Military Review

Nuclear submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587). Part I: Submarine submarine

Modernization of the ship does not always provide for improving the characteristics and improving the existing capabilities. Sometimes a vessel or a submarine, as a result of restructuring, acquires completely new functions. A good example of this is the US nuclear submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587). She began service as a carrier of cruise missiles, but later became a special-purpose ship capable of solving reconnaissance tasks.

In the fifties of the last century, US shipbuilding began to introduce nuclear technology, with the result that the naval forces received the first nuclear submarines. In parallel with these processes was the development of new missile weapons for submarines. In the middle of the decade, the development of the first projects of submarine missile carriers began. In 1957, the first ship of this class was laid, named USS Halibut ("Halibut"). Initially, the boat had to wear the tail number SSGN-587, indicating that it belongs to a fundamentally new class.

The submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587) in preparation for the launch of the Regulus missile. Photo

It is known that in the early stages of creating a project, a promising carrier of cruise missiles was proposed to be completed with a diesel-electric power plant. Subsequently, after examining the available possibilities, the customer and the contractor decided to equip the boat with a nuclear reactor, which allowed them to obtain special capabilities and improved handling characteristics.

In order to save and simplify the work it was proposed to use some ready-made components. The main source of the units was to be the project of a torpedo-powered submarine Skate, which by this time had reached the construction of the lead ship. Skate should have borrowed the existing strong body and a number of its internal units. With the ready strong case it was planned to connect the additional unit of similar function, carrying out functions of a separate compartment of arms.

Launch Ceremony, 9 January 1959 g. Photo

The submarine USS Halibut was supposed to be built on a multi-unit scheme. The basis of the design were two consecutive solid hull. The front case had a volume of the order of 900 cubic meters and was notable for its complex shape. Thus, its aft part was noticeably raised above the front, because of which, in particular, the upper surface was located at an angle and visibly protruded above the level of the second hull. In the front case it was planned to place the main part of weapons.

The rear case differed traditional form. Its central part was made in the form of a cylinder, while the fore and aft compartments differed in reduced section and another shape. Two durable shells were interconnected with a small ring device and a number of power elements. The solid hulls from the outside were closed with a light hull of the traditional for that time contours.

Nuclear submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587). Part I: Submarine submarine
Body feed and windshield group. Photo

The light body formed a relatively narrow rounded nasal tip, after which it expanded and obtained the necessary cross section, due to the shapes and dimensions of the solid body. In the stern the light hull had a reduced cross section. Due to the specific shape of the front strong body, the light body formed a rather large and high superstructure. The stern part of the strong front hull visibly protruded above the deck, forming a unit for issuing missiles.

Durable nasal hull formed weapons compartment. The second hull, borrowed from Skate type boats, was divided into several compartments. Its bow accommodated living quarters and control posts. Below them were the battery pits. At the level of the central post there was a cabin with a light guard. Directly behind the central post, a reactor compartment was placed, behind which there were rooms for steam turbine plants. Behind the power plant there was a stern torpedo compartment.

Layout launcher with missile SSM-N-8 Regulus. Photo

The USS Halibut submarine (SSGN-587) was to receive a S3W type nuclear reactor developed by Westinghouse. The main task of the reactor was to produce steam for feeding two turbines with a total power of 7300 hp. Also, the reactor was equipped with electric generators. Turbines set in motion a pair of propeller shafts. Two pairs of aft rudders were used for course and depth control.

A promising project involved the use of a developed armament complex. To attack the targets, “Halibus” was supposed to use both torpedoes and missiles. Rocket and torpedo armament was located in the front compartment, formed by a new durable hull. Also in the feed there was an additional volume for torpedoes.

Submarine equipped with six torpedo tubes caliber 533 mm. Four of these devices were in the bow of the submarine, the other two - in the stern. Any US 21-inch torpedo could be used. For storage of ammunition in the weapon compartments there were racks of frame type. It was proposed to load torpedoes through hatches in the deck and roof of robust hulls.

Layout aft torpedo compartment. Photo

It was proposed to use SSM-N-8 Regulus cruise missiles as a long-range strike weapon for attacking land objects. The “Regulus” missile was a relatively large projectile with a solid fuel launch and mid-flight turbojet engine, equipped with a special warhead weighing 1400 kg. The product could develop subsonic speed and fly at a range of up to 500 nautical miles (more than 920 km).

