Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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California VII (SSN-781)


California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state on 8 September 1850.

The first California, a screw sloop, was launched on 3 July 1867 as Minnetonka, renamed California on 15 May 1869, and served from 1870-1875 ( The second California (Armored Cruiser 6), was renamed San Diego on 1 September 1914, and served from 1907-1918 ( The third California (SP-249), a steam yacht, primarily served in the Navy under the name Hauoli ( The fourth California (No. 647), an 58-foot motor boat, served briefly from 1917-1918 ( The fifth California (Battleship No. 44), was reclassified to BB-44 on 17 July 1920, and served from 1921-1959 ( The sixth California, a guided missile cruiser (CGN-36), served from 1974-1999.


(SSN-781: displacement 7,800; length 377'; beam 33'; draft 32'; speed 30 knots; complement 132; armament Mk 48 Advanced Capability upgrade (ADCAP) torpedoes, UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, Advanced Mobile Mines, and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs); class Virginia)

The seventh California (SSN-781) was laid down on 1 May 2009 at Newport News, Va., by Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding; launched on 13 November 2010; sponsored by Mrs. Donna J. Willard, wife of Adm. Robert F. Willard, Commander Pacific Fleet and then Pacific Command; and commissioned at Norfolk, Va., on 29 October 2011, Cmdr. Dana A. Nelson in command.

California (SSN-781) Ship's Seal.
California (SSN-781) Ship's Seal.

The Crest

The grizzly bear signifies the strength and independence of the people of California and the state’s rich wildlife. The bear’s fierce expression represents the fighting spirit of the Navy. The bear also honors the contributions made to the United States by “The Golden Grizzly,” guided missile cruiser California (CGN-36). The calm sea represents peace, and underscores the ability of California, and all nuclear powered submarines, to contribute to national defense during periods of both tranquility and war.

The triangle represents the Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment, while the traditional blue and gold banner celebrates the naval heritage of the previous seven Virginia (SSN-774) class submarines. The seven stars recognize the seven battle stars awarded to battleship California (BB-44) for her service during World War II, and honor the seven previous U.S. Navy ships named California. The dolphins, similar in appearance to the submarine warfare qualification insignia, represent the contributions made by American submariners in defense of the United States since the commissioning of Holland (Submarine Torpedo Boat No.1) on 12 October 1900.

The Motto

Silentium est Aureum” means “silence is golden,” underscoring the value of stealth in submarine warfare, and honors the state for which the boat is named, which has been nicknamed “The Golden State.”

California makes a high speed run during her Alpha sea trials, 30 June–2 July 2011. (U.S. Navy Photograph DCS11-359-418, California (SSN-781) 2011 Command Operations Report, Ships History Section, Naval History & Heritage Command)

California includes the advanced electromagnetic signature reduction system. In addition, she employs a built-in Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) staging area that consists of a multiple-man airlock chamber that allows a SEAL team to exit or re-enter the submarine as a group. California has the capability to support these SEALs by one of two systems: the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), a dry, min-submarine designed to deploy from her hull with a SEAL coastal assault team; or a SEAL Delivery Vehicle, which she can house within a dry deck shelter.

While working up prior to her commissioning, California emergency sortied from Norfolk to avoid Hurricane Irene (25–30 August 2011).

California operates with Submarine Squadron 6 at Norfolk.

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

Published: Mon Jun 29 14:32:28 EDT 2015