"Flashback:" Americas Tsar Bomb

Orionblamblam

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Well, I'll be dipped. Looky here what we done built:

Flashback-2.jpg


More images and data and blathering here:

http://www.aerospaceprojectsreview.com/blog/?p=3266
 
I wonder what warhead package that was supposed to use. Given that we already had the 25 Mt B41 available I wonder what the yield of this thing would have been.
 
If it is what it certainly looks like, it's probably the end result of the desire for a 50 to 100 megaton lay-down weapon.Prior to this, though, that concept only seemed to be some hand waving in some memos, so... who knows.
 
Orionblamblam said:
If it is what it certainly looks like, it's probably the end result of the desire for a 50 to 100 megaton lay-down weapon.Prior to this, though, that concept only seemed to be some hand waving in some memos, so... who knows.
This was from Congressional Testimony I posted on another thread (can't remember where I found it originally)

Pastore: Do you see any military need for a 50- or 75-megaton bomb?

LeMay: Yes, sir; I do. The Joint Chiefs have already recommended we go ahead with the development work on a large-yield bomb.

Pastore: Is this a new policy?

LeMay: It is not new as far as I am concerned. I asked for, the Air Force asked for, a high-yield bomb as early as 1954 We have discussed for a long period of time the requirement for a very large-yield weapon, and there has always been a difference of opinion about whether we should have it or not where you could do just as well with smaller weapons… In addition to that, just the mere fact that the Russians will have one will, I think, be a strong psychological factor if we don’t have one, too
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That very interesting find
i always wonder why the US not react on mother of all H-Bombs
seems they have
since the US were more advance in compact nuclear weapon design as USSR in 1960s
i suspect that Flashback could have be bigger in yield, but

how fast can a B-52 escape the blast radius of this monster ?
the T-95 that drop the Tsar bomb just able to escape it's blast narrowly
This could give a indication how big the yield on Flashback could be

Another indication on Yield is size on Test Vehicle of 1935 cu ft. used in Flashback drop test
what US warhead fit into that volume with additional layer of fission / fusion material ?
 
bobbymike said:
Didn't Edward Teller want to put 1000 Mt bomb on a ship and sail them into Soviet ports?

I'm not sure about that, but I do know that the reason the first British nuclear test, Operation Hurricane which involved the detonation of a bomb mounted inside a ship, was to provide test data on just what would happen if a nuclear weapon was detonated aboard a ship in port (Previous tests were over ground using bombs on towers or air-bursts.).

The basic idea turns up fictionally in one of the novels I covered on my fictional warships list 'A Frenzy of Merchentmen' (1977) by Brian Callison, but the ship in that novel is only carrying a 50mt weapon.
 
Michel Van said:
i suspect that Flashback could have be bigger in yield, but

how fast can a B-52 escape the blast radius of this monster ?
the T-95 that drop the Tsar bomb just able to escape it's blast narrowly
This could give a indication how big the yield on Flashback could be
Just a guess, but I imagine the sort of apocalyptic scenario that demands sending pilots off to drop something of this yield doesn't necessarily prioritize a return flight after delivery.
 
_Del_ said:
Just a guess, but I imagine the sort of apocalyptic scenario that demands sending pilots off to drop something of this yield doesn't necessarily prioritize a return flight after delivery.

And yet the biggest, most powerful aircraft deliverable H-bombs came equipped with parachutes specifically to slow them down and give the aircrew a chance of escape. What was wanted by many was a 50-100 megaton laydown weapon that would actually plop down onto the ground and sit there for some time (maybe up to a minute) while the plane skedaddled. Imagine going about your day and having an H-bomb crash into the town square and just sit there like a turd in the punchbowl. Wouldn't be a whole lot of point in panicking, but witnesses would do just that.

As a sad update, it turns out that the nose of this thing is a *real* close match to the Titan II RV in terms of conical angle and max diameter. The nose radius is noticeably bigger, but it sure seems like this thing might be an existing RV with a tail bolted onto it. That would argue against it being a new giant bomb... but I can't guess what it argues *for* it being.
 
The wedge fins (on the image in the link) look very X15;- Does this indicate a very high speed, high altitude stability requirement? in which case the body behind the conical W41 would be a big solid fuel rocket. This would be to high loft the the W41 away from the B52.