The specific appearance of the rocket and its launcher forced the submarine developers to use unusual ideas and solutions. Ammunition of five Regulus missiles was to be transported on the racks of the nose compartment, in the immediate vicinity of the torpedoes. The raised stern of the bow of a strong hull, which protruded above the superstructure deck, had a large hatch through which the missiles should be led out of the submarine. Behind the hatch, inside the superstructure, was the launcher. In the transport position, she sank below the deck.

The launch of the Regulus missiles was to be carried out from a surface position using a folding launcher with twin guides. Before firing, it should have been raised to the working position, after which a rocket was fed through the hatch of the robust hull. After installing the rocket on the rails, the introduction of the flight task and other operations, the crew of the boat could launch. For the re-shot should be raised on the deck next rocket. All rocket operations were carried out by automated systems with hydraulic drives. The crew completely controlled all operations from the central post.

Museum sample rocket "Regulus" of the first model. Photo of Wikimedia Commons

The new submarine was to be equipped with a developed complex of electronic and hydroacoustic detection tools, as well as with the necessary communication systems. In the surface position, the crew could monitor the surrounding space with the help of the radar BPS-4, the antenna of which was mounted on a sliding device for cutting. On similar telescopic supports, the antennas of radio communication stations, air supply pipes, etc. were attached. Under water observation could be made only with the help of hydroacoustic stations BQR-2 and SQS-4. Their antennas were located at the bottom of the nose, protected by a lightweight body.

The crew of the USS Halibut submarine (SSGN-587) included 9 officers and 88 sailors. To accommodate them in the compartments of the rear hull provided cabins and cockpits. Despite limited internal volumes, the authors of the project were able to provide acceptable living conditions, according to which the new boat was at least as good as the ships of its time. Access to the inside of the submarine was provided by several hatches in the deck, which were connected to different compartments of two sturdy hulls. A rescue chamber or other similar equipment was not used.

Submarine USS Halibut berth; on the launcher demonstrated rocket. Photo

Based on the ready-made units of the Skate-type submarines, supplemented with new devices, the “Halibus” differed from them in its large size. The length of this boat was 110 m with a width of no more than 8,8 m. The normal draft was 8,5 m. In the surface position, the displacement of the ship was 3655 t, in the submerged - 5 ths. T.

Being on the surface, USS Halibut (SSGN-587) could reach speeds of no more than 15 nodes. Under water, the maximum speed reached 20 nodes. The navigation range using a nuclear reactor was virtually unlimited. However, the real autonomy was limited to the reserves of provisions, allowing the crew to work for several weeks.

The solemn ceremony of laying the first American nuclear-powered submarine with cruise missiles was held on 11 on April 1957 at the shipbuilding enterprise Mare Island Naval Shipyard (Vallejo, California). 9 January 1959-th built submarine launched on the water. Tests continued for about a year, and at the very beginning of January 1960-th new ship became part of the US Navy. He began his service as a hunter submarine, which was to search for ships and submarines of a potential enemy or attack its land objects.

The first launch of a cruise missile from the side of the submarine "Halibut", 25 March 1960 g. Photo by US Navy

Even before the end of the construction of the submarine, work began on creating a project for its modernization. In order to improve the main combat characteristics of the submarine, it was proposed to replace the Regulus missiles with more advanced NNM-N-9 Regulus II. Without requiring significant modifications of the carrier, such weapons made it possible to increase the range of delivery of a nuclear warhead to 1850 km. In addition, the new rocket differed increased flight speed.

For the use of the Regulus-2 missiles, the USS Halibut submarine needed some new units, but no radical rearrangements of the nose compartment were required. By the end of the fiftieth years, the specialists of the design organizations had prepared the documentation on the similar modernization of the submarine, and also presented the models of the processed nose compartment. In the near future, the submarine could really get a new weapon, and with it, enhanced combat capabilities.

Layout of the nasal compartment, recycled to use Regulus II missiles. Photo

However, this did not happen. Due to numerous technical and economic problems, the Pentagon decided in 1958 to abandon both Regulus missiles. For several months after the order to stop work, the industry continued to release such weapons, but its long-term operation was no longer planned. Projects from its promising carriers were also abandoned.

Despite the refusal of further development of the main armament, the submarine “Halibus” was built in the original configuration and transferred to the customer in this form. In the future, the restructuring of the boat with the conversion and equipping of new weapons was not excluded, but in the foreseeable future it was to be the carrier of cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

A few months after raising the naval flag, the submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587) set off on her first long-distance campaign. On March 11, 1960, she left the California port and set sail on the Pacific Ocean. Two weeks later, on March 25, the first test launch of the Regulus cruise missile with inert equipment took place. Soon, the submarine returned to Vallejo, and in the fall went to Pearl Harbor base, where she was to serve as part of the Pacific fleet.

