The U.S. Navy has a new addition to its fleet of littoral combat ships (LCS): the USS Santa Barbara, which was commissioned on 1 April at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.
The USS Santa Barbara is the 32nd LCS and the 16th of the Independence-class variant, which features a trimaran hull design for speed, agility and stability. The ship is named after the city of Santa Barbara, California, which has a rich history and a connection to naval warfare.
The USS Santa Barbara is designed to operate in shallow waters near the coast, as well as in open ocean environments. The ship can perform a variety of missions, such as surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures and humanitarian assistance. The ship has a modular design that allows it to swap out different mission packages depending on the situation. The ship also has a flight deck and hangar that can accommodate two MH-60R/S Seahawks helicopters and one MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle.
The USS Santa Barbara is commanded by Cmdr. Brian P. Sparks, who leads a core crew of 40 sailors and up to 35 mission crew members. The ship has a length of 418 feet, a beam of 104 feet and a draft of 14 feet. It can reach speeds of over 40 knots (46 mph) and has a range of 4,300 nautical miles (4,900 miles) at 20 knots (23 mph). The ship is armed with a BAE Systems Mk 110 57 mm gun, four .50 caliber machine guns, an Evolved SeaRAM missile launcher and various mission-specific weapons.
The USS Santa Barbara is the third ship in the U.S. Navy to bear the name of the city of Santa Barbara. The first was a patrol yacht that served in World War I and was decommissioned in 1919. The second was an ammunition ship that served in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm and was decommissioned in 1998. The city of Santa Barbara has a long history of naval involvement, dating back to the Spanish colonial era when it was a strategic port and fort. The city also hosted a naval base during World War II and is home to many veterans and military families.
The commissioning ceremony of the USS Santa Barbara was attended by several dignitaries, including Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of the Pacific Fleet, and Lolita Zinke, the ship’s sponsor and wife of former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. The ceremony marked the official entry of the ship into active service and its readiness to join the fleet in San Diego. The ceremony also celebrated the achievements of the shipbuilders at Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, who constructed the ship in less than two years.
The USS Santa Barbara is part of the Navy’s plan to increase its presence and capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region, where it faces challenges from China and other adversaries. The LCS program aims to provide a versatile and adaptable platform that can respond to various threats and scenarios in a complex maritime environment. The USS Santa Barbara will join other LCSs that are already deployed or under construction, such as the USS Gabrielle Giffords, USS Tulsa, USS Oakland and USS Mobile.