“Spearhead will again deploy in support of [Southern
Partnership Station] from June to October, to conduct
subject matter expert exchanges and build partner
capacity in a variety of disciplines, including medical,
construction, dive operations and law enforcement,”
In the U.S. Fifth Fleet AOR, USNS Choctaw County
will be used as a training platform for missions
to include maritime interdiction operations, mine
countermeasures and training of aircraft squadrons.
“Choctaw County is a new platform for Fifth Fleet
that has provided us with added capacity and mission
versatility now that will continue to pay dividends in the
years to come. Here in Fifth Fleet, the ship falls under
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s logistics task
force, TF 53, where it is currently providing quick inter-theater lift to move cargo and aircraft simultaneously,”
said Fifth Fleet Media Officer Lt. Ian McConnaughey.
“Her ability to embark personnel also allows her to be
used as a significant C2 [command and control] platform for a variety of missions.”
Designed for Flexibility
EPF is showing its versatility by utilizing the same
basic platform to perform different missions for different combatant commanders in different parts of the
world, depending on the fleet requirements.
Designed for flexibility with extra room makes EPF
easier to build, maintain and update. The tendency is
to build compact ships to keep the initial acquisition
cost down. But according to Dave Forster, director
of strategy and business development with General
Dynamics Mission Systems, the systems integrator for
EPF and the Independence variant of the littoral com-
bat ship, “Why constrain yourself? A more compact
ship is more expensive to design and build. A more
EPF has a network that enables new systems to
be plugged into the ship’s information backbone to
quickly give it a new primary or secondary mission.
“The total ship computing environment allows you
to support the kinds of missions you would want to put
on a platform with EPFs attributes,” Forster said.
EPF can accommodate a detachment of unmanned
aircraft, such as ScanEagle or Puma, and has a helicopter
deck that can land a CH-53E. Containerized ISR equipment can be installed on the ship, and foundations for
mounting antennas can be installed to give each ship the
ability to receive ISR sensors, and then be taken off one
ship and moved to another as required, a concept proven
aboard Choctaw County and Trenton. EPF also has the
network and empty electronics racks to bring capability
packages aboard to plug in equipment, and six power
stations built into the vehicle deck to plug in modules.
While EPF does not replace combatants or provide
the capability of amphibious ships, it can assume some
tasks that would otherwise be performed by much
larger and more valuable platforms.
“You don’t want to tie up a billion-dollar com-
batant or amphibious ship when you can perform the
same mission with a far less expensive platform and
a small crew,” said Larry Ryder, director of customer
relations with Austal USA, the EPF prime contractor.
“For example, the EPF has been extremely successful
in leading theater engagement exercises freeing up DDGs
[destroyers] and amphibs for higher-end missions. In
many cases, the EPF is a more suitable platform to lead
these activities due to the access enabled by its shallow
Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., who represents the district
where the EPF is built, said that the vessels are effectively
filling critical roles for all combatant commanders.
“The stated requirement for the number of these
ships is 18, but to this point eight have been delivered
and another four are under contract. The Department
of Defense places a premium on the ability of U.S.
military forces to deploy quickly to a full spectrum of
engagements. The EPF has demonstrated the ability to
effectively support these needs and more,” he said. n
Cargo is moved into the mission bay aboard USNS Spearhead in support
of Continuing Promise 2017’s end of operations in Trujillo, Honduras,
March 5. Spearhead provided logistical support to Continuing Promise,
which brought vital medical assistance to nearly 14,700 patients in
Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia, as well as ferrying donated medical
supplies and cargo for the mission.