The Navy will christen its newest Expeditionary Fast Transport, the future USNS Puerto Rico (T-EPF 11), during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony Saturday, November 10, at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.
The principal speaker is congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States will serve as the ship's sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she will christen the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.
"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. "USNS Puerto Rico will provide our commanders high-speed sealift mobility and agility and I am thankful for this ship, her crew, and our industrial force teammates whose service makes this great ship possible."
The future USNS Puerto Rico, designated T-EPF 11, will be the first active ship in naval service to honor the island in the West Indies east of Hispaniola. An Alaska class cruiser named Puerto Rico (CB-5) was authorized July 19, 1940, but construction was cancelled 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 providing combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility with inherent cargo handling capability and agility to achieve positional advantage over operational distances.
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 (M1A2).
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) further enhances 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. Puerto Rico (EPF 11) and Newport (EPF 12) are currently under construction at Austal's shipyard.