SSM-N-8 Regulus

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The SSM-N-8A Regulus was a ship and submarine launched, nuclear armed cruise missile deployed by the United States Navy from 1955 to 1964.



Design and development

In October 1943, Chance Vought Aircraft Company signed a study contract for a 300-mile (480 km) range missile to carry a 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) warhead. The project stalled for four years, however, until May 1947, when the United States Army Air Forces awarded Martin Aircraft Company a contract for a turbojet powered subsonic missile, the Matador. The Navy saw Matador as a threat to its role in guided missiles and, within days, started a Navy development program for a missile that could be launched from a submarine and used the same J33 engine as the Matador. In August 1947, the specifications for the project, now named "Regulus," were issued: Carry a 3,000-pound (1,400 kg) warhead, to a range of 500 nautical miles (930 km), at Mach 0.85, with a circular error probable (CEP) of 0.5% of the range. At its extreme range the missile had to hit within 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 km) of its target 50% of the time.

The design was 30 feet (9.1 m) long, 10 feet (3.0 m) in wingspan, 4 feet (1.2 m) in diameter, and would weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds (4,500 and 5,400 kg) After launch, it would be guided toward its target by two control stations. (Later, with the "Trounce" system, one submarine could guide it).

Army-Navy competition complicated both the Matador's and the Regulus' developments. The missiles looked alike and used the same engine. They had nearly identical performances, schedules, and costs. Under pressure to reduce defense spending, the United States Department of Defense ordered the Navy to determine if Matador could be adapted for their use. The Navy concluded that the Navy's Regulus could perform the Navy mission better.

Regulus did have advantages over Matador. It required only two guidance stations while Matador required three. It could also be launched quicker, as Matador's boosters had to be fitted while the missile was on the launcher while Regulus was stowed with its boosters attached. Finally, Chance Vought built a recoverable version of the missile, so that even though a Regulus test vehicle was more expensive than a Matador to build, Regulus was cheaper to use over a series of tests. The Navy program continued, and the first Regulus flew in March 1951.

Ships fitted with Regulus

The first launch from a submarine occurred in July 1953 from the deck of USS Tunny (SSG-282), a World War II fleet boat modified to carry Regulus. Tunny and her sister boat USS Barbero (SSG-317) were the United States's first nuclear deterrent patrol submarines. They were joined in 1958 by two purpose built Regulus submarines, USS Grayback (SSG-574), USS Growler (SSG-577), and, later, by the nuclear powered USS Halibut (SSGN-587). So that no target would be left uncovered, four Regulus missiles had to be at sea at any given time. Thus, Barbero and Tunny, each of which carried two Regulus missiles, patrolled simultaneously. Growler and Grayback, with four missiles, or Halibut, with five, could patrol alone. These five submarines made 40 Regulus strategic deterrent patrols between October 1959 and July 1964, when they were relieved by the George Washington class submarines carrying the Polaris missile system. Barbero also earned the distinction (and undying fame among philatelists) of launching the only delivery of Missile Mail.

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