Hi, I’m Eric Boehm, curator of aviation here
at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
And today we’re going to take a look at a rather rare artifact from the Cold War,
the Chance Vaught Regulus missile.
Conceived as the U.S. Navy’s first operational cruise missile,
the Regulus I was built by the Chance Vaught Corporation in 1947.
The Vaught Company had great success with its F4U Corsair
fighter airplane from World War II.
But since that period, the next three airplanes they developed
really fell flat and both performance, safety and suitability in aircraft carrier operations.
They really needed to hit a home run with their next aircraft project.
And that was the Regulus I.
In 1945, right after World War II,
the U.S. Navy realized it had a need for the
delivery of the new atomic weapons that were
coming into development.
They felt that the slow flying bombers would be far too vulnerable.
And they also wanted a system that they could deploy either on submarines or
smaller ships or aircraft carriers.
Regulus was deployed from 1955 to 1964 on
several aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers and of course, submarines like Growler,
which is on display here at Intrepid.
Designated “SSM-N-8a” by the Navy,
the Regulus I was designed to carry 3,000 pound nuclear warhead,
fly at subsonic speeds at an altitude of 30,000 feet, and had a range of 500 miles.
J-33 turbo jet engine powered the missile, while two solid rocket boosters
firing for just a few seconds lifted it clear of the launch platform.
During underwater operations, the missiles were stored in a watertight
compartment called the missile hangar.
That’s where I’m standing now. To launch the missiles, they’d have to be rolled
out on these tracks, the wings unfolded, the guidance system set, the aircraft fueled
It was quite a cumbersome operation.
Operational control of the missile was through a radio signal from the
submarine’s missile control room.
The crew then had to remain in radio contact with
the missile throughout its flight to the target.
This process revealed the sub’s location
and left it dangerously exposed to attack.
The Regulus I was really just an interim solution.
The more advanced Regulus II, was developed, which would’ve had twice the range
and a more advanced control system.
But it was canceled in 1958 in favor of the more capable Polaris missile.
The Polaris ballistic missile would have been able to been fired
from the submarine while it was still submerged.
This way it could shoot the missile without being detected.
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