Maybe a means to test the W41 or an EMP experiment?
 
Orionblamblam said:
_Del_ said:
Imagine going about your day and having an H-bomb crash into the town square and just sit there like a turd in the punchbowl. Wouldn't be a whole lot of point in panicking, but witnesses would do just that.

Even somebody in a Veyron with a straight, smooth road out of town wouldn't be able to get away fast enough. Now if you had a trooper with a 50 BMG (or a Javelin), maybe you could disable it.
 
Obb said:
And yet the biggest, most powerful aircraft deliverable H-bombs came equipped with parachutes specifically to slow them down and give the aircrew a chance of escape.

I don't think B83's were going to be pulled off B-52's because of parachute issues if the balloon goes up. I think the mission took priority over egress. Regardless, trying to determine yield by B-52 speed seems pretty futile, in large parts for the reasons you listed above.
 
Zootycoon said:
The wedge fins (on the image in the link) look very X15;- Does this indicate a very high speed, high altitude stability requirement?

Unlikely. Just about *all* the fat, tubby H-bombs used wedge fins, such as thr B53 (the freefall, aircraft-dropped bomb that used the same "physics package" as the W53 warhead within the Titan II RV):

Inspection_of_B53_nuclear_bomb_2006.jpg


Such fins were common on the "fat" H-bombs that were exceedingly draggy, meant to be carried withing the bomb bay of a giant aircraft like the B-36 or B-52. When smaller aircraft started externally carrying smaller, sleeker H-bombs like the B61, those bombs were given low drag thin fins.


in which case the body behind the conical W41 would be a big solid fuel rocket.

Nope. Parachute package, not rocket. Intended to:
1: Give the aircrew a chance of escape
2: Allow the bomb to impact softly enough to survive the experience.

A "laydown" weapon like that is your best bet for trashing underground reinforced structures. "Bunker buster" nukes were not yet available;if you hit the ground hard enough to penetrate, using one of the older, huger H-bomb designs, you'd smash the thing to bits. So a laydown bomb would put the bomb right on the surface for maximum ground shock and cratering. Air burts are minimally effective for underground reinforced targets.

This assumes that the Flashback is in fact meant to be a bomb designed to blow stuff up...

Maybe a means to test the W41 or an EMP experiment?
[/quote]

That's an open question.Given that one of the other units hauled down to Johnston Atoll was the undefined "EMPTV," and since I can't guess what the EMP stands for beyond electromagnetic pulse, *perhaps* the Flashback was designed to be dropped from a B-52, dangle from a chute, and then either generate an EMP, or be subjected to one. Given the late date of the experiment - September 67 - it clearly wasn't a nuclear air burst.
 
I've received confirmation: Flashback was indeed a test article for a 50 to 100 megaton can of nukular whoopass.

Right at one week after my B-52 book went to print. Ah, well.
If you didn't have bad luck you wouldn't have any luck at all. :(
 
I've received confirmation: Flashback was indeed a test article for a 50 to 100 megaton can of nukular whoopass.

Right at one week after my B-52 book went to print. Ah, well.
If you didn't have bad luck you wouldn't have any luck at all. :(
Update: I've actually got a few days to make minor revisions to the text. Woo. Won't be the complete story... that's coming out later this month in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, but at least I'll be able to say some things with certainty. such as: the USSR was not alone in working on insanely powerful H-bombs.
 
Updated update: revised text for my B-52 book has been sent to the publisher, just under the wire (hopefully). So rather than speculating that the US had its own Tsar Bomba under development, I state flat out that we did. BLAMMO!

I also have design info on a separate design for a ginormous B-52 bellystuffer of an H-Bomb, but I'll leave that to the feller who's writing about it for the BotAS.
 
Didn't Edward Teller want to put 1000 Mt bomb on a ship and sail them into Soviet ports?
Teller wanted to build a really, really big bomb. Like, that was the man's goal and things like "delivery" or "sanity" didn't enter the equation (and it's been argued that the supergiant 1000Mt GNOMON and SUNDIAL concepts were to troll his oversight committee as much as anything else).

