The Navy awarded Austal USA a $230.5 million contract modification on May 3 to build the

Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport ship (EPF)-16.

This award is exercising an option for detail design and construction of EPF-16, with 63 percent of the work to occur at the company’s shipyard in Mobile, Ala. The construction work is expected to be finished by October 2025.

Austal USA has previously delivered 12 EPFs. In a statement, the company noted all 12 were on schedule and on budget. Beyond EPF-16, three other vessels are currently under construction.

“Like the previously delivered EPFs, EPF 16 will benefit from the serial production of this program, resulting not only in a world-class ship but also providing assurance to the U.S. Navy that capability will be delivered on budget and on schedule,” Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh said in a statement.

The company said construction work on EPF-16 is “expected to commence later this year,” with delivery planned for 2025. 

EPFs are non-combat ships operated by Military Sealift Command to operate in shallow-draft ports and waterways to transport troops and vehicles as well as operate for humanitarian assistance, special operations support and logistics support. EPFs have a flight deck, can interface with roll-on/roll-off facilities and can carry up to one fully combat loaded Abrams main battle tank, 600 short tons total and travel a distance of up to 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots.

The Navy’s FY ‘23 budget request documents argued the EPFs provide commanders high-speed intra-theater sealift and are not limited to major ports, designed to operate in austere environments.

The Navy received $310 million in FY ‘21 for one EPF and $590 million in FY ‘22 for two more. According to the budget documents, the Navy does not plan to procure any additional EPFs over the next five years.

EPF-16 is set to be the third EPF constructed in a Flight II configuration ,which incorporates enhancements including reconfigurable spaces for operating rooms and post surgical recovery efforts.

“EPF 14, 15 and 16 will have modifications to conduct a Role 2 Enhanced (R2E) Medical Transport mission which will include enhanced medical capability to support embarked Medical Military Detachment (MILDET) teams while retaining the ability to perform high-speed intra-theater sealift,” the budget documents said.

The Navy budget documents said EPF-14 is expected to be delivered in June 2023 and EPF-15 to be delivered in June 2024. They also said EPF-16 was expected to be delivered by October 2026, as opposed to the 2025 date in the contract announcement.

EPF-17, the last EPF budgeted for, is expected to be an Expeditionary Medical Ship (EMS) variant with more medical capabilities as the Navy explores how to replace the two Mercy-class hospital ships, USNS Mercy and Comfort.

The budget documents say the Navy expects EPF-17 to be awarded in September 2022 and delivered by December 2026.