UK Thermonuclear Warheads.

JFC Fuller

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Prior to the abandoning of truly indigenous British nuclear warheads in 1958/1959 and the adoption of the US Mk28 and its associated technology in various guises as Red Snow all the way through to the WE.177 series the UK pursued its own megaton Thermonuclear weapons warheads.

Amongst these were the Granite series including the two highest yielding UK nuclear warheads exploded under the test names Flag Pole 1 and Halliard 1 detonated on 2nd and 11th September 1958 respectively. Both were air dropped and the former was delivered using Blind Bombing techniques and was just 95 yards from the intended target. The yields of these weapons were approximately 2.5-3 megatons and they were tested as part of the Grapple Z series of tests. What I am curious about is what their store weight would have been, I believe that they were derived from the Granite family.

The Granite family was first tested in 1957 under the original Grapple series, however the tests were less than successful and a final 1957 test was rushed under the designation Grapple X using a device called 'Round C', this produced 1.8 megaton. It had been envisaged that the Granite family would provide yields between 1 and 4 megatons.

Clearly the UK would have moved to turn these into operational warheads and I cite three pieces of evidence for this, firstly these warheads were pursued in the first place, secondly there were plans for further Grapple tests (M, N and O) scheduled for 1959 and 1960 that were cancelled and thirdly by 1957 the ministry was hoping to use Granite type warheads in Yellow Sun Stage 2 and by 1958 there were serious studies to use the Granite type in Blue Steel and discussions were underway about using it in Blue Streak (though Red Snow was chosen for obvious reasons in all cases).

Clearly there would have been a lot of refinement and modification to the design but the best indication we have of the store size of this weapon is from the first Granite type tests. Green Granite in 1957. It weighed 10,000lbs and was 8ft long with a diameter of 48 inches, about the same diameter as Yellow Sun but considerably shorter, less than half the length, although if this is the physics package only and not the complete casing it would probably fit nicely in the Yellow Sun Mk1 casing. This particular weapon was never tested but multiple derivatives were. As a comparison, Orange Herald had a store weight of 4,500lbs and was the warhead planned for Blue Streak at one point and for the Avro 730 in the form of Blue Rosette. It was tested at 720kt.

If anybody knows where there might be information, or already has some, related to the devices detonated in Flag Pole 1 and Haliard I would really appreciate it, especially anything about the store weight and dimensions.

The best sources for UK Nuclear weapons on the internet:

http://nuclear-weapons.info/vw.htm

http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Uk/UKTesting.html

http://www.mcis.soton.ac.uk/Site_Files/pdf/nuclear_history/Working_Paper_No_1.pdf

A previous thread about Yellow Sun Mk 2: http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,9606.msg88079.html#msg88079

According to this excellent site:

http://www.nukes.org.uk/

All of the Granite type warheads were contained within a Blue Danube casing (which was itself derived from the Tall Boy bomb), this would certainly make sense as we know that Orange Herald was tested in a Blue Danube casing even though it was considerably smaller than the Blue Danube physics package. However I would still love to know the planned store weight and dimensions for a developed Granite type warhead.

Orange Herald in a centre section frame from the Blue Danube casing (Orange herald Small had a diameter of just 30 inches): http://nuclear-weapons.info/images/OHcropped.jpg
 
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zen

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Fascenating.

Does open the speculative topic of what happens next in terms of development.
 

bri21

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sealordlawrence said:
According to this excellent site:

http://www.nukes.org.uk/

All of the Granite type warheads were contained within a Blue Danube casing (which was itself derived from the Tall Boy bomb), this would certainly make sense as we know that Orange Herald was tested in a Blue Danube casing even though it was considerably smaller than the Blue Danube physics package. However I would still love to know the planned store weight and dimensions for a developed Granite type warhead.

Orange Herald in a centre section frame from the Blue Danube casing (Orange herald Small had a diameter of just 30 inches): http://nuclear-weapons.info/images/OHcropped.jpg

Well, well, well Laurence. "according to this excellent website" http://www.nukes.org.uk/ you refer to. Well first, its a commercial site hoping to sell, yes SELL, its services to the media. But I do have doubts about whether they will succeed in that aim, for in my experience "the meja" are not dumbos, they can smell a rat at 1000 yds. And this site is a rehash of half-accurate info culled from various places including my own website, and in the process they have introduced so many mistakes that I simply stopped counting them after a while. More seriously though Laurence, they claim, dishonestly to have had help from me and various others. Some I know; Richard Moore and Di McDonald to name two. And hand on heart I can say that I had not previously heard of these people, or offered or been asked for any help.

More seriously still, I note that they took two drawings of mine from Wikipedia Commons where they were licensed for others to use freely provided the terms of the licence were observed and the author acknowledged. However, http://www.nukes.org.uk have cropped the the artist's (me) and licensor's (me) watermarked accreditation from both illustrations, thereby creating the impression that the illustrations were their own. I don't know what you call that Laurence. I call it plagairism, theft, and dishonest. But as I said, the media are not stupid.

