The Terrifying Tale of How Soviet scientists Exploded the Biggest Hydrogen Bomb Ever

Owm Reporter: Technology Desk, Ashik Khan, Dhaka Office: -Big Ivan changed into a one-off, essentially a technical stunt. There are suggestions that the easy 50-megaton design was taken into consideration for weaponization, but nothing concrete.

Curiously enough, at about the identical time American nuclear weaponeers had, according to Alex Wallerstein, arrived at step forward high-yield bomb designs. Had atmospheric nuclear checking out persevered america may have tested a one hundred-megaton weapon half the load of Big Ivan—light enough to simply combat with.

On July 10, 1961 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev summoned the U.S.’s pinnacle nuclear weaponeers and told them to promptly resume nuclear testing. After roughing up America’s young new President Kennedy at a Vienna summit in June, Khrushchev became in a temper, in step with Andrei Sakharov, to “show the imperialists what we can do.”


For years even as their u . S . A . Joined america and the United Kingdom in a voluntary moratorium on nuclear assessments, Soviet nuclear scientists, including Andrei Sakharov, the “father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb,” advanced and subtle new weapon standards and designs. Now they needed to supply huge outcomes in very short order. Khrushchev desired a political spectacle to shock and awe the West, and it had higher cross proper.

The Communist Party’s twenty second Congress in October 1961 required something unique. It is not clear who proposed a 100-megaton bomb—Khrushchev or the weaponeers—however on the most effective’s command the most powerful nuclear weapon ever constructed had to be equipped in only 4 months.

Such a large bomb came about simplest due to the fact Soviet scientists had an amazing idea about how to continue. As Carey Sublette of the Nuclear Weapons Archive website explains, “It is safe to count on that the one hundred Mt bomb become a totally conservative layout – one which pushed no technical envelopes store for length. The two main reasons for wondering this are the extraordinarily compressed development agenda, and the very high profile of the take a look at.”

High-profile indeed. Khrushchev’s next pass got here on August 13, 1961, whilst East Germany started erecting the Berlin Wall. On August 31 the Premier announced the large new bomb and the abrupt cease to the united states’s voluntary moratorium; a Soviet atmospheric nuclear check followed the day after. The US replied in type inside the month.

With the Cold War escalating no time changed into spared. Andrei Sakharov’s group at Arzamas-sixteen, the “USSR’s Los Alamos,” skipped the cautious mathematical analysis require for H-bomb design and labored out “Big Ivan” on the fly the use of approximations. At the time the biggest tool the Soviets had tested yielded a good deal decrease, so as to reap 100 megatons Sakharov’s crew used clustering and staging.

By ganging together 8 or extra smaller H-bombs and mating them to clusters of thermonuclear fuel capsules, a simply massive bomb could be built without any new era. The resulting weapon changed into substantial, an unsophisticated kludge however a strong one. It had to be—failure turned into not an alternative.

It even gave the look of a bomb was presupposed to—simply lots, tons bigger. Like Russia’s gigantic Tsar Bell and Tsar Cannon, this would be the Tsar Bomb.

Multi-megaton thermonuclear weapons rely on staging. A first-level fission tool generates the warmth, strain and radiation to ignite nuclear fusion in a 2d-level fuel vessel, and the extra fusion gas, the bigger the reaction. A 0.33 level can be delivered by using cladding the second stage in guns-grade uranium steel—the fusion response induces nuclear fission inside the uranium cladding and adds many megatons of yield. All-up 3-stage thermonuclear guns may be very dirty bombs, with more than half of their strength coming from fission—resulting in good sized quantities of fallout.

The gigantic weapon—over 26 ft lengthy, almost seven feet in diameter and 27 heaps mass—become designed, engineered and fabricated all of sudden. Assembly and factor checking out came about interior a workshop constructed over a railroad flatcar. When it become equipped a locomotive towed it to the airfield for loading into a specifically-modified Tupolev Tu-95N “Bear A” bomber.

Painted a unique white reflective white to reduce flash damage from the explosion, the big Tu-95N turboprop bomber changed into nonetheless too small to carry Big Ivan internally. Its bomb bay doors had been removed and sections of fuselage cut away to mount the bomb midway in the aircraft, like a massive engorged remora.

For the transport plane to get away from the blast thoroughly the bomb’s fall had to be slowed; slowing a boxcar-sized object full of uranium and metallic from aviation speeds required a parachute of imperial scale. Big Ivan’s drag chute consumed most of the united states’s nylon output for 1961, leaving New Soviet Women to grumble about hosiery as one greater factor the workers’ paradise lacked.

On October 30, 1961, under the watchful however remote eyes of State Commission Chairman Major General Nikolai Pavlov and a host of dignitaries 600 miles away, the pregnant-searching white Tu-95N and an Tu-16 airborne lab plowed their way closer to Novaya Zemlya, a massive icebound island in the Arctic Ocean.

As the plane approached the Mityushikha Bay check variety, Major Andrei Durnovtsev and his group checked their gadgets and donned heavy goggles. At 11:32 am Moscow time the Tu-95N released its weapon then climbed and banked sharply. The Tsar Bomb fell to its glory, its oddly glossy locomotive-sized mass trailing its significant parachute as it dropped in the direction of floor 0.

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