by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
introductionDuring a golden age of aviation tarnished by the Cold War many new aircraft were produced, including what became known as cruise missiles. One was the U.S. Navy's submarine deployed Mach II Chance Vought SSM-N-9 Regulus II. Aurora was quick to cut tooling to make injection molded models of contemporary subjects and in 1958 issued their kit Regulus II, kit 132-129. The “129” was Aurora’s MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price $1.29), a part of the box despised by retailers. Aurora also scaled it to 1/48. They also issued a kit of the missile with a ground launcher, kit 378-249.
Most of these kits came out before I was born so perhaps it isn’t so strange that I never saw them at my hometown hobby outlets: City Cycle Hobby Shop, Bell or Davis Drug Stores, Value Village, Kresge, Woolworths, Sears, or JC Pennys. In fact, most of these kits I never even knew existed until the advent of online auction sites!
Thanks to OldModelKits.com we have this complete kit to examine at Nostalgia Air Station.
Regulus II Model Regulus II was packaged in an Aurora standard “long box” carton, a sturdy cardboard conventional lid-tray design. Dramatic box art shows a Regulus II blazing through the atmosphere, destination unknown. Although restrained by packing paper the sprues were loose in the box which means that several pieces could be expected to be rolling around loose. Later Aurora kits were bagged. Instructions and decals were included, and occasionally a promotional insert.
A rather simple model, 17 pieces build up this subject, injection molded in dark red. A clear two-piece display stand was included. It displayed an area for the kit subject decal, raised textured 'triangle world' plus latitude and longitude lines, focused on North America. “Aurora Plastics Corp” adorns the bottom edge.
Molding is fair in that most parts are well defined with no flash, a few slight mold seams and shallow sink holes. However, visible ejector marks mar parts, such as along the root of the wings. Fortunately, those flaws are very shallow and should be easy to fix. I test-fitted the fuselage together and found most of the seams joined tight. Liquid cement should fill them.
Aurora’s Regulus appears close to the advertised 1/48 scale. It was a big missile, longer than the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.
detail Typical of many model makers of the era Aurora created markings and insignia by tooling raised textured areas on the model. These eyesores should be easy enough to remove from the rocket if you want to put the time and effort into sanding them away.
There are few hair-thin raised and wide shallow recessed panel lines, otherwise surface detail is sparse. There is no vision block in the intake.
Regulus II had an afterburner. It was built with all of those individual flaps of metal that make afterburners look like a ring of ancient lamellar mail armor. The kit ‘burner can just looks like a too-short ring of styrene.
Instructions, decals, paintingAurora printed up a large multifold paper sheet with text, line art and half-tone illustrations. One side is the assembly instructions and the other side advertises all of their models, with emphasis on their series “Popular Planes of the 1930’s” and HO scale buildings and trees. Aurora hawked their brand of paint and glue in the instructions, too.
Assembly is guided via the “exploded” style of illustration. Assembly is shown in one illustration and 14 written steps. A concise history of the vehicle is included in a sidebar.
Minimal painting guidance is provided. Regulus II was never procured and deployed although the proposed operation color scheme was dark blue upper, gloss white lower. I have not found a photo of one in red or orange.
You can see the decals only offer markings for a single SSM-N-9 missile. Decals have thicker carrier film that extends farther from the printed graphics than is acceptable today. Yet they are sharply printed and registered. I would like to tape the sheet to a south facing window to determine how much yellowing will bleach out, and then try soaking a decal; would it disintegrate? All of those markings were intended to be applied over the textured areas.
conclusionAurora’s SSM-N-9 model is acceptably molded. Foibles are thick airfoil parts, lousy afterburner, and those thoughtful yet unappreciated molded insignia areas.
Like other Aurora missile and rocket kits I have examined, the quality of molding is not bad nor up to today’s standards compared to some of the main model manufacturers. Also like those other Aurora missile and rockets, if you have one of these kits, treat yourself and build it. I think it would be a very interesting addition for your Cold War cruise missile deterrent collection.
We thank OldModelKits.com for kindly providing this kit for review!
history In mid-1956, it became Navy policy to keep one SSG in each ocean, and Tunny shifted her base of operations to Pearl Harbor in 1957. Meanwhile, the Navy had laid down two large diesel-electric submarines specifically to carry Regulus, launching USS Grayback (SSG-574) in March 1958 and USS Growler (SSG-577) in August of that same year. 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.
After the Soviet Union and then the United States successfully tested their first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in 1957, the nuclear arms race moved into a more dangerous phase. In late 1958, with four SSGs and four Regulus cruisers in commission, the Navy responded by moving all of the submarines and three of the cruisers to the Pacific to maintain regular deterrent patrols threatening the Soviet Far East. In particular, Submarine Squadron ONE was formed of the four SSGs at Pearl Harbor and adopted a readiness posture that put at least four missiles on station in the Western Pacific at all times, to complement existing carrier-based aircraft armed with nuclear weapons. (This required deploying either the two converted fleet boats together or one of the two Graybacks.) Tunny departed on the first of these regularly scheduled deterrent patrols in October 1959, whereas Grayback’s and Growler’s first patrols commenced in early 1960.
Some years earlier, though, the Navy had already 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.
Halibut, 350 feet long overall and displacing nearly 4,900 tons submerged, was fitted with what was then the standard attack submarine power plant, driving two screws. Her enormous single missile hangar was set deep into the outer hull forward, and sloped upward and aft to penetrate the deck, where a large, vertically-opening door gave access to a turntable launcher forward of the sail. The hangar space could hold four Regulus II or five Regulus I missiles and also doubled as a forward torpedo room. This large, single-door hangar – potentially open to the sea during the launching evolution – constituted a serious vulnerability. If it flooded, the ship might easily sink.
Halibut entered active service with the Pacific Fleet in November 1960 and made her first formal patrol early the next year, joining the four SSGs in the rotation necessary to keep four strategic missiles continually on station. By then, the heavy cruisers had been withdrawn from the Regulus mission – with Los Angeles the last to go in 1961 – leaving the submarines to carry on alone. Somewhat ironically, even though Regulus II proved successful in final testing, budgetary pressures prevented any subsequent procurement, and it was never deployed. Thus, for the entire era of these first sea-borne deterrent patrols, the subsonic Regulus I remained the weapon of choice.
Whitman, Edward C. "Regulus America's First Sea-borne Nuclear Deterrent." Regulus America's First Sea-borne Nuclear Deterrent. UNDERSEA WARFARE, Spring 2001. Web. 07 Nov. 2014. .