Four meg nuke was one switch away from exploding over the US in 1961…...


  • '12

    A four-megaton nuclear bomb was one switch away from exploding over the US in 1961, a newly declassified US document confirms.

    Two bombs were on board a B-52 plane that went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina - both bombs fell and one began the detonation process.

    Read more at……
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24183879


  • Moderator

    I read this article this morning, and immediately my mind thought of the "what ifs. Would make a great alternative history novel.  🙂

    You have to wonder why they didn’t take the arming devices completely out of the bomb. Perhaps my ignorance of how atomic weaponry is manufactured comes into play, but that would seem to be the most logical action when transporting ordinances across your own country, you would think taking the most precautions to prevent any such mishaps.

    GG


  • '12

    I don’t believe it was a transport mission but an armed bomber ready to go.  I’m not sure they would use a B-52 to move a bomb as cargo but ya never know.

    I find it strange how a plane just ‘starts to break up’.  But I guess it does happen.


  • '12

    If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, I’d highly recommend reading this:

    http://www.amazon.ca/15-Minutes-General-Countdown-Annihilation/dp/B009NPJ0EK

    Very detail heavy. Fascinating, well-researched. Pretty sure it goes into detail about the incident in the article, but it’s been a year or so since I read it.

    Yrs.,
    R.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    Bloody Hell Malachi!
    260 times more powerful than Hiroshima. That is a scary thought. As mentioned in the article, it would have changed history.
    Thank you.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016

    It wasn’t the first and the last incident on Americas side, also on the Russian side.
    Sometimes it looks like little kids playing with toys, Dad def. told 'em not to play with and they do it just for fun!

    Question is ,is it better to just don’t know everything??


  • '12

    Seriously, we have 6,000 years of human history without nuclear weapons

    I’m pretty sure humans AND the world have been around a bit longer than 6, 000 years……


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016

    @MrMalachiCrunch:

    Seriously, we have 6,000 years of human history without nuclear weapons

    I’m pretty sure humans AND the world have been around a bit longer than 6, 000 years……

    NOPE actually a lil less then the 6,000… 😉


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Guerrilla:

    You have to wonder why they didn’t take the arming devices completely out of the bomb. Perhaps my ignorance of how atomic weaponry is manufactured comes into play, but that would seem to be the most logical action when transporting ordinances across your own country, you would think taking the most precautions to prevent any such mishaps.Â

    When I ran into that item in a newspaper a couple of days ago, the story (as it appeared in the media’s telling of it) struck me as being both sensationalistic in tone and extremely vague on the technical details – something which isn’t uncommon in media reports.  So I appreciate the link which MalachiCrunch provided, since it eventually led me to the original two-page declassified document which was published by The Guardian.  That document itself is a bit problematic.  On the first page, the discussion by Lapp on the left side is (like the newspaper articles it inspired) both vague and dramatic, while the analysis by Jones on the right side is telegraphic in style and sarcastic in tone…so it’s hard to know how seriously to take both components.  The second page (also an analysis by Jones) is more informative and written in a more serious way – but I’m still puzzled by the suggestion that an H-bomb can arm itself by the simple action of being dropped from a plane.  I don’t have any expertise in this area, but it was always my understanding that nuclear bombs can’t function unless they’ve been specifically armed by the bomber crew, following a very precise activation sequence.  I was under the impression that, unless these arming steps are followed by the crew, the worse that can happen in an accident involving an H-bomb is for its conventional explosive charge (which will initiate the nuclear explosion if the bomb is properly armed) to detonate, with the result that the plutonium in the warhead will be scattered into the environment.  This happened to two of the H-bombs that fell on Palomares in 1966: they produced radioactive contamination, but there was no nuclear explosion.


  • '12

    NOPE actually a lil less then the 6,000…

    Oh I see where I made my math mistake, I forgot to ‘borrow’ one from the right hand column.  Hence a bit more becomes a bit less……  😄

    but I’m still puzzled by the suggestion that an H-bomb can arm itself by the simple action of being dropped from a plane.

    I don’t like that one either as it would mean anytime a plane crashed or engaged in sever violent maneuvers the nukes could go off.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @rjpeters70:

    That’s largely right.  For a weapon to detonate, you have to have the conventional fire triggers detonate simultaneously.  Otherwise, you get at best a fissile (a sub-kiloton detonation, that’s basically like a large conventional explosion), or far more likely, the conventional explosives go off and you’ve got some spreading of fissile material over a finite piece of geography.  Most nuclear powers have “lost” some nuclear weapons, mostly during the cold war.  None of them have ever “accidently” detonated.  There’s more than a bit of sensationalism to this story.

    Yes. A more restrained – but still adequately attention-grabbing – way for the papers to have told the story would have been for them to point out that a non-nuclear detonation of the conventional explosive charge of the two bombs would have produced radioactive contamination.  In essence, this would have been the equivalent of the detonation on American soil of two radiological dispersion weapons, a.k.a. a dirty bombs.  They apparently landed close to the small town of Faro, about a dozen miles from Goldsboro, N.C.


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    During the cold war, America had live nukes in the air at ALL times.

    Part of “Strategic Air Command”.

    Basically it was a strategic deterrent against the Russians.  The russians knew that even if they got ALL of the missles on the ground that there were still bombers already in the air and ready to make nuclear runs on russia.

    This also drastically cut down on american response time, as the bombers were always ready to go over the arctic circle at a moments notice.

    It was quite an ingenious strategy really.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The USAF and the RCAF/CFAC also had some nuclear-tipped air-to-air weapons in their inventories, such as the AIR-2 Genie.  Canada had them as late as 1984; they were carried by CF-101 Voodoo interceptors.  They were officially under US control, but they could be released for use by Canada as circumstances warranted.

    In addition to the two big components of the nuclear triad that have already been mentioned – the land-based ballistic missiles and the manned SAC bombers – there was also the third component, the US Navy’s ballistic missile subs.  At the opposite end of the scale, the US nuclear inventory includes – if I’m not mistaken – man-portable nuclear demolition charges, designed for things like special commando-type operations.  I think a weapon of this type is featured in the 1977 motion picture thriller Twilight’s Last Gleaming.


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