They also claim that they have no political position on nuclear weapons, or axes to grind. "the site is not intended to make political statements regarding any issues on nuclear weapons, but only to supply fact" Then they make extensive use of material originating from Di McDonald. As a long-serving anti-nuclear campaigner Di would be most amused to hear that her material was not designed to score political points. In truth, these people have unwittingly and without engaging their brains, simply regurgitated Di's anti-nuclear unilateralist propaganda. And we won't mention the spelling or the bad grammar. Best not. It's just too awful.

Coming to your initial inquiry about Green Granite in it's various forms; I know of no declassified info that lists store size or weight. However, the original requirement specified one megaton in one ton weight. Meaning a developed warhead weighing no more than one ton. It probably weighed in at less than that, although the US Mk.28/Red Snow weighed considerably less at under 1700 lbs (772 kg).
 

bri21

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sealordlawrence said:
According to this excellent site:

http://www.nukes.org.uk/

All of the Granite type warheads were contained within a Blue Danube casing (which was itself derived from the Tall Boy bomb), this would certainly make sense as we know that Orange Herald was tested in a Blue Danube casing even though it was considerably smaller than the Blue Danube physics package. However I would still love to know the planned store weight and dimensions for a developed Granite type warhead.

Orange Herald in a centre section frame from the Blue Danube casing (Orange herald Small had a diameter of just 30 inches): http://nuclear-weapons.info/images/OHcropped.jpg

Derived from Tallboy? Definitely not! There very early were moves to co-opt Barnes Wallis onto the project around 1948, but these moves by MoS people were quickly blocked by none other than Sir William Penney, who disliked Wallis, and didn't want him on the team. The casing design was largely the joint work of RAE Armaments Dept and a contractor - Hudswell Clarke & Co Ltd, who had taken over the old Blackburn Aircraft Works in Leeds. I worked on the Blue Danube casing there as a drawing office apprentice (at one time in charge of the classified drawing store - so I saw everything) and I can assure you that the Blue Danube casing owed nothing to Tallboy or Barnes Wallis. The flip-out tails originated from trials in the US with a B-50 in a RAE Project Emulsion that led to designs for various bombs for high-altitude high-speed release.
 

JFC Fuller

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Bri21,

I only make use of the information that is available and to be honest I could not care less about the politics of this, it was 50 years ago and my interest is in the technical history.

The Tallboy comment is taken from Tony Butlers BSP Jet Bombers and not from the website linked, I am however perfectly prepared to believe that it is inaccurate.

I appreciate your input, especially relating to the Blue Danube casing, may I ask where you got the original requirement details for Green Granite from?

Given that most of these details still appear to be classified I appreciate that you might be limited in what you can discuss but I would be most grateful if you could post or IM me with any information you have or good sources of which you are aware?
 

bri21

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sealordlawrence said:
Bri21,

I only make use of the information that is available and to be honest I could not care less about the politics of this, it was 50 years ago and my interest is in the technical history.

The Tallboy comment is taken from Bill Gunstons BSP Jet Bombers and not from the website linked, I am however perfectly prepared to believe that it is inaccurate.

I appreciate your input, especially relating to the Blue Danube casing, may I ask where you got the original requirement details for Green Granite from?

Given that most of these details still appear to be classified I appreciate that you might be limited in what you can discuss but I would be most grateful if you could post or IM me with any information you have or good sources of which you are aware?

Hi Laurence. Don't really care that you don't really care about the politics of thermonuclear weapons. However, you cannot ignore the politics, or that numerous sources here have particular axes to grind and are expert grinders. Di's stuff I'm very familiar with, and since she lives not two miles from this keyboard I know her personally. Didn't say I agreed with her views tho'. It's important to get the details right Lawrence. It's the detail that makes things work. I also research with others who have a strong comittment to CND with the politics to match, but that doesn't make them bad people. Don't share their views tho' and so have to be picky and careful about their motives. That's politics Lawrence. The alternative is to live as a recluse.

As for "one megaton in one ton" you can find that numerous times in Arnold's official history, Britain and the H-Bomb.

Bill Gunston. Well Lawrence, it's an old book, and more importantly, it's a secondary source with all the risks of inaccuracies in the retelling, and Bill was no doubt merely expressing an opinion. And a glance at the casing proportions (not available to Bill G probably) ought to tell you that it was so different. I myself would be very very interested in the actual hard evidence from a primary source; if it exists. Which I doubt. And I'm an expert researcher too!

You are right about Green Granite files being still classified tho' - scores of them. And in the current climate unlikely ever to be declassified. But careful Lawrence, that's straying into politics again!

Nuclear history has always been bedevilled by people who really should know better, who in the absence of hard evidence, speculate, express opinions, make assertions, without making clear that their opinions should not be regarded as hard fact. Opinions, speculation .... and before too long others come along and convert speculation into incontrovertible proof. In such ways are nuclear myths born. It's high time people on this and similar forums learnt that lesson.
 

JFC Fuller

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Bri21,

Again, my interest in facts, genuine UK intentions for fully indigenous thermonuclear megaton warheads. I dont care about the motives of the people writing the history I care about the specific technical details that they present. If those details are inaccurate then I obviously appreciate them being corrected in the open source.

Butlers book is not that old, it was published in 2003, however it is my opinion (and I have expressed it on this forum before) that the BSP series is not especially well researched in places and is lacking in detail in a range of areas and I am not at all shocked to find that he is wrong regarding the Blue Danube case.

