Brunswick, GA – On Friday, the USNS Brunswick (T-EPF-6), a Military Sealift Command Spearhead class Expeditionary Fast Transport ship arrived in its namesake city Brunswick to take part in they city’s Blessing of the Fleet festivities. For some reason I thought it was going the visit and festivities were next week, but upon realizing my mistake I decided to go back to Brunswick for the afternoon and get a look at the new ship in a new class of ship. Tours didn’t start until Saturday, but there were other plans made for Saturday and my parents also rode along – my father, a retired USN Chief Petty Officer (CPO) wanted to see it, too.
Regular and long time readers of this blog may remember a post from a couple of years ago that included photos of the USNS Fall River (JHSV 4) undergoing tests in Pensacola. In the time since those photos, the Navy has changed the classification of the type from JHSV for Joint High Speed Vessel to EPF for Expeditionary Platform Fast. The Brunswick is the same class of ship, so the photos in this post give a bit closer look at these interesting ships. While taking some photos of the ship, a CPO of the Brunswick’s USN crew (they have a combined civilian and Navy crew) was out on the pier and we talked with him for a bit about the ship.
The Brunswick is indeed an interesting ship. Besides the non-traditional catamaran hull, the first thing you notice is that it isn’t painted traditional US Navy haze gray (I’m sure that causes some consternation among the traditionalists!): with the exception of the ship’s markings, the hull is bare aluminum. The reason behind the lack of paint is found in its type classification: Expeditionary Platform Fast. Paint is heavy and weight is the enemy of speed; powered by water jet drives in each catamaran sponson, the Brunswick is capable of going over 40 knots, hence the designation fast. It’s designed to transport an Army or Marine Corps company sized unit with all of its vehicles and personnel from one coastal location to another; its shallow draft (under 15 ft) and built-in ramp allow it to operate from unimproved piers and port facilities. While the catamaran hull allows it to travel quickly, it also means that it trades stability for that speed, particularly in more “blue water” situations. From what the Chief we talked to said, the EPFs can be unstable both fore/aft and port/starboard, causing the crews seasickness issues at times. The speed is also dependent upon sea state – the heavier the seas, the slower it can go.
Inside the catamaran hull, the Brunswick is basically a big aluminum box. It can carry vehicles (the ramp is capable of handling 100 tons) as well as up to 312 troops. Due to the speed/instability mentioned above, the troops use airliner type seating. The ship has a crew of around 25, but the crew size can also be up to 40-something depending upon the mission. It also has a helicopter deck (in the photos below, the helicopter deck is where the white tents are set up on top of the ship) which can handle up to CH-53 Super Stallion sized helicopters. The EPFs aren’t combatant ships, but they do have mountings for machine guns on each corner for security purposes and security detachments are embarked depending upon the mission at hand (you can see the two on the bow in the phone above).
While taking bow shots of the Brunswick, I turned around and saw something interesting tied up at a dock just downriver from the pier at Mary Ross Park: a very Navy looking boat with the markings “672 Brunswick, GA” on the stern. It was tied up at a civilian dock and despite appearances it didn’t appear to be active duty so I was naturally very curious. I had no idea what it was so I took some photos of it and did some web research later that evening when I got back to Savannah.
It turns out that the boat is former US Navy YP-672, a YP-654 class Yard Patrol Vessel that is now privately owned by someone in Brunswick. 80 feet long with an 18 foot beam and 5 foot draft and displacing 56 tons, the YP-654 class boats had a wooden hull and aluminum superstructure and were primarily used for training purposes. This one appears to be well restored and despite spending most of my time in Brunswick since late 2009, I never knew it was there. It’s definitely an interesting sight and stands out among the rest of the boats tied up at the docks and marinas along downtown Brunswick.
No doubt one of the reasons T-EPF-6 was named after Brunswick is they city’s history during World War II. One of the port cities that were designated to build Liberty ships. J.A. Jones Construction Company in Brunswick built 85 Liberty ships and 14 smaller “knot” ships designed for coastal use between July 6, 1942 and August 1945. This history is remembered at Mary Ross Park with a scale model of a Liberty ship based on a scale model used for training that was donated to the city after World War II. The original model was a cut-away model and deteriorated after a number of years; the new one is not cut-away but still reminds visitors of Brunswick’s contributions to war efforts during World War II.