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USS California’s Silent History

By Lisa Manresa, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication Outreach Division

Lisa1Silentium est Aureum, Latin for “silence is golden,” is a befitting motto for the stealthy USS California VII (SSN 781), the Virginia-class, next-generation nuclear-powered attack submarine named in honor of the people of the Golden State of California. The ship’s crest, a grizzly bear, signifies strength and pays homage to the people of California observing their might and independence, as well as the state’s abundant wildlife. The bear’s fierce expression represents the fighting spirit of the United States Navy.

SSN 781 is the eighth production Virginia class submarine and shares her name with six other United States Naval ships predating it back to 1867. Previous ships – include: The first California I , a screw sloop, launched on 3 July 1867 as Minnetonka, renamed California on 15 May 1869. USS California (Armored Cruiser 6) , renamed San Diego on 1 September 1914 and served from 1907-1918. California III  (S.P. 249), a steam yacht, served in the Navy under the name Hauoli. California IV  (Motor Boat), leased from the San Francisco Bar Pilot’s Association, was commissioned in the Navy on April 28, 1917. California V  (Battleship No. 44), later reclassified to BB-44, a Tennessee-class battleship, served first as flagship of the Pacific Fleet, then as flagship of the Battle Fleet (Battle Force), U.S. Fleet. lisa2The last forbearer is known as USS California (CGN-36) , a leading nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser known as the “Golden Grizzly.”

SSN 781 was christened on November 6, 2010, by Donna Willard, wife of Admiral Robert F. Willard and later commissioned on October 29, 2011, in Norfolk, Virginia. This technologically sophisticated attack submarine is designed to replace older Los Angeles class submarines with enhanced capabilities and extensive use of modular and open architecture systems. Innovations inherent to Virginia-class submarines, such as a reconfigurable torpedo room, allows SSN 781 to be configured for either onboard cruise missiles or accommodating large numbers of Special Operations Forces and their equipment in support of long-duration Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Her modular construction and state-of-the-art fly-by-wire ship control system also enable her enhanced shallow-water ship handling and the ability to quickly dive to depths greater than 800-feet and operate at submerged speeds in excess of 25 knots to meet a broad spectrum of open-ocean and littoral missions!

USS California homeport is Naval Submarine Base, New London. There she stands ready to use the latest stealth, intelligence gathering, and weapons systems technology to seek and destroy enemy combatant submarines and surface warships, project power ashore, support battle group operations or engage in mine warfare in protection of the United States of America.