Mobile, Ala. shipbuilder Austal USA, part of Australia’s Austal Group, hosted a christening ceremony for the future USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32) Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship at the company’s Gulf Coast shipyard today.  Ship sponsor Lolita Zinke performed the ceremonial bottle break over the bow of the Santa Barbara, the 16th LCS designed and constructed by Austal USA and the third U.S. Navy ship to be named after the California coast city.

Zinke, wife of former U.S. Congressman and former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was selected by then-Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer to be the ship sponsor of the future USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32). Zinke was born and raised in Santa Barbara.

Te Navy describes LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments. The platform is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control and deterrence.

The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom and the Independence, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom-variant team is led by Lockheed Martin in Marinette, Wis. (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence-variant team is led by Austal USA (for LCS 6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls). LCS 32 is the 16th Freedom-variant LCS and 32nd in the LCS class.

The Independence-variant LCS program has recorded a number of deployments with more ships scheduled to deploy in the near future. In May 2020, the USS Montgomery (LCS 8) conducted operations in the South China Sea. Later that same month, the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) also conducted presence operations in the area. In December, Giffords moved to support U.S. Southern Command in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific Ocean with the ship interdicting $100 million of illegal drugs. In June, the USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conducted operations in the Philippine Sea, while the USS Charleston (LCS 18) operated with the Sri Lankan navy in Malaysia. There are currently three Independence-variant LCS deployed to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command region.

Santa Barbara (LCS 32) is the 16th of 19 small surface combatants Austal USA is building for the U.S. Navy. Five Littoral Combat Ships are under various stages of construction. Austal USA is also constructing two Expeditionary Fast Transport ships (EPF) for the U.S. Navy with another beginning construction next month.

This post appeared first on MarineLink News.

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