But uh...damn, the navalized idea is giving me some nightmarish thoughts. Forget SSBNs, a couple high-endurance deepwater UUVs with warheads of that scale would be pretty well the ultimate Dead Hand system. Which is probably more or less what the Russians are going for with KANYON/Status-6/whatever other names that thing has picked up, albeit on a less insane scale.
 
Didn't Edward Teller want to put 1000 Mt bomb on a ship and sail them into Soviet ports?
Teller wanted to build a really, really big bomb. Like, that was the man's goal and things like "delivery" or "sanity" didn't enter the equation (and it's been argued that the supergiant 1000Mt GNOMON and SUNDIAL concepts were to troll his oversight committee as much as anything else).

But uh...damn, the navalized idea is giving me some nightmarish thoughts. Forget SSBNs, a couple high-endurance deepwater UUVs with warheads of that scale would be pretty well the ultimate Dead Hand system. Which is probably more or less what the Russians are going for with KANYON/Status-6/whatever other names that thing has picked up, albeit on a less insane scale.
There’s a book idea. Russia loses track (hackers maybe or faulty command code) of a super stealthy near impossible to track UUV with a 500Mt hydrogen bomb onboard. It is programmed to hit a major world port in a week and the world’s Navies have to track it down before disaster strikes.
 
Teller wanted to build a really, really big bomb. Like, that was the man's goal and things like "delivery" or "sanity" didn't enter the equation (and it's been argued that the supergiant 1000Mt GNOMON and SUNDIAL concepts were to troll his oversight committee as much as anything else).
They weren't. They were supposed to be "skyburner" bomb, detonating in space over enemy territory. The massive flux of X-rays superheated the atmosphere below, turning it into a plasma and essentially creating a pancake-shaped fireball over significant territory. The damage to the surface was supposed to be done by thermal emission of the flat fireball alone. No radioactive contamination, no fallout. Just pure thermal radiation, incinerating everything on surface.
 
Updated update: revised text for my B-52 book has been sent to the publisher, just under the wire (hopefully). So rather than speculating that the US had its own Tsar Bomba under development, I state flat out that we did. BLAMMO!
Problem is, that there isn't apparent hole in US nuclear devices (including cancelled ones) designations. The only explanation I could suggest is that some cancelled designation - Mk-46 seems to roughly fit at least by time period, if not the year - was confused in open sources, or re-used after initial project was cancelled.
 
I've received confirmation: Flashback was indeed a test article for a 50 to 100 megaton can of nukular whoopass
My suspicion is, that it was probably a suggested modification of one of existing bombs in a new, enlarged body, attempted mainly as proof of concept. This would explain the lack of Mk-number. Apparently the device either failed or was cancelled early in development, and only new body was constructed.

My speculation is that USAF leadership was so fascinated by our Tsar-bomba test, that they demanded a comparable device to be prepared for "demonstration". The device most likely was purely experimental, one of the kind solution on the base of existing fusion bomb/warhead. Since its quite obvious that B-52 with giant bomb stuckin out of bomb bay would not have range/capabilities to reach target, it aas most likely intended as "we have it also" trick.

Apparently cooler heads prevailed, and the device was scrapped.
 
Updated update: revised text for my B-52 book has been sent to the publisher, just under the wire (hopefully). So rather than speculating that the US had its own Tsar Bomba under development, I state flat out that we did. BLAMMO!
Problem is, that there isn't apparent hole in US nuclear devices (including cancelled ones) designations. The only explanation I could suggest is that some cancelled designation - Mk-46 seems to roughly fit at least by time period, if not the year - was confused in open sources, or re-used after initial project was cancelled.
it *seems* that this particular nuke was intended to be built and tested *only* if the Soviets broke the Partial Test Ban Treaty and set off an H-Bomb in the air. After they ended a prior moratorium against testing nukes by setting off the Tsar bomb, it was reasonable to expect that the Soviets would do something like that again. After the stink the US raised after Tsar, it would have looked bad if the US set off one of their own... *but* if this occurred *after* yet more Soviet shenanigans, it wouldn't look so bad. As time went on and the Soviets persisted in not violating the treaty, Flashback was less and less relevant and useful, and it was best if it was simply memory-holed.

