The US Navy has christened its 16th Independence littoral combat ship (LCS) variant, the future USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32), during a ceremony in Mobile, Alabama.

The ceremonial bottle break was performed by the ship’s sponsor, Lolita Zinke, which was attended by other naval officials.

The US Navy’s LCS programme will see the construction of the vessels in the Freedom-class and the Independence-class variants.

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

Austal commenced construction of the LCS 32 vessel in November 2019, while keel for the vessel was laid in October last year.

Austal USA president Rusty Murdaugh said: “I am proud to represent the Austal shipbuilding team today as we commemorate a significant milestone in the life of this incredible warship.

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“Our talented team of shipbuilders is proud to provide our navy with an extraordinarily capable vessel that will honour the great city of Santa Barbara as she becomes a vital part of the US naval fleet protecting our nation.”

Austal USA is constructing 19 small surface combatants for the US Navy, with five under various construction stages. It is also building two Expeditionary Fast Transport ships (EPF) for the service.

US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said: “There is no doubt future sailors aboard this ship will carry on the same values of honour, courage and commitment upheld by crews from an earlier vessel that bore this name.”

The LCS is a fast, highly manoeuvrable, networked surface combat ship capable of conducting surface, anti-submarine and mine countermeasure missions, as well as manned and uncrewed aerial, surface, or sub-surface operations.

It also supports forward presence, maritime security, as well as sea control and deterrence capabilities.