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First nuclear-powered guided missile submarine
Model featured: SSGN / SSN-587 USS Halibut
While USS Halibut was the first nuclear-powered submarine designed and built to launch guided missiles, she was neither the first nuclear-powered submarine nor the first submarine to launch a guided missile.
SSN-571 USS Nautilus (commissioned in 1954) was the first nuclear-powered submarine, but she carried no missiles. And the first launch of a guided missile from a sub was by SS-282 USS Tunny - a diesel-powered Gato Class submarine that was converted to SSG-282 to conduct the first trials - in 1953 - of launching a missile from a submarine.
SSGN-587 USS Halibut was indeed the first submarine that combined both the "N" for "nuclear propulsion" and the "G" for "guided missile" in the boat's designation - and was designed and built from the keel up for the purpose of operating on nuclear power while having missile launch capability.
USS Halibut (commissioned 1960) had a relatively high deck above the waterline to provide a dry "flight deck" when launching missiles at sea. She carried five missiles in her bow which were brought out - one at a time - on a launcher that ran on rails to a launching position just ahead of the con tower. The missile system was completely automated and worked using hydraulically powered machinery controlled from a central station. The missiles were of the Regulus I type - a non-ballistic missile that carried a nuclear warhead.
There were five submarines that carried the Regulus missile. SSG-282 Tunny did the first launch trials. Another Gato Class submarine (SSG-317 Barbero) was also converted for the task. Two other, also diesel-powered, submarines (SSG-574 Grayback and SSG-577 Growler) were purpose-built for the task. Finally there was Halibut.
The "Regulus submarines" had to prepare and fire their missiles on the surface and then stay at periscope depth to exercise command guidance - which was a severe limitation. However, the five submarines deployed on 41 patrols under the Pacific Ocean over the course of 5 years to maintain a "nuclear deterrent" against the Soviet Union and, in so doing, pioneered one of the central strategic paradigms of the Cold War. Two generations of nuclear-powered ballistic missiles submarines (SSBNs) would follow.
The USS Halibut - succeeded by the George Washington Class SSBNs - was converted to an Attack Submarine at Pearl Harbor in 1965 and re-designated SSN-587. The submarine then began ASW operations until 1970, when she had a major overhaul in the States that installed side thrusters and specialized oceanographic equipment. Halibut returned to Pearl Harbor in 1970 and operated with the Submarine Development Group 1.
About that time the Halibut was involved in a very 'dicey' operation (code-named Ivy Bells) which installed a listening device on an Soviet undersea communication cable in the Sea of Okhotsk - a totally Soviet controlled area at that time. The cable was connecting the major Soviet naval bases of Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk and promised to provide excellent intelligence if specially trained Navy combat divers could be delivered close enough by submarine to then make their way to the cable and so attach a small pod that could record the passing communications. Once the device was in place, subsequent submarine missions were required about monthly to retrieve the recorded information. The eavesdropping provided very valuable intelligence but the windfall came to an abrupt end in 1981 when the Russians discovered the device. Fortunately none of the various US Navy subs or divers contributing to the effort were ever caught in the Russian waters.
USS Halibut was decommissioned in 1976 and laid up awaiting disposal through the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program until disposed of in1994.
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American USN fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarines
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The full line of USN attack submarines beginning with WWII includes Tambor class, Mackerel class, Gar Class, Gato class, Balao class, Tench class, Barracuda class, Tang class, Sailfish class, USS Darter, Barbel class, Grayback class, USS Nautilus, Skate class, Skipjack class , USS Triton, USS Halibut, USS Tullibee, Thresher/Permit class, Sturgeon class, USS Lipscomb, Los Angeles class, Los Angeles 688i class, Sea Wolf class and Virginia class.
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