Key Point: The USS Halibut conducted some of the most secretive spy missions of the Cold War.
One of the most unusual submarines of the Cold War was named after one of the most unusual fish in the sea. Halibut are flatfish, bottom-dwelling predators that, unlike conventional fish, lie sideways with two eyes on the same side of the head and ambush passing prey.
Like the halibut flatfish, USS Halibut was an unusual-looking submarine, and also spent a considerable amount of time on the ocean floor. Halibut was a “spy sub,” and conducted some of the most classified missions of the entire Cold War.
USS Halibut was built as one of the first of the U.S. Navy’s long-range missile ships. The submarine was the first built from the ground up to carry the Regulus II missile, a large, turbojet-powered cruise missile. The missile was designed to be launched from the deck of a submarine, with a ramp leading down into the bow of the ship, where a total of five missiles were stored. This resulted in an unusual appearance, likened to a “snake digesting a big meal.” Halibut also had six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes, but as a missile sub, would only use torpedoes in self-defense.