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SSM-N-8 Regulus
1622543 9777f49991 SSM-N-8 Regulus.jpg
SSM-N-8 "Regulus I" display at Bowfin Park,
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Type Cruise missile
Service history
In service 1955-64
Production history
Manufacturer Chance Vought
Produced March 1951
Weight 13,685 pounds (6,207 kg)
Length 32 feet 2 inches (9.80 m)
Diameter 4 feet 8.5 inches (1.435 m)

Warhead 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) such as the W5 warhead or the W27 warhead

Engine Allison J33-A-14 turbojet (4,600 lb thrust)
2 × Booster rockets (33,000 lb thrust)
Wingspan 21 feet (6.4 m) extended
9 feet 10.5 inches (3.010 m) folded
500 nautical miles (926 km)
Speed Subsonic

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

A Regulus missile.

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

USS Tunny launching a Regulus I in 1958.

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 first and only delivery of Missile Mail.

Regulus I fired from the USS Los Angeles (CA-135), 1957.

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.

Regulus I Placard at Bowfin Park, Pearl Harbor, 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 five years, carried the shield."

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.

Surviving examples

The following 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
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
A Regulus I is on display at the museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

New Jersey Naval Museum, Hackensack, NJ - Regulus Missile with engine intact


The launcher for the supersonic Regulus II cruise missile being installed aboard the USS King County (AG-857), a World War II-era LST converted to an experimental guided-missile test ship, 5 April 1957. YD-33 is doing the lifting.

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 those of most aircraft, while additionally, when the missile was ready for launch, it was fitted with two large booster rockets on the aft end of the 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.


See also

External links


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