Merz: Emergency Medical Transport Ships ‘a Warfighting Capability’
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Senior Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy plans to use the 13th expeditionary fast transport ship (T-EPF) as an emergency medical transport ship, a Navy admiral told Congress, and would like funding to convert the 14th to the same role as well.
“When we did the Common Adaptable Small Ship Study, we looked at somewhere north of 11 different mission sets to support the distributed maritime operations concept,” said Vice Adm. William R. Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, testifying March 26 before the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. “Medical was a big piece of that.”
The Navy has funded T-EPF 13 for conversion as the first emergency medical transport. “[T-EPF 14] is in the unfunded priority list, ranking very high,” Merz said. “We consider that a warfighting capability, not just a medical support capability.”
“We know we need this,” he added. “Every study we have done has told us we need to have these capabilities, so we are shifting our investments, and we’re moving out on them.”
The Military Sealift Command operates two large hospital ships, USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort.
The Navy on March 25 awarded to Austal USA a $261.8 million contract to build the 13th and 14th T-EPFs. The medical conversion of Hull 14 is the unfunded priority.
“The EPF’s large, open-mission deck and large habitability spaces allow it to conduct a wide range of missions — from engagement and humanitarian assistance to disaster relief and from maritime security support operations to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” an Austal USA release said.