Preceding is largely speculation on my part.
 
it *seems* that this particular nuke was intended to be built and tested *only* if the Soviets broke the Partial Test Ban Treaty and set off an H-Bomb in the air
Which confirm my suspicion that this most likely was a purely "show" project, and refit of the existing bomb rather than new development. This way we could explain lack of any official designations.
 
it *seems* that this particular nuke was intended to be built and tested *only* if the Soviets broke the Partial Test Ban Treaty and set off an H-Bomb in the air
Which confirm my suspicion that this most likely was a purely "show" project, and refit of the existing bomb rather than new development. This way we could explain lack of any official designations.
My understanding is that there is evidence that a ~100 megaton physics package was developed or was in development. This was not a development of an existing bomb, but something all new. However, if it was meant to remain secret unless under specific circumstances, there would have been no official designation for it until and unless it went public.

As to whether it was a "show" project, developing an entirely new and rather remarkable H-Bomb is a hell of a chore. Doubtless some authorities saw it as a dick-wagging exercise, but also certainly there were those who thought that Flashback or BTV would have been valid deliverable weapons of war.
 
My understanding is that there is evidence that a ~100 megaton physics package was developed or was in
In development, most likely.

This was not a development of an existing bomb, but something all new.
Unlikely. In that case, such project would have Mk-number designation. Also, it doesn't exactly fit with the massive device stuckig out of B-52 bomb bay; the "all new" bomb would likely be developed in more practical body.


As to whether it was a "show" project, developing an entirely new and rather remarkable H-Bomb is a hell of a chore. Doubtless some authorities saw it as a dick-wagging exercise, but also certainly there were those who thought that Flashback or BTV would have been valid deliverable weapons of war
Again, that's why I think it was a jury-rigged refit of existing weapon, placed in a new body. The body on the photo is clearly military useless; it could not be delivered on any practical distance against any realistic opposition. But if we assume that it was merely a new package for existing fusion bomb, boosted to 100+ megatons, it all would fit rather nicely. The bulky tail would be needed to fit additional fusion fuel.
 
This is just an observation of the photo above. I can see the main toggle strap around the middle, but I can also see a 'come-along' holding the rear end up. The brackets the come-along is attached to look temporary which would suggest to me the front end of the bomb is empty --- would what's shown just be a trial fit-up of the bomb shape to the aircraft.
 
bobbymike said:
Didn't Edward Teller want to put 1000 Mt bomb on a ship and sail them into Soviet ports?

I'm not sure about that, but I do know that the reason the first British nuclear test, Operation Hurricane which involved the detonation of a bomb mounted inside a ship, was to provide test data on just what would happen if a nuclear weapon was detonated aboard a ship in port (Previous tests were over ground using bombs on towers or air-bursts.).

The basic idea turns up fictionally in one of the novels I covered on my fictional warships list 'A Frenzy of Merchentmen' (1977) by Brian Callison, but the ship in that novel is only carrying a 50mt weapon.
You wouldn’t even need that.
Have three ships. A VLCC on one side of an ANFO freighter, and an LNG carrier on the other side. Grandcamp on steroids.
 

Yes, Alex Wellerstein (Associate Professor and Director of the Science and Technology Studies program at the Stevens Institute of Technology) just published a long form article "An Unearthly Spectacle, The untold story of the world's biggest nuclear bomb" (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 29, 2021) dealing with this subject.

The article is not only an account of the Soviet 1961 50 MT atmospheric test but also describes U.S. efforts and considerations, prior and in reaction to the test, about large yield nuclear weapons. At the time the logic of sizing weapons was popularly fairly well known, or at least knowable, from open sources in the media. Much of the strategic thinking and many technological solutions were of course classified. Some of it remains so but nonetheless Wellerstein manages to draw a very convincing picture of U.S efforts in addition to the Soviet ones.

Developments of the Mark 41, a project called RIPPLE, BTV (Big Test Vehicle) and Flashback are all featured (possibly more that I can't remember from a single reading).

(Note, I haven't followed this thread but sought it out since I remembered seeing a reference to "Flashback" somewhere around here)

 
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Weird pick-up from Reference 38 in Wellerstein's article:

For your information, specific systems for which possible future requiremens were considered are:
a. High yield FUFO bomb for the B-52 aircraft,
b. High yield warhead for TITAN II (without re-entry), and
c. High yield warheads and bombs for TITAN III, Saturn and the C-133B
High-yield bomb on the B-52? Sure. Makes sense.

