Fabrication has started on the USS Santa Barbara, an Independence class of small, near-shore combat ships built for stealth and speed. The Santa Barbara name was chosen last October by Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, who explained, “This city’s innovative workforce and longstanding support of our Navy and Marine Corps team, whether active duty, reserve force, civilian, or veterans, strengthens our Navy and nation.” Two other warships have carried the name of St. Barbara, the patron saint of those who work with cannons and explosives.
When completed, the ship will be 421 feet long and be capable of reaching a maximum speed of 44 knots, or 51 miles per hour. It’ll cost around $700 million, hold a crew of 40, and be equipped with an armament of 30mm chain guns, two dozen Hellfire missiles, and a massive 57mm artillery gun. The vessel will also be able to deliver a small assault force of fighting vehicles, including two Seahawk helicopters parked on deck and a stern ramp for launching small boats. Its side and forward surfaces will be angled to reduce its own radar profile.
Austal U.S.A. — the American branch of Australian shipbuilder Austal — is under contract to build 19 of the vessels for the U.S. Navy and has so far has delivered 10. USS Santa Barbara construction in Mobile, Alabama, is expected to take two years. Kevin McTague, president of the Santa Barbara Navy League, said he wasn’t surprised to hear that the ship earned the city’s name. “It’s very well known in the Navy how well the entire Santa Barbara community supports the military,” he said. Santa Barbara is also one of the most requested locations for shore leave, McTague said.