Meet USS Halibat: The Navy Submarine That Launched An Intelligence Coup Against Russia

Key point: Espionage sometimes requires risky maneuvers. 

Since 2015, there have been reports of Russian submarines and spy ships trawling the waters near the ocean-spanning underwater fiber-optic cables vital to trans-oceanic Internet access. In fact, reported activity by spy ship Yartar off the U.S. nuclear-armed submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia is likely in search of secret military cables used exclusively by the Pentagon.

The Russians might be interested in hacking into those cables because the U.S. Navy pulled off such an exploit forty-six years earlier using a specially-modified spy submarine, a nuclear-powered wiretap, and some helium-swilling aquanauts.

The Halibut, Missile-Sub Turned Spy Submarine

Commissioned in 1960, the USS Halibut was a one-of-a-kind nuclear-powered submarine designed to launch Regulus II nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. The 5,000-ton submarine housed two 17.5-meter-long Regulus II missiles in a grotesquely bulged hangar on her foredeck. The missiles were launched while surfaced from a hydraulically extended ramp to strike targets up to 1,150 miles away.

However, by the time the Halibut entered service, the Navy had developed the Polaris, the U.S.s first Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile, which could be fired from underwater into space to strike target nearly 3,000 miles away. The obsolete Regulus II was canceled a year before the Halibut was commissioned in 1960, and the submarine spent four years lugging five older Regulus I missiles on deterr....

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