Austal USA has laid the keel for the US Navy’s 16th Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32).

The keel was laid by the ship’s sponsor, Lolita Zinke, at the company’s shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, Austal USA said in a tweet.

This ship will be the third ship of the navy to bear the name ‘Santa Barbara’ in honour of the city in California.

Austal commenced construction of the vessel in November 2019.

Earlier this month, future USS Mobile (LCS 26) concluded its acceptance trials, making it the third US Navy ship built by Austal to achieve the milestone this year.

The US Navy’s LCS programme involves construction of the vessels in two variants, the Freedom-class, and the Independence-class.

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Austal USA is serving as the prime contractor for the Independence-class, while Lockheed Martin is developing the Freedom-variant.

According to Austal, the future USS Savannah (LCS 28), Canberra (LCS 30) and future USS Augusta (LCS 34), including Santa Barbara (LCS 32), are under various stages of construction.

In June, Austal delivered the 12th Independence-class LCS, the future USS Oakland (LCS 24).

The vessel was accepted by the service during a ceremony in Mobile, Alabama. It was the 22nd LCS to join the fleet and the third LCS delivered to the US Navy this year.

In March this year, the keel was laid for the 15th Independence-class littoral combat ship, the future USS Canberra (LCS 30).

The future Independence-class USS Mobile (LCS 26) completed acceptance trials in October.