The layout of the submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587), involving the use of a new type of missile. Figure

In the summer, autumn and winter of 1960-61, the crew of the submarine carried out several outlets, both for testing and as part of combat service. During these campaigns, the submarine fired cruise missiles several times. Until the beginning of April 1961, the submarine was on the high seas, from time to time entering ports to replenish stocks. Then the crew returned to the base and, after a few weeks of rest, again went into combat service. This campaign was also accompanied by rocket firing.

Later on, USS Halibut (SSGN-587) went on long hikes several times, within which they patrolled these areas, searched for enemy ships and submarines, and also attacked training targets. In addition, the submarine was repeatedly involved in numerous naval maneuvers. Similar campaigns and shooting continued until the 1964 year.

In the autumn of 1964, several submarines of the US Navy, including the atomic “Halibus”, were brought to work to determine the real capabilities of the newest Permit type submarines. By this time, the fleet managed to get several such submarines, and special tests were organized to test their potential. During these events, the USS Halibut (SSGN-587) played the role of a conditional adversary, which the searchable boats were to search for and attack.

Submarine after removing a piece of missile system equipment, 14 October 1965 g. Photo by US Navy

The fundamental decision to abandon Regulus cruise missiles, made in the late fifties, predetermined the further fate of the USS Halibut submarine. In the foreseeable future, it should have been left without the main strike weapons, which deprived its further existence of meaning. In addition, the military did not order new similar submarines. The clouds were gathering over “Halibus”, and its prospects turned out to be a topic of controversy at different levels.

By the mid-sixties, the Pentagon had determined the future of the only atomic rocket-carrier ship of its class. The submarine, having served for several years, was soon to go for repairs, and the naval commanders decided to take advantage of this opportunity. During the repair, it was proposed not only to restore the technical readiness of the submarine, but to retool it to solve completely new problems.

The submarine in the original configuration (above) and after the restructuring of the reconnaissance ship (below). Figure

In February 1965, the submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587) made the last transition in the original configuration of the missile carrier and arrived at the company Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. Over the next few months, she lost part of the equipment, and also received some new devices. According to the results of these works, it ceased to be the carrier of cruise missiles. In this regard, in August of the same year, it was transferred to the category of multi-purpose submarines with torpedo weapons and assigned a new SSN-587 number. Over the next three years, the ship patrolled specified areas and participated in anti-submarine operations. In the event of the outbreak of hostilities, the submarine had only ammunition of several torpedoes of different types.

At the end of the summer of 1968, the submarine arrived at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard factory, where a major overhaul was launched with the required upgrades. The ship lost a significant part of the existing equipment, and the released volumes were used for the installation of special equipment. In 1970, USS Halibut (SSN-587) with a set of special equipment returned to its base in the Hawaiian Islands and was incorporated into the Submarine Development Group One. In this compound the boat was to serve for the next few years.

The submarine USS Halibut was created in order to realize the existing opportunities associated with the emergence of nuclear reactors and cruise missiles with a special warhead. These tasks, in general, were successfully solved. However, the proposed SSM-N-8 Regulus and SSM-N-9 Regulus II cruise missiles were not justified, and the military abandoned them. Such a decision threatened the further fate of the only submarine of its type, but the military managed to find a convenient way out of this situation.

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  1. Amurets
    Amurets 30 October 2017 15: 47
    It is known that in the early stages of the creation of the project, a promising carrier of cruise missiles was proposed to be equipped with a diesel-electric power plant.

    Two of these boats were built: Greyback and Growler. So the nuclear reactor became an innovation on the nuclear submarine Halibat.
  2. Razvedka_Boem
    Razvedka_Boem 30 October 2017 16: 58
    Plus. I look forward to continuing articles about post-war American submarines. The topic is big, it would be possible to make a cycle ..
  3. merkava-2bet
    merkava-2bet 11 February 2018 21: 01
    The author, an order on behalf of the members of the forum, to continue what was started, we are really looking forward to your work, colleague. Thank you.
  4. Sergey-8848
    Sergey-8848 12 February 2018 16: 44
    Good and helpful article. I hope that it will be the beginning of a meaningful cycle. Request to the author - to draw parallels over years and opportunities with the Navy of the USSR.