SSM-N-8 Regulus

SSM-N-8 Regulus

Infobox Weapon
name=SSM-N-8 Regulus

type=Cruise missile
manufacturer=Chance Vought
production_date=March 1951
engine=Allison J33-A-14 turbojet (4,600 lb thrust)
2 × Booster rockets (33,000 lb thrust)
wingspan=convert|21|ft|m extended
convert|9|ft|10.5|in|m folded
filling=convert|3000|lb|kg such as the W5 warhead or the W27 warhead
The SSM-N-8A Regulus cruise missile was the nuclear deterrent weapon employed 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 convert|300|mi|km|adj=on range missile to carry a convert|4000|lb|kg|adj=on 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 convert|3000|lb|kg|adj=on warhead, to a range of convert|500|nmi|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 convert|2.5|nmi|km of its target 50% of the time.

The design was convert|30|ft|m long, convert|10|ft|m in wingspan, convert|4|ft|m in diameter, and would weigh between convert|10000|and|12000|lb|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, and could be launched quicker, as while Regulus missiles were stored with the booster attached, Matador's booster 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.

, Hawaii. The placard reads, "From 1959 through 1964 Regulus was the submarine launched retaliatory missile in the Pacific.

The Regulus Missile Deterrent Strike Force operated from submarine base, Pearl Harbor, under the operational control of Commander Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, and was supported by guided missile unit ten, less than 800 men, and their fight ready submarines maintained their warheads within minutes of assigned targets under the most arduous conditions. They undertook a most difficult and challenging task and saw it to a successful conclusion. This missile is dedicated to those submariners and their boats who, for years, carried the shield."]

hips fitted with Regulus

The first submarine launch 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 first and only delivery of Missile Mail.

Regulus was deployed by the US Navy in 1955 in the Pacific onboard the cruiser USS "Los Angeles" (CA-135). In 1956, three more followed: USS "Macon" (CA-132), USS "Toledo" (CA-133), and USS "Helena" (CA-75). These four "Baltimore" class cruisers each carried three Regulus missiles on operational patrols in the Western Pacific. "Macon"’s last Regulus patrol was in 1958, "Toledo"’s in 1959, "Helena"’s in 1960, and "Los Angeles"’s in 1961.

Ten aircraft carriers were configured to carry and launch Regulus missiles (though only six ever actually launched one). USS "Princeton" (CV-37) did not deploy with the missile but conducted the first launch of a Regulus from a warship. USS "Saratoga" (CVA-60) also did not deploy but was involved in two demonstration launches. USS "Franklin D. Roosevelt" (CVA-42) and USS "Lexington" (CV-16) each conducted one test launch. USS "Randolph" (CV-15) deployed to the Mediterranean carrying three Regulus missiles. USS "Hancock" (CV-19) deployed once to the Western Pacific with four missiles in 1955. "Lexington", "Hancock", USS "Shangri-La" (CV-38), and USS "Ticonderoga" (CV-14) were involved in the development of the Regulus Assault Mission (RAM) concept. RAM converted the Regulus cruise missiles into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV): Regulus missiles would be launched from cruisers or submarines, and once in flight, guided to their targets by carrier based pilots with remote control equipment.

Replacement and legacy

Production of Regulus was phased out in January 1959 with delivery of the 514th missile, and it was removed from service in August 1964. Regulus not only provided the first nuclear strategic deterrence force for the United States Navy during the first years of the Cold War and especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis, preceding the Polaris missiles, Poseidon missiles, and Trident missiles that followed, but it also was the forerunner of the Tomahawk cruise missile.

urviving examples

Six museums in the United States have Regulus missiles on display as part of their collections:

;Carolinas Aviation Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina:A 1956 Chance-Vought SSM-N-8 Regulus I cruise missile (Serial 67195) can also be seen ready for launch at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Regulus in Charlotte is mounted on a very rare launching stand designed to enable the missile to be launched via catapult from an aircraft carrier. This missile was previously on display at the now closed Florence Air and Missile Museum in Florence, South Carolina. This Regulus was fully restored in the fall of 2006 after having been on outdoor display for a number of years.;Frontiers of Flight Museum, Dallas Love Field, Texas:A Regulus II missile;Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York City, New York:A Regulus I cruise missile can be seen ready for launch onboard USS "Growler" (SSG-577) at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City.;Point Mugu Missile Park, Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California:The museum's collection includes both a Regulus and a Regulus II missile;USS Bowfin Museum, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii:;Veterans Memorial Museum, Huntsville, Alabama:A Regulus II missile


The Regulus missile was a large turbojet powered missile. Its barrel-shaped fuselage resembled that of numerous fighter aircraft designs of the era, but without any cockpit. Its swept wings and rear fin were also smaller than most aircraft, while additionally, when the missile was ready for launch, it mounted two large boost engines on the rear fuselage.


A second generation supersonic Regulus II cruise missile with a range of 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km) and a speed of Mach 2 was developed and successfully tested, but the program was canceled in favor of the Polaris ballistic nuclear missile.


*: The Regulus was only used by the United States Navy, with whom it served from 1955 to 1964.

ee also

* List of missiles
* SSBN Deterrent Patrol insignia

External links and media

* [ USS Halibut Webpage]
* [ US Navy Photos & Documentary film] produced by Nick T. Spark, " "Regulus: The First Nuclear Missile Submarines" " which aired initially on the History Channel in Europe.
* [ Video of a Regulus missile launch]
* [ Carolinas Aviation Museum]

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