Vintage Modeling- Revell’s Regulus II (Vought SSM-N-9/RGM-15)

By Dennis Sparks

(Box photos courtesy of Alan Bussie at

The History

Chance Vought’s Regulus was one of the forerunners of the modern cruise missile.  Its airframe was a simple cylindrical fuselage with only small swept wings and a single vertical tail surface.  Powered by an Allison J-33 jet engine of 4600 lbs. thrust and with a pair of strap-on RATO units that provided 33,000 lbs. thrust each for 2.2 seconds, the Regulus was designed to be launched from a ramp mounted on the deck of either a surfaced submarine or a larger warship.  Armed with the 40-50 kiloton W5 or the 1-2 megaton W27 nuclear warhead and with a range of about 500 miles, the subsonic Regulus was ultimately deployed on five US Navy submarines, four cruisers and five aircraft carriers, serving from 1955 until 1964.   One of the few surviving Regulus missiles can be seen on board the submarine USS Growler, which is now on display alongside the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid museum in New York.


Restored Regulus I Missile (courtesy of weaponsman) 

With the rapid advances being made in aerodynamics at the time, development of the more advanced version was already well underway by the time the Regulus had reached operational status.  Powered by the much larger GE J-79 engine, the Regulus II was designed to fly at speeds greater than Mach 2, at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet, and to have a longer range.

The Regulus was designed to be controlled by a combined guidance and tracking pulsed radar, allowing it to be controlled in flight at a range of up to 125 miles by a “mother ship”.   A major concern was the possibility that these control signals could be jammed, so the Regulus II was designed from the outset to also have an independent onboard inertial guidance system.  As an economy measure, flight test versions of both the Regulus and Regulus II were built with retractable landing gear, allowing them to be remotely flown, recovered and reused.


Regulus II Supersonic Cruise Missile 

With flight testing well underway, the Regulus II program was suddenly cancelled in 1958.  Unknown to most of the people working on the project, the Navy brass had funded the project as insurance against the possible failure of the Polaris ICBM, which could be launched from a submarine while it was still submerged.  After cancellation, most of the forty or so surviving Regulus II airframes were expended as target drones.

The last one built, GM-2048, flew ten drone missions including the last Regulus II flight in December 1965.  On that final flight, while at a sustained Mach 2 at 58,000 feet, five AIM-47A Falcon air-intercept missiles were launched at it by a B-58 Hustler.  All missed, and GM-2048 made an uneventful landing.  This aircraft was found damaged and stuck deep in the mud; however, the missile was restored by the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation Volunteers and is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation.


The Restored Regulus II (click photo to enlarge)

The Model

The original subsonic Regulus had received tons of publicity, showing up in many newsreels and magazines.  It even made an appearance at President Eisenhower’s inauguration.  In spite of this, Strombecker’s simple kit was the only mass-produced model of the Regulus I.  It consisted of a wooden fuselage with four pieces of bright yellow polystyrene to represent the wings, vertical tail and nose.  Strombecker also produced a similar kit of the Matador, which USAF’s competitor for the Regulus.  Dad had bought one example of each kit, with my younger brother building the Regulus while I built the Matador.  I was about six or seven years old at the time and it was one of the first models that I built.  I have vague recollections of us playing with these two models in a sandbox in the back yard, so they’re long gone.

strombecker-regulus-i.JPG  strombecker-matator.JPG

Strombecker Regulus I and Matador (click to enlarge)

But while the Regulus was to remain deployed with the Navy for nine years, it was the much sexier looking Regulus II that caught the eye of the kit manufacturers.  Aurora, Comet, Monogram and Revell all released plastic model kits in varying fit-the-box scales, and Comet even produced a gas-powered control line flying model.

aurora-132-129-regulexc.JPG aurora-378-249-reg-wlnch.JPG comet-regulus.JPG revell-h1815-79-regulusnm.JPG comet-flying-regulus.JPG

Various Regulus II Kits (click any to enlarge) 

In 1958, at about the same time that my brother and I were happily destroying the Strombecker kits, Revell released a 1/65th scale plastic model kit of the Regulus II.  Representing one of the landing gear-equipped flight test airframes, I built this kit eleven years later.  While I can’t now remember exactly how or when I came into possession of the kit, I can recall with reasonable certainty WHEN I built it.

After painting models with a brush or the occasional spray can for about ten years, I got my first airbrush in late 1968 when I was 17 years old.  It was a single action, external mix Binks Wren B, which looks and works very much like the Badger 350 or Paasche H.  It was the acquisition of this airbrush that helps me to date when I built the model.

I had received the airbrush in a trade with my slightly older cousin, giving up a 1/72nd scale Monogram B-52D kit (with authentic jet engine sound!).   I’d found the B-52s on sale at a department store in Louisville earlier that same the day for FOUR dollars each, and had bought three of them.  Even by 1968 monetary standards, this was still a great price, as I believe that they had been going for upwards of 10-12 bucks.  Are you surprised to learn that I still have the Binks, and that the remaining two B-52 kits are still in my “to do” pile?  Even at that tender age, I was able to purchase kits faster than I could build them.


1968 Monogram B-52 with Jet Sound (click to enlarge) 

At any rate, I now had the airbrush that I that had longed for, but my only source of compressed air for it was the spare tire of my recently acquired first car.  When I wanted to paint something, I’d haul the spare out of the trunk, attach the adapter and paint away… for a few minutes.  This was followed by the vigorous use of a hand powered bicycle pump to re-inflate the tire.  While this was all well and good for developing the biceps, it was a decidedly inferior way to paint.

It didn’t take me very long to modify my procedure.  On weekends, I’d pack the model, paints and the airbrush into the car and drive two miles to the Tenneco plant where my father worked.  While I still didn’t have access to a regulated air supply, I could sit at a desk in their garage and paint away.  When the pressure in my spare tire dropped too low, I could use the garage’s air compressor to refill it.  So now I could paint with less effort, albeit still with frequent interruptions.

And so it was likely that I painted this model on a Saturday afternoon in the spring of 1969.  My younger brother was building car models at the time, and he opted to let me use my new toy to paint some of the bodies for him.  I had probably painted a few of these and maybe an aeroplane model or three first, but it’s likely that the Regulus II was among the first ten or so models that I airbrushed.

regulus_01.jpg  regulus_03.jpg  regulus_04a.jpg  regulus_02.jpg

Dennis Sparks Revell Regulus II, built in about 1969 (click any photo to enlarge) 

Isn’t it weird the kind of things you remember?  I can also recall that while painting some of the smaller unattached parts I dropped one of the landing gear cover doors.  I was sitting in a desk chair, and rolled back to recover the part from the floor.  I both heard and felt a distinct “crunch” as the chair’s wheel rolled over the errant plastic, destroying it utterly.  Only mildly chagrined, I reasoned that the model would look better with both doors missing than with only one, and so promptly threw the mate away.  Hey, I didn’t know it was going to be a “classic” kit!

And while the Federal Standard system of paint colors dates from 1962, I don’t think it had found its way into plastic modeling much by 1969, and even if it had, paints formulated in the appropriate colors were not generally available in small-town Kentucky.  Hence the glossy bright blue and white color scheme, approximating the box art, using the small bottles of Testors paints (10 cents each!) purchased from the local dime store.

By the time I built it, the Regulus II kit was already over ten years old, but the decals were still perfect.  The concept of clear coating was unknown to me at the time, and so it’s perhaps fortunate that I had only glossy paints available to me.  Even now, almost forty years later, the decals still look good, with little visible silvering or yellowing.

As usual, thanks very much to Randy Fuller for taking the photos for me.