Finding the reality of UK nuclear weapons development was my reason for starting this thread, I presented the information that I had (second source as it may be) with the intention of being corrected, pointed in the right direction, and generally educated on the subject. This forum has become a remarkable depository for information relating to aerospace projects and it would be nice if this thread added to that.

To be blunt about it, the myths you seek to avoid are created by a vacuum of information, if you have information that can fill that vacuum then you will prevent those mythes from being created in the first place so please feel free to post what you know. Otherwise I am thoroughly looking forward to future updates to your outstanding site.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I assume you mean Tony Butler's British Secret Projects: Jet Bombers. The relevant quote is on page 51.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Tony's British Secret Projects books are well researched. Additional information has come to light since they were written, particularly with respect to the first volume on Fighters which is 9 years old now, but more importantly they are books about unbuilt aircraft projects, not nuclear weapons.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I would point out that BSP 4 is written by Chris Gibson, and edited by Tony Buttler, so any faults you find in that volume should be correctly attributed to Chris.
 

bri21

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sealordlawrence said:
Bri21,

Again, my interest in facts, genuine UK intentions for fully indigenous thermonuclear megaton warheads. I dont care about the motives of the people writing the history I care about the specific technical details that they present. If those details are inaccurate then I obviously appreciate them being corrected in the open source.

Butlers book is not that old, it was published in 2003, however it is my opinion (and I have expressed it on this forum before) that the BSP series is not especially well researched in places and is lacking in detail in a range of areas and I am not at all shocked to find that he is wrong regarding the Blue Danube case.

Finding the reality of UK nuclear weapons development was my reason for starting this thread, I presented the information that I had (second source as it may be) with the intention of being corrected, pointed in the right direction, and generally educated on the subject. This forum has become a remarkable depository for information relating to aerospace projects and it would be nice if this thread added to that.

To be blunt about it, the myths you seek to avoid are created by a vacuum of information, if you have information that can fill that vacuum then you will prevent those mythes from being created in the first place so please feel free to post what you know. Otherwise I am thoroughly looking forward to future updates to your outstanding site.

Ok, I misread your post and substituted Bill Gunston for Tony Buttler. Nevertheless, there is no, repeat no hard evidence from declassified sources or elsewhere to support the claim that the aerodynamic shape of Blue Danube was based on Tallboy. If anyone has such evidence I suggest it's time to put up or .... ..

I can do bluntly too Lawrence. 'In your opinion' Lawrence, "the myths you seek to avoid are created by a vacuum of information" I'd point out again, bluntly, that's just that. Your opinion. Others with a longer pedigree than yours have different opinions. The real myth creators are those 'researchers' who don't check what is real and what is imagined, and then build on someone else's vivid imaginations.

I remind you, again bluntly, that it was you, not I who introduced politics here in your linked recommendation for a site that had plundered various other websites including mine, and a site specialising in unilateralist propaganda. I can only assume that you hadn't read its content, or not read it carefully enough.

Finally, I point out again, that whatever Tony Buttler et al say, (unless they can put up a source) the RAE's Project Emulsion is the only hard evidence in declassified files that sheds some light on the origins of the Blue Danube casing aerodynamic design. The only source, and found in the National Archives at AVIA 6/12298. The reasons why Sir William Penney would not have Barnes Wallis on his team are found in AVIA 65/1163, now no longer available in the PRO. Its been withdrawn and reclassified. However, I got to it first and made copies.

Grren Granite dimensions are not known. However it's not too difficult to deduce the principal dimensions and extrapolate from the photo in the official history.
1. We know it fitted into the Blue Danube centre section of 62" dia x approx the same length.
2. We know it was designed to fit into the Yellow Sun casing of 48" dia.
3. We know it was designed to fit into the Blue Steel weapon bay of ~ 48" dia, and the length is known.
4. We know it was designed to fit into the Blue Streak RV. However details of that are sketchy.
Thus: from the photo in the official history much else can be extrapolated.
 

geeshockbloke

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"Fair enough. I would also suggest that I would not describe them as faults, more a lack of detail."

How much detail could have been included in +/- 80 pages of text (including images) on missiles in Chris' book? It did cover a wide range of subjects most of which I'd never heard of.

Chris'll be out here on saturday's chopper, so I'll see what he says. should be in a good mood, fat and bronzied after 2 weeks in Greece.

Mark
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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There is definitely room for a comprehensive history of all British guided weapons, built and unbuilt.

I will also note Chris wanted to include ATGMs for instance but was overruled by the publisher.
 

bri21

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Returning, belatedly to the actual subject matter; a freehand sketch was found of how Green Granite was expected to fit into the Blue Streak RV that was envisaged for the earlier warhead Orange Herald, that itself had grown from its original size of 33 in to 39 in by the time this sketch was done. Found in the National Archives at AVIA 65/1193. Very poor quality, and the original is still the copyright of the National Archives, so this accurate redrawn copy will have to do here or on Commons.



http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Greengranite.png
 

JFC Fuller

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Thank you very much for that, I think that pretty much settles what the dimensions of the dimensions of what a weaponised Granite type weapon would have been.

Interestingly the diameter calculated in that image is not far short of Red Beard 27 versus 28 inches, of course the Red Beard diameter includes the case???

