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Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) /
Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)

Initially, both the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy pursued separate programs to meet their requirements for intra-theater connectors. However, a decision was made to combine efforts, as collaboration between the Army and Navy would offer increased cost savings for both armed services. The JHSV program combined the Army's Theater Support Vessel (TSV) program with the Navy and Marine Corps High Speed Connector (HSC).

The Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships would conduct acquisition for both the Army and Navy, but each service would fund its own ships. After delivery, each service would be responsible for manning, maintaining, and providing full lifecycle support for their respective vessels.

The Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) was approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) in November 2005 and the Analysis of Alternatives was completed in December 2005. The program was scheduled for a February 2006 Milestone A and a lead ship award was planned for FY08.

Two prototype High Speed Vessels, HSVX-1 Joint Venture and HSV-2 Swift, were used to support operations in the Global War on Terrorism and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were deployed to the Horn of Africa, Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia.

HSVX-1 Joint Venture was employed by Special Operations Command as a proof-of-concept platform for an afloat special operations platform in the western Pacific, using its capability to facilitate company-sized units and its modifications include a helicopter landing deck along with a military command, control and communications suite.

HSV-2 Swift supported relief operations in Indonesia and in the Gulf Coast region following hurricane Katrina. In both cases, Swift's high speed and shallow draft combined to make it an ideal platform for the delivery of relief supplies and support of other platforms operating in the area. During operations following Katrina, Swift was able to access ports inaccessible to other ships in the logistics force, and therefore played a critical role in the early delivery of supplies.

The JHSV Acquisition Strategy called for evolutionary development of commercially based technology with military adaptations. JHSV would be acquired competitively and production would be based in the United States. The HSVX-1 lease would expire 1st quarter FY06 with an option for 300 additional days. The TSV-1X lease would expire 1st quarter FY06 with the possibility of adding two additional option years on the contract, with Justification and Approval (J&A).

Currently fielded Logistics Support Vessels (LSV) would have remained the only Army intra-theater capability until the TSV was fielded. A JHSV Memorandum of Intent between Army, Navy and Marine Corps was signed to form a Navy-led Joint Program Office and integrate Army, Navy and Marine Corps requirements. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) directed transition of JHSV portion of this effort to Navy NLT 31 January 2005. TSV Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) effort was maintained by Army through FY05.

The acquisition program was to be structured for a FY08 lead ship award and FY10-11 launch. DA and DoN would maintain separate and distinct funding streams to support the joint program. DA would resource to the critical Army requirement set validated for the joint Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) for HSC. While DA and DoN would focus on the development of common capabilities, each Department would source their unique developmental costs for unique service capabilities that cannot be incorporated into a combined solution set.

In 2007, DoD and the Navy determined that the JHSV program had no critical technologies because all of the technologies had been previously demonstrated on ships leased by DoD. However, a number of existing designs and technologies, such as at-sea tension refueling, hull design, the fire suppression system, and the engines, may need to be modified to support additional performance requirements. These performance requirements could be amended if the associated technologies do not mature on time. The JHSV was designated as part of the Capital Budget Account (CBA), a DoD pilot program designed to keep shipbuilding programs on budget.

The program awarded three preliminary design contracts in January 2008 and intended to award a detailed design and construction contract in the fourth quarter of FY08. The program expected to mature its design as it approached construction, currently scheduled for the fourth quarter of FY09.

As of March 2008, it was reported that the JHSV program intended to modify existing commercial fast ferry technologies and designs in order to produce a ship that met its key performance parameters. According to the program office, the three most important key performance parameters were payload, speed, and un-refueled range. The ship design would include a helicopter flight deck and a ramp capable of supporting an Abrams main battle tank.

According to the program office, all of the ship's key performance parameters had been demonstrated on ships leased by the government and used in military operations. On the basis of the results of these operations, program officials estimated that there was only a low risk that a new high-speed vessel derived from commercial designs would fail to meet JHSV key performance parameters.

In addition to the key performance parameters, other requirements had been established for the ship. These additional requirements could require the use of existing technologies that had potentially not been proven on similar vessels and were in development in other programs. For example, one requirement was the installation of a fire suppression system that used high-expansion foam. While high-expansion foam fire suppression systems were in use, they had never been used in an open cargo bay of a moving ship. There was also a requirement for at-sea tensioned refueling, a technology that had not been demonstrated on lightweight vessels that relied on waterjet propulsion. This technology was scheduled for testing on the Littoral Combat Ship. Another JHSV requirement included engine reliability specifications that had not been demonstrated by existing commercial engines. JHSV could have possibly leveraged other shipbuilding programs, such as the Littoral Combat Ship, that were currently testing engines with similar requirements. According to program officials the additional requirements for JHSV could be amended or removed from the ship if associated technologies do not mature on time or fail to meet basic performance specifications.

In phase II the program office would select a single contractor and award a contract for detailed design and construction sometime in the summer of 2008. Follow-on ships were then to be modified versions of this contractor's design.

Modifications to existing commercial designs was potentially necessary to meet JHSV specifications. For example, existing high-speed structural designs were potentially inadequate to meet the required open ocean transit capability. The program office believed that all of the key performance parameters had been sufficiently demonstrated on the four leased ships and that any necessary modifications were not significant.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense designated the JHSV program for the CBA. CBA was a program that established metrics used to measure a program's progress against an established budget. According to officials, the metrics against which the JHSV program would be measured had not yet been established as of March 2008. Even when established, CBA metrics would not be applied to the program until after the program entered development, planned for August 2008, when the program's budget and requirements would be set.

