Sep 16

First Submarine Launch of Regulus II, 16 September 1958

Friday, September 16, 2011 12:01 AM


Commissioned on 7 March 1958, GRAYBACK (SSG 574) was the Navy’s first submarine to carry the Regulus II sea-to-surface missile. While operating out of Port Hueneme, Calif., on 16 September 1958 she carried out the first successful launch of a Regulus II from a submarine, which pointed the way to a revolutionary advance in the power of navies to attack land bases. GRAYBACK conducted her first deterrent missile strike mission from 21 September to 12 November 1959, patrolling secretly through Pacific waters with a full load of missiles ready for retaliation 1,000 miles inland in event of war.

Following modifications to the missile launching system and electrical circuits on 22 February 1960, GRAYBACK again took up deterrent missile strike missions. Overall she conducted nine patrols and spent more than 20 months at sea, logging well over 130,000 miles on deterrent missile strike missions. As more and more Polaris submarines became operational they assumed the deterrent functions previously assigned to GRAYBACK and her sister ships.

She decommissioned at Mare Island, Calif., on 25 May 1964.

  • Jim Valle

    Grayback was one of the Navy’s last diesel-electric subs. After her stint as a missile sub she was converted to a transport vessel and carried out a number of highly secret missions involving Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). In this role she laid the groundwork for programs involving the insertion of SEAL teams into sensitive areas to carry out highly classified operations. Some of her exploits are only now coming to light.

  • N. Polmar

    This is a misleading blog item: The Regulus II launch from the GRAYBACK was the only submarine launch of that missile; all other at-sea launches were from a converted LST. The Regulus II was never deployed ad the GRAYBACK carried out patrols only with the Regulus I missile.

    The “Reg II” was cancelled to help fund the Polaris program. The planned nuclear (SSGN) Regulus force was cancelled after one submarine was built (the HALIBUT/SSGN 587), and the SSGNs on order were completed as THRESHER/SSN 594-class attack submarines. Similarly, the planned installation of Regulus II in several missile cruisers was also canceled.

    N. Polmar

  • L.K.Weber, CDR USN Ret.

    In any discussion of Regulus the credit for that cancellation belongs to VADM Red Raborn USN for his masterful direction of the Polaris program putting the Polaris weapons system in operation three years before its programmed time. I was privileged as Aide to RADM George Russell USN, Com12, to accompany them to award the SECNav Industrial Commendation to Aerojet General, Livermore Laboratories of UC, and Lockheed Missile and Space Division. Raborn gave great credit to those three for their cooperation and management excellence that accomplished an unheard of act of putting a functioning weapons system into the Fleet so early. As an ASW Naval Aviator I had the privilege of going on the sea trials of Halibut and Teddy Roosevelt SSN600. Know thy enemy! I learned much.


    Norm Polmar is such a great asset to the Institute with his wealth of knowledge. I hope our paths cross someday Mr. Polar so that I can chat with you in person. I have enjoyed attending a number of Institute events, but residing in the Midwest limits my participation.