Either way if these are actually the dimensions of Green Granite then dual carriage of a Yellow Sun Stage 2, assuming a modified case, should be possible by the V Bombers.
 
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sealordlawrence said:
Interestingly the diameter calculated in that image is not far short of Red Beard 27 versus 28 inches, of course the Red Beard diameter includes the case???

Either way if these are actually the dimensions of Green Granite then dual carriage of a Yellow Sun Stage 2, assuming a modified case, should be possible by the V Bombers.

How does this fit with the suggestion circa 1958 that it was now possible to have three extra identical but inert rounds carried by Blue Streak to act as decoys? What would be the total mass for the combination?
 

JFC Fuller

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Spark, may I ask what your source for that is? It is certainly an interesting question however as to how Blue Streak warheads would have evolved had indigenous UK physics packages remained at the fore. I think the easiest answer is that Woomera would have seen a lot more use!

By 1958 we are firmly in Red Snow territory and Green Granite is effectively dead as the UK uses US derived weapons.
 

bri21

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I dug out some notes made several years ago, although AFAIK still up-to-date. Nothing yet appeared to refute these conclusions based on a careful analysis of the official history and declassified archives. Of course, as always, it depends on the official historian and civil servants not telling lies and accurately setting out their stuff. Relates to the earlier posted sketch. Bear in mind though that these were only my conclusions at the time. Not Gospel.

My notes.

BLUE GRANITE

Thought to be a smaller & lighter GRANITE variant and the fourth Granite design, proposed by Penney at the end of April 1957. Not adopted, built or tested. See Arnold 2001, p141, para 2, who claims estimated 1 MT in 1 ton weight. Smaller and lighter than SHORT GRANITE (30" dia x 2 tons, and unable to match yield/weight target above) and the only GRANITE not identified by Arnold or other known sources with a colour-code + GRANITE. Clear identification from Arnold (p146) that PURPLE GRANITE was identIcal in most respects to SHORT GRANITE with minor changes to DICK (fusion secondary) only. Arnold states SHORT GRANITE was too big and heavy for BLUE STEEL/BLUE STREAK. Ergo: as was PURPLE GRANITE.

GRAPPLE test target was 1 MT in 1 ton to suit weight and size limits for MRBM BLUE STREAK. Only the fourth untested design could match that. PURPLE GRANITE couldn't. Ergo: Fourth untested design was not PURPLE, probably BLUE GRANITE. No hard data on the Chris Gibson claim that BLUE GRANITE was another incorrect name for PURPLE GRANITE, and is believed unlikely following account by Arnold, the official historian of the GRAPPLE tests.

SHORT GRANITE 30" dia x 2 tons x 0.3MT. Because It was a double spherical design it could not be less than 60" length. PURPLE GRANITE similar size and weight, yield 0.2MT.

AVIA 65/1193 E107A, 27 May 1958 (before PURPLE GRANITE was tested & after the SHORT GRANITE flop) shows a GRANITE warhead 27" dia x 52" long in a BLUE STREAK nosecone, and presumably in weight limits. See http://nuclear-weapons.info/images/greengranite.png

Contenders for the warhead in this sketch are:
BLUE GRANITE
second GREEN GRANITE II

Not a contender is:
first GREEN GRANITE II (believed renamed SHORT GRANITE)
or SHORT GRANITE variant PURPLE GRANITE.

BTW, Red Snow could not have fitted into the Blue Streak RV shown. Longer at 60" x 21.5" diameter and would jut outa da back. So ... to accommodate Red Snow, Blue Streak required a redesigned and longer RV, and more Woomera tests.
 

JFC Fuller

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Brian,

That is truly fascinating, we know that further Grapple tests were planned (M, N and O) for 1959 and 1960 so it is entirely possible that Blue Granite represents a weapon, close to an operational configuration, that was planned for testing in those series.
 

bri21

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sealordlawrence said:
Interestingly the diameter calculated in that image is not far short of Red Beard 27 versus 28 inches, of course the Red Beard diameter includes the case???

Either way if these are actually the dimensions of Green Granite then dual carriage of a Yellow Sun Stage 2, assuming a modified case, should be possible by the V Bombers.

True. Twin carriage was possible, and there were two proposals from RAE to do that. One was in a lengthened Red Beard casing with a bluff nose shown here: http://nuclear-weapons.info/images/RBredsnow.PNG and here: http://www.nuclear-weapons.info/vw.htm#WE.177 OR.1176

Another was the Red Snow Tailored Bomb. There were two variants of this, one with the warhead facing for'd, and the other variant facing aft to keep the delicate firing units at the rear. Seen here:http://nuclear-weapons.info/images/RSTB.PNG and here http://www.nuclear-weapons.info/vw.htm#WE.177 OR.1176

Both proposals were dismissed by the brasshats. Not because they didn't want twin V-bomber carriage, but because they had settled on a Yellow Sun casing originally designed to accommodate Green Bamboo (45 in dia) then Green Grass (45 in dia) that they knew would accommodate any later warhead likely to become available (such as a Granite or Red Snow). It was a hugely expensive and time-consuming business to abandon that casing for the marginal gain offered by a slimmer casing.

