Austal USA hosted the christening ceremony for the future USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32) Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship at the company’s Gulf Coast shipyard. 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.
The Independence-variant LCS program has recorded a number of successful 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.
LCS 32 is the 16th Freedom-variant LCS and 32nd in the LCS class. It is the third Navy ship named in honor of the city of Santa Barbara. The first USS Santa Barbara (Id. No. 4522) was a single-screw steel freighter that was placed into commission by the Navy on April 15, 1918, in New York. The ship made four round-trip voyages to Europe during and after World War I and was decommissioned on Aug. 6, 1919, and returned to her owners. Later renamed American, the ship was sunk by German submarine torpedoes off the east coast of British Honduras (modern-day Belize) on June 11, 1942. The second USS Santa Barbara (AE-28) was commissioned on July 11, 1970.
LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. 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, Wisconsin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence-variant team is led by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, (for LCS 6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).