Navy Sails 300 Evacuees from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Mobile Sea Base Now in the Red Sea

May 1, 2023 9:42 AM
Expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) departs Naval Base Guam, passing the MSC expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) and marking the start of Pacific Partnership 2019. Navy photo

A high-speed Navy catamaran moved about 300 evacuees from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, arriving in the port of Jeddah Monday, USNI News has learned.

USNS Brunswick (EPF-6) left the Port of Sudan with about 300 people aboard, bound for Jeddah, traveling 180 miles across the Red Sea, two defense officials told USNI News. The transport arrived at about 9 a.m. local time on Monday, according to Marine Traffic.

Brunswick, a 1,500-ton aluminum high-speed catamaran, is capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots and could make the trip across the Red Sea in about four hours.

In a statement, U.S. AFRICOM spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Pietrack told USNI News, “I can confirm that USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) arrived in Port Sudan Sunday afternoon, April 30. Brunswick is supporting the Department of State’s ongoing efforts to evacuate [and] assist U.S. citizens and others who have requested departure from Sudan.”

A spokesman for U.S. 5th Fleet confirmed to USNI News that about 300 evacuees had arrived in Jeddah on Monday. Given the short trip and the capacity of Brunswick, people familiar with the ship told USNI News that it could take 600 more across the Red Sea in an extreme situation.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a USNI News request about how many of the evacuees were American or other nationalities.

Reuters reported Brunswick was docked in Sudan on Sunday.

Brunswick is one of the Navy’s 13 Spearhead-class fast transports that were built to ferry troops and material at high speeds as an intra-theater connector and was built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. The Spearhead-class are operated by U.S. Military Sealift Command with a crew of civilian mariners.

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Vipers” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48, lands on the flight deck of the expeditionary mobile base platform ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), Oct. 20, 2018. Puller and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region. US Navy photo.

U.S. Navy officials also confirmed to USNI News Monday that USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) was now in the Red Sea. Based on an Alaska-class oil tanker, Puller serves as an expeditionary sea base for mine countermeasures and special operation forces. Based in Bahrain, Puller has a massive flight deck and can host several helicopters and the tilt-rotor MV-22B Osprey. The exact composition of assets embarked on Puller isn’t clear.

Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and a paramilitary group called Rapid Support Forces broke out on April 15, plunging the African country into a potential humanitarian crisis, NPR reported. Much of the fighting has been in urban areas, leaving civilians trapped in their homes.

The fighting has left hundreds dead, including two Americans, according to CNN. Other Americans raised concerns about the lack of evacuation by the American government prior to the weekend’s efforts.

The two forces were previously allies, but tensions arose between the two as the country tries to transition into a new government and bring the Rapid Support Forces into the army. Since a 2021 coup, which overturned a transitional government, Sudan has been run by a council of generals, which includes the two generals at the center of the fighting, according to the BBC.

The two forces agreed to a temporary ceasefire Monday, CNN reported.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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