And BTW, the Blue Steel weapons bay was as large as it was, and the missile girth as large as it was in order to accommodate the same warheads, initially Green Bamboo.
 

bri21

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Spark said:
How does this fit with the suggestion circa 1958 that it was now possible to have three extra identical but inert rounds carried by Blue Streak to act as decoys? What would be the total mass for the combination?

Doubt that they were identical as in 'able to re-enter with the real round'. Probably lighter and without a heat shield, they would have similar trajectories before re-entry and then burn up. The real RV would by that time be invulnerable to exo-atmospheric ABMs. Sprint-type endo-atmospheric ABMs had not yet been developed, and the Russians never deployed these. Mass would be insignificant. The photo of a W-38 warhead and RV decoy used on the US Atlas ICBM (a cousin of Blue Streak) should explain. It's a balloon and largely empty space.
 

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JFC Fuller

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Brian,

Thank you once again for that. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that given such developed Red Beard proposals were contemplated in some quarters for Red Snow that they may also have been considered for Blue Granite or some other Granite variation given what would have been an ultimate requirement for a Red Bear replacement had the US not opened up again.

Even in its Red Snow form such suggestions must have been tempting given that the bob bay of TSR-2 was designed from the outset to take Red Snow and the difficulties experienced trying to force to WE.177s into it.
 

bri21

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Well .... Granite stopped more or less with Flagpole, Halliard, and the Bi-Lateral. What follows is in the realms of "What If". First, its not true that UK thermonuclear device design stopped after the Bi-Lateral, altho' it continued at a much reduced pace, and with nothing built or tested. Most available resource was diverted into 'anglicisation' and that turned out to be more difficult than expected. Principal US warheads 'anglicised' were the W-28 (UK = Red Snow) W-34 Python (UK codename = Peter), W-44 Tsetse (UK = Tony) W-47 (UK = Steven), W-54 Gnat (UK = Gwen), W-59 (UK = RE.179) and there were others.

However, when warheads for Skybolt were being considered a wholly British thermonuclear warhead was proposed. Acorn. Little is known of it except that it incorporated a Tony boosted fission primary, and weighed approx 700 lb, around the same as the W-47 (Steven) and the US W-50-XI, the other two contenders. There was also a thermonuclear design known as PEANUT, a double spherical design, and another was GYPSUM. I suspect that these were nothing more than designs on paper. All were transmitted to the US in exchange for US design data. There were two other UK designs, Una, Ulysses, and Ursula. Una was renamed Ulysses. That was a UK secondary mated to a Tony primary, and at one point was the favoured option for Skybolt. Ursula is more uncertain. IMO it evolved from Ulysses as a requirement for a fatter, shorter warhead for a very powerful NDB, that was later incorporated into OR.1177.

TSR2 specs originally specified Red Beard as the primary weapon and the bomb bay was sized for it, altho' it was quickly apparent that Red Beard would not withstand the TSR2 flight environment, inside or outside the aircraft. That's why it was quickly written out and an improved kiloton bomb specified.

There were numerous others, all designs on paper, because resources were not available to take them further. An example is here. If you have any ideas on what this might be I'd very much like to here of it. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATID=7992946&CATLN=6&Highlight=,FOOTBALL,POOL,BOMB&accessmethod=0

Many people have a one-sided view of the Bi-Lateral, in that they assume that the UK got US designs in exchange for next to nothing. That's not really true. The Yanks didn't give their designs away expecting to get nothing in return. They may not have got much actual hardware and probably didn't expect that. They did get the Brits valuable theoretical know-how and the Brits better safety. One reason why 'angicisation' was more difficult than expected was that the Brits uncovered several vital safety flaws in US designs, present because of a poor US understanding of the underlying theory. First in the W-28. Then the W-47 (the Polaris A1 warhead) was discovered so unsafe the UK decided not to build it for Skybolt or our Polaris. The USN found out much later, the hard way, what the flaws were. The W-58 Polaris A3 warhead was rejected for the same reason. The US had rushed several warheads into production in the rush to build up their strategic stockpile, and had taken a much more empirical approach to design than did the UK could afford. For the US, if it worked that was enough. The UK approach was based much more on sound theory, in large part because the UK was skint, money had to be spent sparingly, and scientist's time and brains were cheap compared to nuclear tests. So the UK accomplished a lot with very little. The US wanted that expertise. They got access via the Bi-Lateral.
 

zen

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Fascenating stuff!
Does this mean that later US warheads may incorporate UK ideas and thus are not wholly US, even if they are manufactured and tested in the US?
Can we speculate that actual design of components have a UK influence or merely the theory and simulation processes that lead to the design?

To what degree does this UK input extert an effect on US weapons?
 

bri21

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zen said:
Does this mean that later US warheads may incorporate UK ideas and thus are not wholly US, even if they are manufactured and tested in the US?

Yes, and vice versa.

There are several references in the archives to the impossibility of unscrambling UK know-how from US design know-how. Especially during the Edward Heath government of the 1970's when Heath wanted to explore the possibility of a deal with France to produce an Anglo-French warhead as an alternative to updating Polaris with either Poseidon or Chevaline, (much of Chevaline was designed and built in the US where over half of the money was spent). Heath found it impossible to do a deal with France because to do so would inevitably mean giving US data to the French. Neither the US nor the UK were free to deal with third parties under the 1958 Bi-Lateral Treaty terms.

