SHIP INSPECTION | Apalachicola – US Navy fast transport aircraft equipped with autonomous navigation systems

SHIP INSPECTION |  Apalachicola – US Navy fast transport aircraft equipped with autonomous navigation systems
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The US Navy recently received the future USNS Apalachicolathe thirteenth Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ordered from Austal USA.

The second US Navy ship to be named for the city of Apalachicola, Florida, the EPF is also the first Spearhead-class ship with V-22 Osprey flight operations capabilities and enhanced medical support, despite sharing the ship’s standard flight deck Spearhead class retains development for conventional utility and heavy lift helicopters.

As with other EPFs, Apalachicola has a length of 103 meters (337 ft), a beam of 28.5 meters (93.5 ft) and a draft of 3.83 meters (12.5 ft). Designed to operate in shallow waters, the ship is suitable for a variety of activities including high-speed transport of troops, military vehicles such as main battle tanks and equipment with a total capacity of 600 long tons (544 tons) up to 1,200 nautical miles.

The EPF features an unloading ramp that allows vehicles to quickly embark and disembark from the ship. The ramp is suitable for the types of strict piers and quay walls common in developing countries. The shallow draft also improves shore operations and port access, making the ship ideal for supporting military and humanitarian operations in small or damaged ports.

Photo: Austal USA

It is powered by four MTU 20V8000 M71L diesel engines, which are connected to ZF 60000NR2H gearboxes. This configuration delivers a top speed of 43 knots, although full-load operational cruises typically do not exceed 35 knots.

EPFs have a core crew of 21, with airline-style seating for more than 312 embarked forces and fixed berths for 146.

One of the highlights of ApalachicolaThe development of consisted of using the ship itself in conducting a series of scheduled test events to evaluate autonomous capabilities integrated into the onboard configuration – demonstrating that a large ship can become a self-propelled platform – between June and August 2022 Known as unmanned logistics prototype trials, each test event increased the perceptual capabilities and complexity of behaviors demonstrated by the installed autonomous systems. Test developments included autonomous point-to-point navigation, ship handling, transfer of ship control between manned and unmanned modes, and even autonomous station keeping, where Apalachicola was able to match the course and speed of another ship also participating in the trials.

Apalachicola operated by the Navy through the Military Sealift Command (MSC). Despite being a non-combat ship like other MSC ships, the EPF is still equipped with four mounts for Browning M2 12.7mm machine guns to provide limited self-defense capability against small-scale surface and air threats.

Photo: Austal USA
USNS Apalachicola
ship type: Expedition fast transport
Flag: USA
Owner: US Navy
builder: Australia USA
Overall length: 337 feet (103 meters)
Beam: 93.5 feet (28.5 meters)
Draft: 12.5 feet (3.83 meters
Main Engines: 4 x MTU 20V8000 M71L
Transmission: 4 x IF 60000NR2H
Maximum speed: 43 knots
cruising speed: 35 knots
Area: 1,200 nautical miles
Armor: 4 x Browning M2 12.7mm machine guns
Other installed devices: Ramp; helideck
Type of fuel: Diesel
Crew: 21
passengers: 312


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