USS Halibut (SSGN-587) was the first nuclear powered submarine specifically designed to carry and launch missiles. Commissioned in January 1960, she could carry four Regulus II missiles in a hangar integral with the hull. Despite early promise, the Regulus submarines were severely disadvantaged by the requirement to prepare and fire their missiles on the surface and then to stay at periscope depth to exercise command guidance.
The Navy had directed Chance Vought to start developing a second-generation, supersonic Regulus II missile, capable or reaching 1,200 nautical miles at Mach 2. Nearly twice as large as Regulus I, the new weapon demanded a somewhat larger submarine to carry it. Several alternative platform designs were studied, including one capable of carrying four Regulus II or eight Regulus I missiles in a large hangar forward. Ultimately, funding for building a new SSG was included in the FY 1956 budget. Moreover, by late 1955, Navy long-range planners were anticipating that as many as 23 Regulus II submarines would eventually be required. Earlier that same year, however, the Navy's nuclear propulsion program had come to fruition with USS Nautilus (SSN-571) "underway on nuclear power."
Consequently, the first planned Regulus II SSG was reordered as a nuclear-powered submarine, laid down at Mare Island in April 1957, and commissioned as USS Halibut (SSGN-587) in January 1960. Just as Halibut was joining the Pacific Fleet in November 1960, the first of the new class, USS George Washington (SSBN-598), departed on her maiden Polaris patrol in the Atlantic.
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. Two generations of SSBNs followed.
In February 1965, HALIBUT entered Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for a mayor overhaul, and on 15 August she was redesignated SS(N)587. After further modifications HALIBUT began service in May 1966 with the Deep Submergence Group, involved in deep sea search & recovery. Other "special operations" occupied HALIBUT until July 1968 when she was given the covert mission of locating a Soviet Golf II missile submarine, which sank the previous February. Finding the sunken boat in waters three miles deep seemed impossible, but the mission was accomplished and Nixon awarded HALIBUT the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), the highest submarine award possible. In late 1970 HALIBUT underwent further modifications to accommodate a special group of saturation divers using methods pioneered at SeaLab.
This "special projects" boat was now a part of Submarine Development Group One. In October of 1971 she set off on another Spec Op, this time to launch one of the most critical spy operations undertaken by submarines during the cold war. Halibut was to locate and tap an underwater communications cable that ran from the Soviet missile submarine base at Petropavlovsk, under the Sea of Okhost, to Fleet headquarters near Vladivostok. For the succesful complition of this mission she was awarded the Navy Unit Citation (NUC). For repeat operations in the Sea of Okhost, in 1972, 1974 & 1975, HALIBUT was awarded three additional NUCs.*
Decommissioned on 30 June 1976, she was stricken from the Navy Register on 30 April 1986. The former HALIBUT entered the Navy?s nuclear powered ship and submarine recycling program on 12 July 1993, and on 9 September 1994 she ceased to exist as a complete ship.
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