US Navy Unveils Name of First-In-Class Expeditionary Medical Ship

Carlos Del Toro, the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), declared on Friday that the lead vessel of the US Navy’s new class of medical vessels would be titled USNS Bethesda (EMS 1).

Giving its name to a whole new class of vessels, Bethesda is the first of the newest Expeditionary Medical Ship (EMS(X)) class and is being built by Austal.

The expeditionary medical vessels are reportedly designed as dedicated medical vessels that optimally extend hospital-level medical care to support distributed maritime operations (DMO).

USNS Bethesda
Credits: Austal USA

Based on Spearhead-class, next-gen expeditionary fast transports, the EMS is going to boast a shallow draft, facilitating greater reach and permitting access to shallow austere ports while offering a flight deck that can accommodate military helicopters.

Per the Navy, the design offers a complete range of much-needed medical capabilities, including critical or triage care, a medical laboratory, three operating chambers, a blood bank, radiological capability, dental, OB/GYN, mental health, and primary care, rapid stabilization as well as follow-on evacuation of multiple casualties and combat rescue and search, including recovery at sea.

The primary mission of the EMS as a high-speed forward deployed medical vessel is to offer rapid responsive near-shore and sea-based hospital-level critical care, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, non-combatant evacuation activities, and special operations.

The EMS has been designed to respond and offer care more rapidly than its predecessors, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, sailing at speeds of at least 30 knots with a range of 5,500 nm at about 24 knots.

The future USNS Bethesda was christened during a ceremony in February 2023.

For most individuals in the armed services, “Bethesda” is linked to the next-gen medical centre dedicated to healing that has served countless service members since 1942, per SECNAV Del Toro.

The real strength of the Marine Corps and Navy is their people, and if they are willing to sacrifice for service, they deserve the optimum medical care that is available. This vessel will honour the medical personnel who compassionately dedicate their time and expertise to care for service members. The name Bethesda will help continue the legacy of medical innovation and life-saving.

References:, Naval News, Defense Brief

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