Austal USA received an $867.6 million undefinitized contract award (UCA) for final design and construction of three expeditionary medical ships

Austal Limited (Austal) announced that Austal USA has received a US$867.6 million (A$1.28 billion) undefinitised contract award (UCA) for the final design and construction of three Expeditionary Medical Ships (EMS) from the United States Navy.

The EMS is based on Austal’s proven Expeditionary Fast Transport ship (EPF) platform and will be manufactured in Austal USA’s aluminium manufacturing line following completion of the last Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF 16).

It has been reported that the United States Navy has been eager to move forward with a new medical ship program to replace the old medical ships USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, which have been in service since 1986/1987. The two older ships were based on 1975/1976 vintage tankers.

The new EMS is a variant of the U.S. Navy’s Pioneer-class expeditionary high-speed transport platform, and represents a new vision for the U.S. Navy’s hospital ships with the goals of speed, maneuverability, and shallow draft capability.

The EMS is a catamaran design with a length of 110 meters, a beam of 31.5 meters, a draft of 4.6 meters, a maximum speed of at least 30 knots, a speed of up to 18 knots when fully loaded, a range of 5,500 nautical miles at 18 to 24 knots, and an accommodation capacity of at least 220 people.

The new ship will be equipped with extensive medical facilities for emergency services and humanitarian assistance, and will be a specialized U.S. Navy medical ship with facilities comparable to naval hospitals ashore, including triage and intensive care, operating rooms, laboratories and radiology.

Austal Limited Chief Executive Officer Paddy Gregg said the contract enables the final detailed design for the Expeditionary Medical Ship to be completed and construction of three vessels to commence.

The Expeditionary Medical Ship (EMS), an Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) variant, is a cost-effective design providing a dedicated medical ship optimized to provide patient holding, stabilization, evacuation and transport in support of Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO). The EMS design features a shallow draft which enables greater reach and allows for direct access to austere ports. The flight deck will accommodate military aircraft, including the V-22 Osprey and CH-53K heavy lift cargo helicopter.

“The new Expeditionary Medical Ship further extends the capabilities of the proven Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) platform, designed and constructed by Austal, to enable more complex medical procedures and operations to be performed onboard, at sea and underway,” Mr Gregg said.

“These three new EMS will enhance the US Navy’s capability to provide effective medical and surgical support anywhere in the world, quickly, safely and efficiently.”

Austal USA has delivered 13 EPF’s, a predecessor to the EMS design, to the United States Navy. The company is preparing to deliver the first EPF Flight II, the future USNS Cody (EPF 14), which features enhanced Role 2E medical capability, and has two more Flight II vessels under construction.

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