So it also ruled out the Australians who at one time wanted the UK to supply nuclear weapon design data so they could build their own Red Beard bombs. For even in that early weapon, long believed wholly British, there was some US firing design data that was added at a late stage after the Bi-Lateral.
 

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zen said:
Can we speculate that actual design of components have a UK influence or merely the theory and simulation processes that lead to the design?

Both! Its a two-way sharing deal, where designers can and did talk over the table, over a meal or a drink. It's not a process dominated by politicians, but by scientists, engineers, administrators.
 

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This rather refutes a lot of what is put forward in the Media and expressed by both political commontaters and politicians. Of course that is presented such as to engender to idea we should abandon nuclear weapons. Often for ideological reasons.

It does reinforce what I've long suspected.

And from what I remember reading some years back this process is still underway, with the US supposedly impressed by recent subcritical tests and design efforts of UK staff.
 

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zen said:
To what degree does this UK input extert an effect on US weapons?

Impossible to quantify that. It changes over time. For example there is evidence that the mid-life-refurbishment programme for the US Navy's W-76 warheads in some of their Trident missiles was a joint programme with the UK. It was the knowledge of that programme via reports from the US Congress that confirmed that the UK did not develop a Trident warhead of its own, but used a British-built W-76. Something that was never admitted to by the UK.

One advantage of warhead commonality is that the UK doesn't need to make everything here. They can legally buy non-nuclear warhead components off-the-shelf in the US. Only the fissile cores of the primary have to be made in the UK. US domestic law makes it illegal for the US to supply these, although they can and do trade in fissile materials. The US supplied tritium in exchange for plutonium in a barter deal, to give but one example. Then the UK can purchase outright the lithium-6 needed for thermonuclear secondaries, and there are large numbers of non-nuclear components that would cost an arm and a leg to manufacture here in small numbers. That trade has gone on from 1958.

However, like all machines, even those just stockpiled in a shed unused, warheads age, components age, especially plastic and rubber, and especially those constantly subject to mild irradiation from fissile cores. No one can predict with certainty how such components will age or perform after aging, and it's no longer possible to test a warhead randomly taken from the stockpile. The Bi-Lateral allows the US and the UK to actively work on these and all other aspects because it pre-dates the Non-Proliferation Treaty that outlaws all similar activities with other states.
 

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zen said:
This rather refutes a lot of what is put forward in the Media and expressed by both political commontaters and politicians. Of course that is presented such as to engender to idea we should abandon nuclear weapons. Often for ideological reasons.

Those who unreservedly believe what the mainstream media tell them are fools. The media and the usual talking heads are generalists, not specialists. That's perhaps the kindest way to put it. None have any specialist technical or scientific training. Almost all are Arts graduates with a dimly-lit view of how things work. Some have issues with even putting the right fuel in their cars.

I can recommend a new book just published this month by Dr Richard Moore, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies at the University of Southampton. NUCLEAR ILLUSION, NUCLEAR REALITY; Britain, the United States and Nuclear Weapons 1958-64. ISBN 978-0-230-23067-5 http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?bt.x=68&bt.y=10&isbn=9780230230675&sts=t

Richard is a friend who quotes my opinions in his book, bless him. He's also the leading UK academic authority on this topic, bar none.
 

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Brian,

Just a quick thank you for the information. It is clear that there were solid ideas in the UK for the application the Granite series technology to operational warheads. I have certainly expanded my 'to buy' list for book collection.
 

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Lawrence.

As an afterthought I looked out my old notes from 2002 when I did some work on this at Kew. It's clear from the notes that there was a great deal of friction between design teams at RAE (responsible for the MRBM), and AWRE (responsible only for the warhead). It appears that the shortage of hard facts on Green Granite that prompted your original inquiry was also felt by the design team at RAE. I'll upload my original notes in italics. The verbatim quotes from the Kew files are in bold italic.

AVIA 65/1193 E1
[Title]Warhead for a MRBM – ASR OR.1142 – Orange Herald – The business portion of OR.1139.
Military Characteristics:
Thermonuclear warhead not to exceed 2’200 lbs weight
Warhead not to exceed 33in dia (later increased to 36in later 39in)
Yield required = 1MT airburst @ 4’000ft or 7’000ft AGL.
The warhead and initiating system is intended initially to be the same [ warhead ] as that being developed under the code name Green Bamboo.


AVIA 65/1193 E5
Codename assigned is Orange Herald. 17 Aug 1955.

AVIA 65/1193 E10A
July 1955 RAE Tech Note GW.375 ref performance of MRBM Blue Streak. p2 section 2 refers to a two rocket motor design MRBM with Green Bamboo at 4’500 lb weight, 45in dia warhead and a design range estimated at 1900nm max. ASR specifies IOC @ 2’000nm developed later to 2’500nm.

AVIA 65/1193 E44 dated 20 Mar 1956.
Section 2 concedes that Orange Herald is NOT thermonuclear.
Section 4 states that Orange Herald warhead diameter has been relaxed [increased] to 36in.


