Austal’s future Apalachicola completes sea trials

Ship is Navy’s largest capable of working without crew

The future USNS Apalachicola completes sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico.

The future USNS Apalachicola — the largest Navy ship to date with unmanned capabilities — has completed sea trials and is ready for delivery to the U.S. Navy, shipbuilder Austal USA announced today.

“EPF 13 is the first Spearhead-class ship with capabilities for V-22 Osprey flight operations and enhanced medical support. It is also the Navy’s largest ship with the capability to be an unmanned surface vessel,” said Dave Growden, vice president of new construction programs at Mobile-based Austal USA. “This is a significant achievement for our team as we not only demonstrated new capabilities but also proved the ship is ready for operations at sea.”

The testing process began with a builder’s trial, followed by five more sea trips to allow team members Austal, L3Harris and General Dynamics Mission Systems to test both her normal systems and those modifications made to make EPF 13 an autonomous prototype.

“The work included installation of a perception and situation awareness suite, an autonomy controller, an autonomous machinery control system, and automation enhancements to the machinery plant improving hull, mechanical and electrical reliability,” Austal reported. “The enhancements will allow EPF 13 to operate autonomously for up to 30 days while retaining the capability for manned operation.”

While completing EPF 13, Austal is also at work on Cody (EPF 14) and Point Loma (EPF 15) and under contract to build EPF 16.

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