Austal USA Delivers Its First “Autonomous Capable” EPF Vessel To US Navy

EPF 13 is now the giant surface vessel in the US Navy fleet with autonomous ability. EPF 13 went to sea five times over a several-month phase, permitting Austal USA and other industry partners, General Dynamics Mission Systems, and L3Harris to analyze and test not typical vessel systems as well as those that result from autonomous design and construction contract modifications required by the Navy for establishing EPF 13 as an autonomous prototype. 

With high speed and a shallow draft, the EPF’s agility offers a positional advantage in the littorals. It makes it an appropriate candidate to prototype massive vessel autonomous operations, including tendering, logistics, and adjunct magazine mission profiles.

Austal USA’s next-gen, highly automated, and in-house machinery control system (MCS) was fundamental to the critical autonomy efforts. This permits the vessel to be crewed minimally by centralizing machinery operations to the bridge. Spearhead-class EPFs, until now, successfully incorporate the Austal USA MCS distributive, secure, scalable, and reconfigurable design for several propulsion configurations.

Autonomous EPF Vessel, Austal USA
Image for representation purposes only. Source: Austal USA/YouTube

Combined with the highly automated hull, mechanical, and electrical systems that were installed on the EPF-class vessels, Austal USA added automated maintenance, mission readiness, and health monitoring to offer EPF 13 the capability to conduct nearly 30 days of operation with zero human intervention.

EPF 13 is the first-ever Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel that will be delivered to the Navy with enhanced capabilities for supporting V-22 flight operations and launching and recovering 11-meter RHIBs. The upgrades with EPF’s manoeuvrability, speed, and shallow water access are the critical enablers for supporting future Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations worldwide.

Autonomous vessel capability is an area of strategic importance for the Navy. Austal USA is working to advance autonomous abilities. It is collaborating with L3Harris on the MCS upgrade of the Overlord vessel, Mariner (OUSV 3), and the build of Vanguard (OUSV 4), and with Saildrone, Inc. for building Surveyor uncrewed surface vehicles. 

Teamed with significant investments from the world of academia in uncrewed tech, south Alabama is set to become the epicentre of unique autonomous naval architecture.

References: Naval News, Navsea

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