And in (sometimes awful) Austal news…

Over the weekend the Navy commissioned its latest warship, USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32), the newest (16th) Independence-variant littoral combat ship, in San Diego where she will be homeported.

As noted by the Navy, she is the third ship to carry the name but the first surface combatant:

LCS 32 is the third United States ship to bear the name Santa Barbara. The first Santa Barbara was a single-screw steel freighter built in 1916 by William Cramp and Sons of Philadelphia. Ordered and taken over by the Navy on February 1, 1918, from the Atlantic & Pacific Steamship Co. of New York, it was commissioned there on April 15, 1918. The second Santa Barbara, a Kilauea-class ammunition ship, was laid down on December 30, 1966 by the Bethlehem Steel Corp., Sparrows Point, MD, launched on January 23, 1968, and commissioned on July 11, 1970.

Two additional Austal-built LCSs are coming right along, with USS Augusta (LCS-34) launched last May and is expected to be commissioned in Maine later this year.

Meanwhile, USS Kingsville (LCS-36), the 18th of 19 planned Independence variants, just launched in Mobile last week.

She was followed by the Flight II Spearhead-class MSC-manned Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel, USNS Cody (EPF 14).

As described by the Navy:

Capable of transporting 600 tons of personnel and cargo up to 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots, each EPF vessel includes a flight deck to support day and night aircraft launch and recovery operations.  The ships are also capable of interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities and can load and off-load heavy vehicles such as a fully combat-loaded Abrams Main Battle Tank.

The Navy plans for up to 19 EPFs, with the last five being capable of configuration as “Expeditionary Medical Ships.”

This came just after 60 Minutes aired a fairly well-done 30-minute piece on the Navy’s readiness to take on China, including interviews with the CNO and CINCPAC, the latter conducted on the deck of the 50-year-old Nimitz with ADM Samuel Paparo looking very like Admiral Bill Adama giving a pre-war chat with the reporters aboard the soon-to-be-retired Battlestar Galactica.

You know, right before the Cylons attack and clean the fictional Colonials’ clock.

The 60 Minutes piece includes some much-deserved shade thrown at the Zumwalts and the LCSs, even whipping out the “Little Crappy Ships” nickname.

Then, also last week, the DOJ announced indictments against a trio of Austal execs for fraud— and it sounds bad.

Via DOJ:

The defendants and their co-conspirators allegedly manipulated the EAC figures in part by using so-called “program challenges” – ostensibly cost-savings goals – but which in reality were “plug” numbers and fraudulent devices to hide growing costs that should have been incorporated into Austal USA’s financial statements, and ultimately reflected in Austal Limited’s reported earnings. The defendants allegedly did this, among other reasons, to maintain and increase the share price of Austal Limited’s stock. When the higher costs were eventually disclosed to the market, the stock price was significantly negatively impacted and Austal Limited wrote down over $100 million.

And the beat goes on…

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