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Navy Tests Autonomous Capabilities of Future USNS Apalachicola

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The U.S. Navy is conducting a series of test events aboard the service branch’s future expeditionary fast transport ship to demonstrate its ability to operate autonomously.

The Unmanned Logistics Prototype trials are aimed at assessing the capabilities of the USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13) to conduct point-to-point autonomous navigation, vessel handling and transfer of ship control from manned to unmanned mode, Naval Sea Systems Command reported Friday.

Results from the trials will inform future autonomous vessel operations including ship encounter and avoidance maneuvering.

“EPF 13 will be the first fully operational U.S. naval ship to possess autonomous capability including the ability to operate autonomously in a commercial vessel traffic lane,” Tim Roberts, program manager for strategic and theater sealift at NAVSEA’s Program Executive Office Ships.

The ship’s manufacturer Austal USA and industry partners L3Harris Technologies and General Dynamics collaborate with various Navy components on conducting the test events.

EPF 13 is the thirteenth Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport of the Navy that is capable of loading and unloading military cargo in shallow-draft ports.

Austal USA is scheduled to deliver the vessel to the service branch later in 2022.