AVIA 65/1193 E90
Clear from this entry that there was much friction between RAE GW Division and AWRE.
RAE appeared to believe that AWRE were loose cannons with little regard for other designers working on other parts of the MRBM. Ultimatums appeared to be in the offing from RAE who lobbied hard at the MoD.
Warhead diameter increased again to 39in after a meeting at the RAE 24 Sep 1957.
Warhead weight now 2’000 lbs.
Firing system adapted from the Blue Danube design.
AWRE proposed a half-ton steel ball safety device for Orange Herald similar to Green Grass, with the balls ejected after launch.


AVIA 65/1193 E103 dated 20 May 1958.
Letter from Stephens, Deputy Director RAE, to Dr Cockburn @ MoS complaining about AWRE.
Quoted verbatim.
There have been some developments regarding the warhead for Blue Streak about which I feel you should know. As you know, we have been working at RAE so far as the design of re-entry heads and fusing, firing and arming circuits are concerned, on the single-stage warhead Orange Herald. RAE and AWRE have agreed the basic dimensions of the envelope around which the re-entry head should be built, the warhead weight, CG position etc, and these properties are formally included in the Operational Requirement for the warhead. Some little while ago Cornford and Lyons [RAE] had an informal discussion with Newley of AWRE about the Blue Streak warhead. At this meeting it was learned that no work was in progress on Orange Herald at AWRE, nor was there any intention of doing any. Newley suggested that our work, based on Orange Herald should be stopped, and that AWRE would offer instead [a] two-stage warhead of similar weight but rather different external dimensions, CG position, and different fusing, arming and firing requirements. Orange Herald has very doubtful in-flight safety, and is highly vulnerable to R [neutron] effects, and the new proposal is welcome in that it would be greatly superior in both these respects. Nevertheless it seems to have emerged in a most casual fashion.

AWRE had obviously had this proposal in mind for some time, and they had assumed that anything which would fit into the Orange Herald envelope would be all right, ignoring for example, the effect of CG position, which is of vital importance to the stability of the heat-shield re-entry head. In fact, the dimensions etc, proposed by Newley make the design of the heat-shield rather more difficult, and that of the eroding head rather lighter. It is most unfortunate that we have been unable to obtain closer co-operation and a freer exchange with AWRE in the early stages of thinking about things of this sort. It could save endless waste of time and understanding. It appears to me that we are about to embark with Blue Streak on the same frustrating process of chopping and changing that we have been through on the Air weapons [bombs]. At the meeting I mentioned that it was agreed that Newley would confirm by letter the dimensions discussed during the meeting, and it was our intention to approach DDGW and get these formally written into the Operational Requirement to replace the old figures, this being the only formal piece of paper defining the conditions to which we are both working.

Subsequently Lyons had a further meeting with AWRE at which more details of their proposals were disclosed, but he had no success in getting AWRE to commit themselves even informally, to agreed characteristics of the new warhead. We are still trying to achieve this, having sent to AWRE the warhead characteristics to which, as a result of the discussions, we are proposing to work, asking for their confirmation. Even assuming this, this is a hopelessly unsatisfactory basis on which to conduct the Blue Streak project, and I would welcome your assistance in getting this business onto a more satisfactory basis.

Signed Stephens Deputy Director RAE Guided Weapons Division.


In mitigation, AWRE could truthfully say that when their meeting at RAE took place before the first test at Grapple, they did not yet know how to design a two-stage thermonuclear device. Nor could they state with certainty its shape, size or weight. Until a successful test provided proof of principle all AWRE could offer was a best guess, their opinion based on theory and supposition. Subsequently, the first test of Short Granite produced a disappointing 0.3MT and a further test, Purple Granite, a disappointing 0.2MT, although AWRE claimed a successful proof of principle. Both resulted in extensive re-design before a successful test one year afterwards and only then could the process of weapon engineering begin. The only device known to work more or less as expected was the large fission device Orange Herald, successfully tested at Grapple Round 2. That device was intended only as a fall-back position for Blue Streak, because its profligate use of fissile material made its use uneconomic elsewhere, and then only until a successful thermonuclear device was available for Blue Streak.


This is where the sketch for the Granite casing superimposed on the Orange Herald casing originated, and as you see, the confusion at the heart of the project continues to this day. It was these fiascos that led ultimately to the split design authority being changed to align more with US practice, where AWRE took over overall design authority from RAE for the Chevaline project. Much later.

Hope this makes matters a little clearer.
 

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We today come to all of this, coccooned smugly that the Cold War went away. Well, from 1949 to 1991 we did believe we're on the eve of destruction, and from 1949-1958 UK sat in range of "tactical" Sov. nukes with only words to protect us, in the NATO Treaty, that a nuclear attack on Lancaster would attract the same, nuclear, US response as an attack on Alaska. UK when very broke and cold chose in January,1947 to assign whatever resources it might take to develop an independent nuclear deterrent. This was no game, no welfare for the military-industrial complex. Officers of the State charged with duties here did not sleep easily, so of course they clashed and got things wrong.

Brian Burnell is serving us all with his site, more accessible than a £60 book: he is rightly sensitive to its misuse. I regret the BBC Newsnight take on his WE177 bicycle lock/Permissive Action Link, giving scope to agenda-mongers to suggest the whole MAD episode was exactly that. Well it wasn't. On this site are folk who: paid for it all, as taxpayers; breathe today in freedom, in part because of it all; and take an interest whose objectivity is compromised by confusion. So, SLL does good to trigger input.

