In June 1953, Vought received a contract to develop a supersonic successor to the SSM-N-8 RGM-6 “Regulus“ sub-sonic cruise missile. The new missile was named “Regulus II” (although it was a completely new missile, and not a development of Regulus) and received the designation SSM-N-9. The ”Regulus II” cruise missile was designed to be launched from the deck of a surfaced submarine, or from the deck of a guided missile cruiser. It was capable of delivering a conventional or a nuclear warhead at Mach 2 speed. Ultimately, the “Regulus II“ was to be the next generation missile following the subsonic “Regulus I,” which was deployed with the U.S. Navy during the Cold War from 1955 to 1964. The first flight of “Regulus II” was in 1956 and the program was terminated in December 1958 due to the development of the more advanced Polaris ballistic missile. Some of the remaining “Regulus II“ missiles were converted to supersonic target drones and continued to fly until 1963.
Following a lead provided by the historian David Stumpf, the volunteers from the Chance Vought “Retiree Club” found a surviving “Regulus II“ airframe at the New England Aviation Museum at Windsor Locks, Connecticut. The unit was located outside the museum buried in the mud and in rather poor condition. Upon further investigation, it was determined that this specific missile was GM-2048, the last “Regulus II“ to fly and the last survivor of the “Regulus II’s“ that were modified to serve as a target drone.
After negotiations and discussions with the Navy, the possession of GM-2048 was handed over to the Retiree Club, who shipped it back to the Vought Aircraft Industries factory in Grand Prairie, Texas. When removed from the truck, power was supplied to the landing gear’s nitrogen bottle. After 30 years of sitting outside exposed to the New England climate, the gear extended as if the exposure to the weather elements had never occurred. Two of the tires required no air. The other needed a few pounds because of a small leak in the valve stem. This was a true testament to its rugged design and engineering.
This missile was restored by the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation Volunteers and is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation.