Regulus Guided Cruise Missile

[Regulus Cruise Missile]

REGULUS Cruise Missile test launch from Pt. Mugu, CA

The Navy's first nuclear armed cruise missile SSM-N-8A 1955 - 1966

Download the above picture in 916 x 735 JPEG format ~ 70Kb


At the end of Second World War America found herself with a strong submarine force of little strategic importance. Based on the design of the German V1 rocket, the Regulus guided cruise missile program ushered in a new era that changed the strategic role of the submarine forever.

Development of the Regulus Cruise Missile SSM-N-8 began in 1947 by the United States Navy and Chance Vought Aircraft. This unmanned turbojet powered vehicle system was capable of delivering a 3000 pound 40-50 kiloton W5 or 2800 pound 1-2 megaton W27 thermonuclear warhead within a range of 500 nautical miles.

Today the Regulus is all but forgotten ... a historical footnote to its successors - the Polaris, Poseidon and Trident ballistic missiles that could be launched from submerged nuclear powered submarines. Regulus was also critical in paving the way for the development of today's sophisticated Tomahawk cruise missile, and served as an important nuclear deterrent in the early days of the Cold War and during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Regulus was first deployed by the US Navy in 1955 in the Pacific onboard the cruiser USS Los Angeles (CA-135). By 1956 the surface launched Regulus was deployed onboard specially designed diesel powered submarines. The USS TUNNY (SSG-282) and USS BARBERO (SSG-317) were our Nations first nuclear deterrent patrol submarines. They were joined by three additional Regulus submarines, USS GRAYBACK (SSG-574), USS GROWLER (SSG-577), and the nuclear powered USS HALIBUT (SSGN-587). Regulus submarine nuclear deterrent patrols ceased in 1964.

A second generation supersonic Regulus II Cruise Missile was under development to succeed Regulus I with a range of 1,200 nautical miles and a speed of Mach 2. However, even though testing of Regulus II was successful, the program was canceled for budgetary reasons prior to going operational in favor of the Polaris ballistic nuclear missile.

The Regulus Cruise Missile program was an innovative concept and an important part of our Nations nuclear deterrent program. A Regulus I cruise missile can be seen ready for launch onboard the USS GROWLER at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City.


SSM-N-8 REGULUS I Components


     2.  FUSELAGE - Semimonocoque structure of circular cross section. 
         Covered with relatively thick aluminum sheet.

     3.  GUIDANCE - Trounce midcourse guidance is used in conjunction  
         with a terminal controller guidance system.  Bipolar midcourse
         guidance in conjunction with radio terminal guidance is an
         alternate guidance system.

         Note: Trounce guidance was a combined guidance and tracking
               pulsed radar system with a range of 125 nautical miles
               from 35,000 feet.
     4.  FUEL CELL - Is of the pressure-bladder type with a capacity   
         of 310 gallons.

     5.  WING - Consists of three spanwise beams covered with Metalite.

     6.  STABILIZATION - Displacement-type electronic autopilot driving
         hydraulic servos.

     7.  POWER PLANT - Allison J33-A-14 turbojet engine develops 4,600 
         pounds of static thrust at sea level.

     8.  BOOSTER ROCKETS - Jet Assisted Take-Off.  Automatically
         jettisoned after burnout.  33,00 pounds thrust each at sea level.

     9.  VERTICAL TAILS - Metalite shell with sheet metal ribs.  The   
         upper and lower vertical tails can be folded for storage.


         Fuselage Diameter    -   56.5" 
                  Length      -  386.0" 
         Wingspan (Extended)  -  252.0"
         Wingspan (Folded)    -  118.5"
         Wing Depth           -   76.0"
         Overall Height       -   92.3"
         Overall Length       -  498.7" 
         Launch Gross Weight  -  13685 Lbs.  

REGULUS Deployment:

The Regulus cruise missile program involved five submarines, four heavy cruisers and ten aircraft carriers (only six actually launched Regulus I missiles).


Five submarines made 40 Regulus strategic deterrent patrols between October 1959 and July 1964, USS Tunny (SSG 282), USS Barbero (SSG 317), USS Grayback (SSG 574), USS Growler (SSG 577) and USS Halibut (SSGN 587). Early in these operations, the decision was made that none of the targets would be left uncovered and thus two boats, in the case of Barbero and Tunny, each carrying two Regulus I missiles; or single boats, in the case of Growler and Grayback with four Regulus I missiles, or Halibut with five Regulus I missiles, was on patrol at all times.

Heavy Cruisers:

Four Baltimore Class cruisers were armed with Regulus I missiles. USS Los Angeles (CA 135), USS Helena (CA 75), USS Macon (CA 132) and USS Toledo (CA 133) each carried three Regulus I missiles on operational patrols in the Western Pacific. Los Angeles deployed with Regulus from 1955 to 1961, Helena from 1956 to 1960, Toledo from 1956 to 1959 and Macon from 1956 to 1958.

Aircraft Carriers:

Ten aircraft carriers were configured to carry and launch Regulus I missiles. Configuration usually mention installation of necessary power and instrumentation lines since storage was a temporary event and guidance was by aircraft escort for all but the last few miles to target.

USS Princeton (CV 37) did not deploy with Regulus I but was the site of the first launch of a Regulus I missile from a warship. USS Hancock (CV 19) was heavily involved in the development of the Regulus Assault Mission concept (RAM) and deployed once to the Western Pacific with four Regulus I missiles in 1955. USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA 42) conducted one test launch. USS Saratoga (CVA 60) also did not deploy but was involved in two demonstration launches. USS Lexington (CV 16) conducted one test launch. USS Randolph (CV 15) deployed to the Mediterranean carrying three Regulus I missiles.

The RAM concept was deployed to the Western Pacific on six carrier deployments with missile launch conducted by a submarine or heavy cruiser and subsequent control to target to be conducted by pilots from supporting aircraft carriers. USS Shangri-La (CV 38), Lexington, USS Ticonderoga (CV 14), participated in these types of deployments.

REGULUS Photo Gallery

Regulus Cruise Missile Photo Gallery Eight archival images

For more information on the Regulus Guided Missile Program, the book "The Regulus Cruise Missile: A Forgotten Weapon System" by David K. Stumpf, Ph.D. is available from Turner Publishing Paducah, KY 502-443-0121 or from the Thunder Mountain Press Website at URL:

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Copyright © 1996-WA3KEY & David K. Stumpf, Ph.D.
Regulus Photo & Diagram, Loral Vought Systems archives
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This Home Page was created by wa3key, Saturday, April 27, 1996
Most recent revision Sunday, November 23, 1997