boats and craft.