Littoral combat ships under construction at Austal USA in Alabama. Courtesy of the company

The keel was laid this week at a shipyard in Mobile, Ala., for the 16th littoral combat ship destined for San Diego.

The sponsor of the future USS Santa Barbara, Lolita Zinke, welded her initials into the ship’s keel plate at Austal USA. Zinke is a native of Santa Barbara and the wife of former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke, who now serves as the Secretary of the Interior.

Austal, which is seeking to expand its operations in San Diego, builds the trimaran-variant of the littoral combat ships, all of which are scheduled to be based in San Diego. The more traditional mono hull variants are assigned to the East Coast.

The ships are high-speed, agile, shallow-draft warships designed for surface combat, anti-submarine missions, and mine countermeasures in the littoral regions of the world. They are armed with a 57mm main gun, a variety of guided missiles, and two helicopters.

In addition to building the littoral ships, Austal is also the Navy’s prime contractor for the Expeditionary Fast Transport program, with 12 vessels delivered and 14 under contract.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.