Soviet Nuclear Weapons: Tsar Bomb

Americans invited Soviet observers to attend to test of a nuclear bomb so that Russians finally realized who holds a “Big Stick”, but a few years later Russians didn’t have to invite anyone to their tests – about the explosion of the “Tsar Bomb” the whole world found out know without any help.

The arms race of the capitalist and the socialist worlds, but rather the United States and the Soviet Union, was gaining momentum.

None of the recent allies in the World War II wanted to be behind.

The United State, which dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that led to massive civilian casualties, did not want to stop. The USSR that was in the role of a pursuer tried to demonstrate once and for all that the threats with nuclear weapons for them were meaningless which required it not just to develop nuclear weapons, but to surpass everything that the United States could do.

And the Soviet Union has successfully accomplished it by creating a powerful thermonuclear bomb, which was nicknamed “Tsar Bomb” or “Kuzka’s mother” (derived from the expression of the then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev). Also the bomb was known as “Ivan”.

Reducing the Size of a Thermonuclear Bomb

Tests of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, carried out by the United States on the Marshall Islands, led to serious radioactive contamination not only of the test sites, but also around the world. It was estimated that the level of contamination was comparable or higher than Chernobyl contamination.

Soviet scientists wanted to avoid such contamination, so instead of a uranium shell for “Tsar Bomb” they used lead, which reduced the planned capacity of the bomb approximately in half (from 100 megatons to 50 megatons), but at the same time it reduced the radioactive contamination by about 40 (!) times.

Additionally, because of the enormous power (100 megatons) such a bomb could lead to unpredictable consequences for the Earth. So they didn’t dare to test this bomb fully.

In addition, the estimated damage radius would be about 1,000 kilometers. It would have required an unprecedented evacuation of the population, even from these less populated northern regions. Plus, there was a real risk of losing a number of strategic enterprises. Yet getting further into the Antarctic for testing was also very expensive, besides there was a possibility of a negative reaction by the international community on the explosion in international waters.

As a result, they stopped at a computational power of the bomb of 50 megatons, but the real power of the bomb was estimated at noless than 57 megatons.

We said that we have a bomb of 100 [megatons] … And this is true. But we were not going to explode such a bomb, because if we did blow it up even in the most remote places, we can knock out the windows in our place too … But, as I said before, God forbid, that we never have to explode these bombs anywhere. This is the biggest dream of our life!

Nikita Khrushchev

The Explosion of the Thermonuclear Bomb “Kuzka’s Mother”

In 1961, on the weapons range in the area of ​​the New Earth was carried out an air burst of a thermonuclear bomb.

The bomb was delivered to the location on an aircraft Tu-95 by throwing it at an altitude of about 12,000 meters on a powerful parachute (the bomb’s weight was 26 tons). Parachute was required to remove the aircraft carrier from the bomb on a safe distance, although it was a matter of minutes. At an altitude of 4000 meters the bomb was detonated, and the aircraft which was flying at high speed, in that time managed to move away for about several dozen kilometers, yet aluminum parts of the aircraft still melted from the radiation, and the plane was strongly shaken several times by the blast.

Recording of the explosion from a flying laboratory

Kiss of Death

At the site of the explosion an unprecedented in size atomic “mushroom” was formed. It reached unimaginable 65 kilometers in height and 95 kilometers in width.

Everything that was left for conducting the test within dozens of kilometers from the epicenter of the explosion (machinery, buildings) was completely destroyed.

Low-frequency rumble shook people up even at a distance of hundreds of kilometers from the epicenter of the explosion.

Everyone who was closer than several hundred kilometers from the epicenter received third-degree burns.

The shock wave, which even hundreds of kilometers away from the explosion site threw people to the ground circled the globe more than once.

Comparison of the power of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki (`Fat Man`) and on the New Earth (`Ivan`)

Comparison of the power of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki (“Fat Man”) – is marked by an arrow, and on the New Earth (“Ivan”) – marked red

What’s Next

After a successful testing the development of 1,000 megatons bomb began. But it was not quite clear what to do with it. It was assumed that exploding it in the ocean at high depths will generate a tsunami of height of about … 500 meters, which would cause great damage to the coastal partof the Americas. At the same time it would have also washed away Japan and the Soviet Far East and Kamchatka. The actual calculations have shown that the damage will be done only to a small depth, not more than 2-5 km from the coast.

In addition it was planned to deliver the bomb with a torpedo. But this plan was quickly abandoned – low speed and a high possibility of interception.

Still, ballistic missiles as carriers of 25 + ton bombs were still developed. It is believed that they are now widely known under the name of … “Proton”. Yes, yes, those very reliable “Protons”, which these days ensure injecting into orbit of the Earth of cargo, and most importantly, astronauts from around the world.

In addition, some authors attribute to Andrei Sakharov the idea of ​​installing several high power thermonuclear weapons (200-500 megatons) along the coast of the United States. It was supposed to cool off some hot heads and stop the arms race.

The Results of the Development of Thermonuclear Arms

Of course, the creation of the “Tsar Bomb” has shown that the USSR could not only form its nuclear shield, but also had much more powerful weapons than the United States.

But, oddly enough, the emergence of such high-powered weapons has led to the realization that it is impossible to use.

Indeed, according to forecasts, exploding only part of the accumulated nuclear weapons by any country would transform the entire Earth for many years into the icy wilderness. And people who would survive in bunkers immured under a few hundred meters of thick layer of formed ice would soon envy the dead.

And it would not even matter where nuclear warheads will be detonated: on the territory of the enemy, or even on your own territory. The result for the whole of humanity will be the same: it will cease to exist.

Accordingly, the global powers that possessed nuclear weapons, during times of conflicts moved from a military plane to different methods of war, for example, economic or informational.

Prospects of the Bomb “Ivan”

Oddly enough, but this super-bomb has real prospects.

By some estimates, even the current generation will have to face asteroid danger that will threatenthe lives of millions of people.

In this sense, projects to use powerful thermonuclear charge to destructa massive asteroid are very, very promising.


To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev


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