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USS California (SSN-781)

Nuclear Attack Submarine

Naval Warfare / Ships

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Image from the United States Department of Defense DIVDS imagery database.
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Image from the United States Department of Defense DIVDS imagery database.
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Image from the United States Department of Defense DIVDS imagery database.
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Image from the United States Department of Defense DIVDS imagery database.

USS California SSN-781 is a relatively new entry into the Virginia-class of fast attack boats, being commissioned as recently as 2011.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/9/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
When the rising costs of both procuring and maintaining the Seawolf-class nuclear submarines limited their kind to just three (of the planned twenty-nine) boats, the United States Navy (USN) was forced to consider a less expensive option going forward. This gave rise to an all-new class of fighting boat named Virginia-class and over a dozen of these units have been completed of the planned forty-eight (2017). USS California (SSN-781) stands as the eighth boat of the group, ordered in August 2003, laid down in May of 2009 and commissioned on October 29th, 2011. She fights under the motto of "Silence is Golden" owing to both her inherently stealthy nature and a reference to the state of California (the "Golden State"). She was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries of Newport News Shipbuilding (formally Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company).

USS California's design follows in line with the other Virginia-class boat offerings. She displaces 7,800 tons under light load and 7,900 tons under full load. Her length measures 377 feet and her beam is 34 feet. Internally a crew of 134 officers and enlisted man her various stations on a rigid schedule. The boat is notable within the class as being the first to feature an advanced signature reduction (electromagnetic) system.

Propulsion is by way of the S9G series nuclear reactor. Its designation showcases "S" for "submarine", "9" for "ninth generation core", and "G" for the designer "General Electric". The reactors, developed for up to thirty-three years of consistent operation, are a standard pressurized water unit used to generate steam for the turbines that drive 40,000 horsepower to a single shaft at stern. The vessel can make headway at over 25 knots submerged and is tested down to depths of 800 feet. Due to the nuclear nature of the propulsion scheme, USS California can range out indefinitely, restricted only by crew fatigue and food stores.

Armament consists of 4 x 533mm torpedo tubes at the bow housing Mk 48 series torpedoes and suitable for countering on-water and underwater threats. Up to 27 torpedoes can be carried (or missiles in their place). There are 12 x Vertical Launching Systems (VLSs) supporting the BGM-109 "Tomahawk" cruise missiles for attacking land targets at extreme ranges. Naval mines are also an option for the boat.

California makes its homeport at Groton, Connecticut along the American East Coast, giving it immediate access to the Atlantic Ocean and both polar caps. She remains in active service as of this writing (2017).


Commissioned, in Active Service
135 Personnel
Ship Class [ Virginia-class ]
Ships-in-Class [ 18 ] Ship Names: USS Virginia (SSN-774); USS Texas (SSN-775); USS Hawaii (SSN-776); USS North Carolina (SSN-777); USS New Hampshire (SSN-778); USS New Mexico (SSN-779); USS Missouri (SSN-780); USS California (SSN-781); USS Mississippi (SSN-782); USS Minnesota (SSN-783); USS North Dakota (SSN-784); USS John Warner (SSN-785); USS Illinois (SSN-786); USS Washington (SSN-787); USS Colorado (SSN-788); USS Indiana (SSN-789); USS South Dakota (SSN-790); USS Delaware (SSN-791); USS Vermont (SSN-792); USS Oregon Warner (SSN-793); USS Montana (SSN-794); USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795); USS New Jersey (SSN-796); USS Iowa (SSN-797); USS Massachusetts (SSN-798); USS Idaho (SSN-799); USS Arkansas (SSN-800); USS Utah (SSN-810); USS Oklahoma (SSN-802); USS Arizona (SSN-803); USS Barb (SSN-804)
National flag of United States United States
- Blue Water Operations
- Fleet Support
- Hunter
- Direct-Attack
- Long-Range
377 ft (114.91 m)
Width / Beam:
34 ft (10.36 m)
Height / Draught:
32 ft (9.75 m)
Displacement (Surface):
7,800 tons
1 x General Electric S9G nuclear reactor powering 1 x shaft.
Speed (Surface):
25 kts (29 mph)
Speed (Submerged):
35 kts (40.28 miles)
Essentially Unlimited
12 x Vertical Launching System (VLS) for BGM-109 "Tomahawk" cruise missiles.
4 x 533mm torpedo tubes (Mk 48 torpedoes; 27 reloads)
Naval mines as required.

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