In November 2008, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics established the EPF program as an acquisition category (ACAT) I program. ACAT I programs have an estimated total procurement of over $2.79 billion. The EPF program was approved for 18 EPF vessels. S pecifically, t he EPF program was approved for 10 EPF vessels during low-rate initial production (initial production). Initial production is when a minimum quantity is produced for testing. The Navy planned to purchase t he remaining eight EPF vessels following the combined Milestone C and full rate production decision. Milestone C is a decision to transition into the production phase.

The FY 2013 President’s Budget submission reduced the EPF program from 18 to 10 EPF vessels. The reduction brought the total cost of the EPF program below the ACAT I threshold, and the ASN (RD&A) recategorized the EPF program as an ACAT II program. ACAT II programs are major systems with estimated total procurement between $835 million and $2.79 billion. In April 2013, the ASN (RD&A) concluded that the combined Milestone C and full rate production decision was not warranted or required because the EPF program was considered stable enough to support all 10 initial production EPF vessels. In September 2015, the ASN (RD&A) approved an additional two initial production EPF vessels, for a total of 12 EPF vessels.

The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) provides contracting support for the EPF program. On January 31, 2008, NAVSEA awarded a fixed-price contract to Austal USA for the preliminary design of the EPF vessel. A ustal USA is a global defense prime contractor that designs and manufactures commercial and defense ships. On November 13, 2008, NAVSEA issued a contract modification, valued at $185.4 million, for the detailed design and construction of one EPF vessel. The contract modification included options for the construction of nine additional EPF vessels and spare parts. As prime contractor, Austal was awarded the construction contract for the first 103-meter JHSV in November 2008, with options for nine additional vessels between FY09 and FY13. The Austal JHSV team includes platform systems engineering agent General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems who is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s mission systems, including internal and external communications, electronic navigation, and aviation and armament systems.

Austal received authorisation from the Navy to start construction on the first vessel of the contract, Spearhead (JHSV 1), in December 2009 after completing the rigorous design over a 12-month period. Spearhead was scheduled for launch in August 2011 and delivery in December 2011. Construction on Vigilant (JHSV 2), began at Austal’s Mobile, Alabama, USA shipyard on September 13, 2010. On June 07, 2010 the US Navy exercised contract options funding Austal’s acquisition of long lead-time equipment associated with the construction of two additional 103 meter Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV). Austal was awarded the initial contract to design and build the first 103 metre JHSV in November 2008, with contracts for an additional two vessels awarded in January 2010.

On July 01, 2011 the U.S. Navy exercised contract options funding the construction of the sixth and seventh Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), as part of a ten-vessel program potentially worth over US$1.6 billion. The construction contract for both vessels is valued at approximately US$313 million. Austal Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Bellamy, noted that this contract demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s confidence in Austal as a leading defence prime contractor. “With options remaining for a further three vessels, the JHSV program is expected to deliver a predictable revenue stream of AUD$330 million per annum from 2012 to 2015, which is approximately 60 per cent of Austal’s historical revenue.”

Austal USA’s President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Rella remarked, “this award facilitates the continued development and growth of our U.S. operations, as well as the expansion of our Alabama workforce from over 2,000 to nearly 4,000."

NAVSEA exercised all options for 10 EPF vessels and spare parts, valued at $1.7 billion. On October 28, 2015, NAVSEA awarded an undefinitized contract to Austal USA for another EPF vessel and modified the contract on May 4, 2016, for an additional EPF vessel. On September 15, 2016, NAVSEA definitized the contract value for the two additional EPF vessels for $327 million, for a total of 12 EPF vessels.

As of August 2017, the Navy had accepted delivery of eight EPF vessels. Upon acceptance, the Navy transferred the EPF vessels to the Military Sealift Command (MSC). The MSC supports the joint warfighter across the full spectrum of military operations. The MSC provides on-time logistics, strategic sealift, and specialized missions anywhere in the world. According to MSC officials, the MSC operates and sustains the EPF vessel, including any changes made after acceptance. Austal USA expected to deliver the final EPF vessel in FY 2019. According to an MSC official, the first EPF vessel is scheduled to be deactivated in 2032. According to Program Office officials, the individual EPF vessel service life is dependent on the hours of operation, operational environments, and maintenance of the EPF vessel.

Program Office officials did not achieve the performance capabilities for the EPF program. Specifically, Program Office officials obligated $2 billion for the EPF program, which had deficiencies that prevented it from attaining the required performance capabilities, including two KPPs—Transport Capability and Net Ready. This occurred because Program Office officials did not demonstrate that they corrected deficiencies identified during initial production. As a result, Navy officials accepted eight EPF vessels with deficiencies that could prevent the MSC from accomplishing missions. The Navy may also spend additional money to achieve the required performance capabilities for EPF vessels that were already provided to the fleet and for future EPF vessels that were still in production.

EPF 13 was added by Congress in FY18. A "competitive" RFP was issued but only one proposal was received. EPF 14 was added by Congress in FY19, and included as option in the EPF 13 RFP. The shipbuilder is in production on Puerto Rico (EPF 11) and Newport (EPF 12) and planned to start construction on EPF 13 in late FY19.

The U.S. Navy awarded a $261.8 million contract to Austal USA for the 13th and 14th Expeditionary Fast Transport ships (EPF) on 25 March 2019. General Dynamics Mission Systems, as a subcontractor to Austal USA, designs, integrates and tests the Expeditionary Fast Transport's electronic mission systems including the backbone computing infrastructure, internal and external communication, electronic navigation, aviation and armament systems. These systems use the same infrastructure as the Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships and promote commonality, increased capability and reduced cost while supporting U.S. soldiers and sailors in traditional logistics missions, humanitarian support projects, disaster response and maritime law enforcement activities.

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