By Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge, Commander, Submarine Group Two
Exciting times ahead for our undersea forces as we approach the end of October: this Saturday we will commission the eighth VIRGINIA-Class SSN. The commissioning of PCU CALIFORNIA (SSN 781) represents a tipping point as the VA-Class will now comprise 15 percent of our attack submarine force and the rate of change of the VIRGINIA proportion will only increase now that we’ve ramped up to two-per year production-sure and steady progress, we have come a long way since hull one, USS VIRGINIA was commissioned on 23 October 2004, nearly seven years ago to the date.
CALIFORNIA’s commissioning is just one more exclamation point on the highly successful VA-Class shipbuilding program, a Major Defense Acquisition Program that has become the model for the rest of the Navy. This program has cut 20 percent from the cost of submarines while reducing delivery time by 24 months. But more importantly the program delivers the most advanced submarine in the world with the most diverse military capabilities ever incorporated within one undersea warship.
Reaching this significant milestone for CALIFORNIA wasn’t accomplished overnight, but through 65 months of tenacity and dedication to the mission – to construct and deliver the best VA-class submarine for the U.S. Navy. This untiring commitment to our nation’s defense was displayed day-in and day-out by the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding team and the crew of USS California.
This success only underscores the Submarine Force’s continued ability to sustain readiness while maintaining highly strategic relevancy. Our unique military versatility is a capability ultimately delivered by and through our people.
The Sailors of our submarine force are the backbone of our success. Our ability to maintain undersea superiority depends on the dedicated, technically-skilled and engaged undersea warriors serving our nation in today’s Navy. These same warriors of the undersea domain will take the success of the Virginia-class submarine and replicate it within the new SSBN to replace the aging Trident fleet.
The pinnacle of what we do is sending our boats on deployment to fulfill our national security requirements. From this day forward, CALIFORNIA will be called upon to gain access into contested regions to enhance global security. Her crew must be ready- trained and vigilant-to deploy quickly and achieve undersea superiority at the time and place of our choosing.
“Silence is Golden” is a fitting motto to the CALIFORNIA and her crew as they are tasked to slip behind enemy lines and employ the most advanced stealth, sensors, and ship control systems known to man. But it will be CALIFORNIA’s “grizzly growl”- her lethal weapons and advanced payloads that will deter aggression and promote regional stability.
Eureka! – CALIFORNIA ready for triumph! Welcome to the Fleet.