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SSG-574 Grayback Class
The Navy wedded a greatly modified Tang class hull type to the specialized needs of the next generation of Regulus missiles, the Regulus II. The bow of the two boats thus modified was lifted to accommodate four Regulus Its each. They were the Growler (SSG-577) and the Grayback, (SSG-574). By mid-1958, USS Grayback (SSG-574) and USS Growler (SSG-577) had been commissioned as the first purpose-built Regulus submarines, each carrying two in a large bow hangar. At that time, the Navy had four SSGs and four missile-carrying cruisers at sea.
Each of these two near-sister ships - displacing approximately 3,600 tons submerged - could accommodate a total of four Regulus I missiles in a pair of cylindrical hangars set into the large, bulbous bow. These hangars opened aft through a set of doors by which the weapons could be moved onto a trainable launch ramp set into a well forward of the sail. The ramp was rotated athwartships for launching. Growler had a similar outward appearance to Grayback but was quite different in her internal layout. Aft of the missile guidance center Growler's layout was nearly identical to the smaller USS Darter (SS-576).
Regulus deterrence was maintained in the western Pacific until May, 1964, when Halibut conducted the final patrol of the series. By that time, the five Regulus boats had conducted a total of 40 WESTPAC deterrent patrols since October 1959 - and in so doing had pioneered one of the central strategic paradigms of the Cold War.
With her Regulus installation removed, Grayback served as an amphibious transport (LPSS-574) from May 1969 to mid-1980. The ship was later stricken from the Navy list in January 1984 and sunk as a missile target in 1986. With her missile handling and guidance equipment removed, Halibut was converted to a test platform circa 1965 and used ostensibly in developing the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) - but actually for more highly-classified projects - until she was decommissioned in June 1976.
The happiest fate was reserved for Growler, which was decommissioned and placed in reserve in May 1964. Stricken from the Navy list in August 1980, Growler is now preserved in virtually original condition as part of the USS Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, along with an example of the Regulus I missile.
SSM-N-9 Regulus II
The SSM-N-9 Regulus II cruise missile was a supersonic guided missile armed with a nuclear warhead, intended for launching from surface ships and submarines of the U.S. Navy.
The limitations of the Regulus I were well known by the time it entered service in 1955, so the Navy issued a specification for a surface-launched supersonic shipborne cruise missile, equipped to carry a nuclear warhead, that had greater range, accuracy, and resistance to countermeasures.
Development of the Regulus II was well under way when the program was canceled in favor of the UGM-27 Polaris SLBM (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile) system, which gave unprecedented accuracy as well as allowing the launch submarine to stay submerged and covert. Prototype and initial production missiles were later converted to Vought KD2U-1 supersonic target drones for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, which used the KD2U-1 during tests of the Boeing IM-99/ CIM-10 Bomarc SAM (Surface to Air Missile).
Interestingly, the SSM-N-9a Regulus II was redesignated as the RGM-15A in June 1963, nearly five years after the missile program had been terminated. At the same time the KD2U-1 target drone was redesignated as the Vought MQM-15A. Some targets equipped with landing gear were redesignated as Vought GQM-15As.
USS Grayback (SSG-574)
1740 tonsDisplacement (full):
273 feetLater extended to:
317 feet 7 inchesBeam:
27 feet 2 inchesDraft:
One Regulus launcher
Eight torpedo tubesComplement:
87 officers and men
USS Growler (SSG-577)
2110 tonsDisplacement (full):
318 feet overall
316 feet waterlineBeam:
27 feet extreme
26 feet waterlineDraft:
20 knots surface
12 knots submergedArmament:
One Regulus launcher
Two Regulus II or four Regulus I missiles
four bow and two stern 21 inch torpedo tubesComplement:
9 officers and 78 men