The US Navy christened its 16th Independence-class littoral combat ship, the future USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32), at Austal USA’s Gulf Coast shipyard on October 16.
Ship sponsor Lolita Zinke performed the ceremonial bottle break over the bow of the Santa Barbara.
Zinke, wife of former US Congressman and former US 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.
“I could never have imagined I would be standing here today ready to christen a Navy ship,” claimed Zinke, “let alone one named after my home town.”
Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh welcomed the official party and community members and employees who attended the ceremony.
“I am proud to represent the Austal shipbuilding team today as we commemorate a significant milestone in the life of this incredible warship,” said Murdaugh. “Our talented team of shipbuilders is proud to provide our Navy with an extraordinarily capable vessel that will honor the great city of Santa Barbara as she becomes a vital part of the US naval fleet protecting our nation.”
Santa Barbara (LCS 32) is the 16th of 19 small surface combatants Austal USA is building for the US Navy. Five LCS are under various stages of construction. Austal USA is also constructing two Expeditionary Fast Transport ships (EPF) for the US Navy with another beginning construction next month.
The company highlighted a number of Independence-variant deployments recently, including USS Montgomery’s operations in the South China Sea in May last year. Later that same month, the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) also conducted presence operations in the area. In December, Giffords moved to support US 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 US Indo-Pacific Command region.