Titan II? Why not. No re-entry is weird, maybe intended as a dedicated HEMP system to blind Soviet defences or some such thing. Or maybe the RV would be developed separately.

Titan III and Saturn? Well, that's stretching it (especially a Saturn-based ICBM in 1962) but not beyond the realms of sanity.

But the C-133B as a nuclear delivery system? Really? It's a freaking turboprop-powered, straight-winged airlifter! I get that they were looking at inherently bulky weapons, but still - at that point you may as well stick a stamp on the thing and let the Post Office deliver it.

Looking at the weapons, the proposed 'first generation' high-yield weapons were to be extrapolations of existing weapon design practices, hence why they could be deployed quickly (1-3 years) at low risk. Best guess is that the 'clean' version of the LASL one would come in at around 30 megatons. Test shots were proposed, with the 'clean' version of the full-yield weapon to be tested apparently somehow different from either the 'clean' deployable weapon or its' respective test version.

The 'second-generation' ones seem to be along the lines of the RIPPLE devices, and would therefore require further development, with at least two atmospheric tests for each weapon. At least four years would be needed to develop these. This generation seems to correspond to the oft-quoted 35 megaton Titan II warhead, which would need to achieve 12 kilotons/kilogram.

Applying that yield/weight ratio to the two 'second-generation' weights (18,000lb and 2,000lb) cited gives 100 megatons and 10 megatons. The former has consistently been a target for a high-yield weapon, and the latter yield is pretty consistent for a 'mass market' thermonuclear weapon. Given that a diameter for the larger one is cited as 'in excess of 80 inches', and not fitting into a B-52 weapons bay... yeah, that sounds like FLASHBACK.
 
Titan II? Why not. No re-entry is weird, maybe intended as a dedicated HEMP system to blind Soviet defences or some such thing. Or maybe the RV would be developed separately.
Further reading on RIPPLE is informative here: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/794729/pdf

The 35-megaton Titan warhead was seen as a response to Soviet ABM systems: penetration aids could help get down to 50,000 feet, but any lower was seen as uncertain. To achieve similar destructive effect to a lower-yield device bursting at lower altitude, it was calculated that 35 megatons was the lowest feasible yield.

Also interesting is that the RIPPLE concept was inherently clean, as well as theoretically achieving very high yield/weight ratios, at the expense of low density. This is because the concept is 'essentially a nuclear driven, scaled-up, high-gain ICF fusion explosion', where a fission 'spark plug' and tamper (fissile or otherwise) are not just unnecessary but actively undesirable. It is suggested that a 10-15 kiloton fission primary would suffice for a RIPPLE device with a yield of at least 15 megatons, potentially even as high as 40 megatons.

High neutron output would also make such a device well suited to power generation or asteroid deflection - and, implicitly, as pulse units for a large Orion spacecraft.
 
But the C-133B as a nuclear delivery system? Really? It's a freaking turboprop-powered, straight-winged airlifter!
Having no further information than that one line, I might *speculate* that the idea might have been a "Aphrodite" C-133, flying unmanned and guided by another aircraft at a distance... or perhaps simply guiding itself as a gigantic cruise missile. *Perhaps* it would be given a large number of SRAM/Quail/Hound Dog-like missiles to scatter megaton-class kablams before it to trash the air defense systems to allow it to trundle on through.
 
Having no further information than that one line, I might *speculate* that the idea might have been a "Aphrodite" C-133, flying unmanned and guided by another aircraft at a distance... or perhaps simply guiding itself as a gigantic cruise missile.
Yes, that's my best guess too. Still, one would have thought that a glorified cruise missile (or is that a 'suicide drone' these days?) which had a fighting chance of getting through defences was more useful. Given the thoughts of the day around strategic SEAD, it's possible the air defences would have been trashed by the preceding Minutemen, or the thundering herd of B-52s.... I think this was before McNamara (fleas be upon him) totally gutted the bomber force.
 
Now, the MIKE test looked more powerful than the Tzar bomb. The central debris column looked narrow like an atomic annie shell. Then too-all rockets look the same size when framed up in the camera. So, are my eyes just fooling me-or is footage from other tests get mixed in by mistake?
 


 

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