Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serves as the ship’s sponsor, and she christened the ship at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.
The future USNS Puerto Rico will be the first active ship in naval service to honor the island in the West Indies east of Hispaniola. “This ship honors the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the contributions Puerto Ricans have made to our nation and Navy and Marine Corps team,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. An Alaska class cruiser named Puerto Rico (CB-5) was authorized July 19, 1940, but construction was canceled June 24, 1943.
With an all-aluminum shallow-draft hull, the EPF is a commercial-based catamaran capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo lift. EPF class ships are designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ship is capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank.
The EPF includes a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. EPF’s shallow draft (under 15 feet) supports littoral operations and port access. This makes the EPF an extremely flexible asset for support of a wide range of operations including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support or as the key enabler for rapid transport.
The EPF program delivered its ninth ship late last year, USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF 9), with delivery of USNS Burlington (EPF 10) planned for mid-November. The future USNS Puerto Rico is the 11th of 12 EPFs that Austal has under contract with the U.S. Navy with a combined value of over $1.9 billion. Austal also received instruction from the Navy to order long lead-time materials for EPF 13 in October.
Builder: Austal USA
Propulsion: water jet
Length: 103 meters (338 feet)
Beam: 28.5 meters (93.5 feet)
Displacement: 2,500 metric tons
Draft: 13 feet (3.92 meters)
Speed: 35-40 knots
Range: 1,200 nautical miles
Crew: 26 civilian mariners