of the military. Where airlift usually means relatively
small loads, and sealift means relatively slow speeds,
the EPF sits somewhere in the middle, with meaningful capacity and reduced transit times.
EPF can augment combat logistical forces by rapidly moving personnel, equipment and supplies over
large distances, wherever they are needed. Like LCS,
EPF also can carry containerized modules that can
plug into its “total ship computing environment”
Both LCS and EPF are meant to be operated forward, ready to respond to operational tasking or
contingencies. EPF is not a combatant, but it can be a
significant enabler to combat forces.
EPF is built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., alongside
the company’s production line where its trimaran-hulled
Independence variant of the LCS is constructed. While
many visitors are somewhat familiar with the LCS,
Austal USA Chief Executive Officer Craig Perciavalle
said people are surprised when they see the EPF.
“EPF is a high-speed, aluminum, multi-hulled vessel
with a lot of design margin to be able to handle varying
levels of payload, and a very large reconfigurable volume,” Perciavalle said. “People don’t really understand
just how big and voluminous the ship really is.
“We’re very pleased with how the program has
matured. The build process has really improved significantly since the first ship,” Perciavalle said.
The EPF was designed for intra-theater lift, but the
Navy has given the ships other missions.
“As the fleet has received the
ships and used them, they’ve really
seen just how much utilization they
do have and how many different
types of things they can use with
them,” he said.
Similarities & Synergies
There are similarities and synergies
between LCS and EPF.
LCS comes in two distinctly different variants. The 379-foot, 3,000-
ton USS Freedom (LCS 1) is a monohull built by a team led by Lockheed
Martin at Marinette Marine in
Marinette, Wis. Freedom has a steel
hull and aluminum superstructure.
The all-aluminum 418-foot,
3,000 ton USS Independence (LCS 2)
is a trimaran, and is built by Austal.
The lead ships — LCS 1 and LCS 2
— were commissioned in 2008 and
2010, respectively. Both LCS variants can achieve speeds in excess of
Both variants operate the MH-60R helicopter and
the MQ-8B (and soon the larger C model) Fire Scout
vertical takeoff unmanned aerial vehicle.
The 337-foot, 1,500-ton, all-aluminum EPF entered
service in 2013. The lead ship of the class, USNS
Spearhead, and its sister ships will be operated by Military
Sealift Command with civilian mariner crews and can
carry the equipment, vehicles and troops for a company-sized Army or Marine Corps combat unit.
EPF has a top speed of 43 knots to operate alongside
LCS, and is capable of transporting 600 tons of cargo
1,200 nautical miles at 35 knots at sea state 3.
With a draft of 12 feet, 7 inches, a 20,000-square-
foot mission bay — and equipped with a helicopter
deck, a side-loading ramp and 10-ton telescoping
boom crane — EPF can load and unload in many austere ports not accessible to larger ships. EPF also can
deliver vertical replenishments to an underway LCS at
sea state 1.
While at sea, EPF can move cargo between the flight
deck and the mission deck, allowing priority cargo to
be rapidly loaded and unloaded. There is no hangar, but
EPF is equipped with a Naval Air Systems Command
level 1, class 2, certified flight deck for one helicopter
and a helicopter control station.
The EPF open architecture total ship computing
environment (TSCE) is provided by General Dynamics
Mission Systems and is similar to the General Dynamics
TSCE used on the Independence-class LCS.
15 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / JUNE 2016
The littoral combat ship USS Coronado and the Military Sealift Command
expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket transit in formation off the
coast of Southern California during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. As
more ships of both types join the fleet, there are greater opportunities to take
advantage of what they can do together.