Austal snares US autonomous ship development contract

Perth shipbuilder Austal has been awarded a US$44 million ($56.9 million) contract to develop and demonstrate autonomous operation of its Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessels in service with the US Navy.

The company, which has a $2 billion plus contract to build 15 EFP ships for the USN at its yard in Mobile, Alabama, will modify the ship design, undertake procurement, implement production and demonstrate autonomous capability.

The 103-meter Spearhead class EPF, originally known as the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) is a twin hulled aluminium vessel derived from the deign of Austal passenger ferries.

They provide logistics support and humanitarian services to the USNS across the globe.

CEO Paddy Gregg said: “Autonomous vessel capability has been identified as an area of strategic importance by the US Navy.

“So it is promising that the US Navy has awarded Austal USA a contract for the…demonstration of autonomous capability of one of our vessels.”

The first vessel equipped for autonomous operation will be the 13th built by the company, the future USNS Apalachicola.

The vessel will have a 1,800 square metre cargo deck, medium lift helicopter deck and seating for 300 troops.

The Austal announcement comes only days after @AuManufacturing revealed the USN had commissioned a new class of steel hulled vessel – the new Navajo class Towing, Salvage and Rescue Ship or T-ATS – to be built by Austal USA.

Picture: Austal/Expeditionary Fast Transport

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