It's fun to lift from Lorna: 3/54 Sir W.Penney “we do not know how to make any form of (H)” (to be Sir W.)Cook, 2/12/55: ‘does anybody (in the room) know how it’s done?’…an embarrassed silence.” L.Arnold,Br.&the H-Bomb,Palgrave,01, Pp.43,87. Does that tell us our seniors have feet of clay? No: it tells us that a History Prof. is given access, a publisher invests to disseminate, and that we, who merely pay, know...rather more than citizens in USSR, France, China, even USA thanks to BB above on the safety issues.

The A to SLL's original Q, UK fusion weapon store size, might be that none was ever intended. PM Attlee, 1949, sought “US bombs onto British soil, rather than (pestering for data) to hasten (his 1/47 funded UK A-Bomb work…he was willing) to subordinate (RAF target) planning to (US-) integration” and to haul US-custodial weapons K.Harris, Attlee, Weidenfeld, 1982, P290. Pace McMahon, such porterage was offered 10/49 after Joe One/First lightning. PM might have taken the cost saving and abandoned Blue Danube, (but) “it was not to be (after Jan,50 arrest of a spy in the Blue Danube team. US/UK/Canada talks) returned (to) a deep freezer” A.J.Pierre,Nuclear Politics, OUP, 1972, P.133. Very well: alone! and Churchill initiated Blue Steel, Blue Streak, Orange Herald/Yellow Sun because “safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation” HoC,1 March,’55. But he sought US data input to the lot. A suggestion why US observers were invited to Grapple 1, May,1957, was that PM Macmillan's hope was to avoid the expense of deploying UK-solo fusion weapons, by displaying that UK had value in a two-way street, such as to cause Ike to overturn MacMahon and give UK access to thermonuclear art and articles...which on 24/10/57 he agreed, after Sputnik, 4/10/57.

So maybe there was no funded substance to anything solo-UK beyond 5 Violet Club/Green Grass, deployed, carefully, 19/3/58-late-59, warheads to 5 of 32 Yellow Sun Mk.1/Green Grass 0.33MT, deployed early 1960 - early 1963.
 

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First off it is quite correct to point out that the Cold War was anything but a game, it was all in deadly earnest. We're all here because it stayed cold and WWIII never kicked off, though we got disturbingly close on several occaisons. Chance and fortune or if you like the hand of god of gods (or godesses you never know) veered events in our favour, roll the dice again and we might not be here.

UK persuite of the Bomb was an essential matter of independance, primeraly for the UK but secondarily for Western Europe. US showed itself completely willing to sacrifice any state or people to its aims, even for ephemeral peace with the USSR. There was no guarentee that it would'nt let them have the rest of Europe and us. The Bomb kept our allies firm as surely as it kept our enemies fearful. Shutting the UK out under the McMahon Act only reinforces that impression at the time.
This is part of the nature of strength and weakness in a state. Strong allies are allies of choice, a weak ally is in the power of the strong ally.

So accept our gratitude for your attendance and information Bri21, most revealing.

Ken you maybe onto something there, though I think its more along the lines of not wanting to persue the next step on the assumption the US would open up (where they crossing their fingers and praying on the matter?). Had they not, things would obviously be different and I suspect the'd have to tackle the task. Probably precipitating all sorts of consequences for the rest of the military budget.
 

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Brian,

Those notes are truly fascinating!!! It appears that the AWRE had taken a unilateral decision to transition the Blue Streak warhead to a Granite design without informing the RAE and had gone so far as to stop work on Orange Herald, a truly remarkable state of affairs! I think this largely answers my original question regarding the weaponisation of the Granite series. That answer being that AWRE had begun such an exercise but was still struggling to keep the weapons overall size down though ultimately it probably would have provided a megaton warhead for Blue Streak and potentially for Blue Steel and whatever replaced it.
 

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zen said:
First off it is quite correct to point out that the Cold War was anything but a game, it was all in deadly earnest.

While I have enjoyed this discussion far and recognise that many may believe it was "not a game" there is considerable evidence to the contrary as far as the politicians were concerned. If it was "not a game" then NATO generally and the UK in particulars defence spending throughout the Cold War was woefully inadequate and often gave indeed the appearance IMHO that they were playing a game rather than seriously devoting national resources to the actual issue of defending their nation from the supposed impending "Red Hordes"(tm) which were awaiting just on the other side of the inner German border to march across en masse. The US was often little better, with squadrons of bombers which stood idly by alongside the runways without sufficient pilots to fly them in case of war. For the most part, from my reading of the history of the Cold War and what I knew during it, all sides were terrified of the possibility of going to war and so went through the motions but tried desperately to hope that it would never occur.

What has been revealed by this thread is in reality just how bumbling the UK's nuclear research and defence establishments really were. While I don't doubt there are similar stories to be told about the USA's and fUSSR's efforts, what I am constantly thinking is often just how "Heath Robinish" the UK's efforts were. While I don't mean to insult the efforts of so many scientists and engineers what I bring away from this thread and the various websites, such as Brian's is the awful muddle that went on for over 30+ years. While I appreciate they were feeling their way, at the time, it seems lot of this was based upon national pride and the belief that having a minuscule number of nuclear warheads which could be utilised in a nuclear war would in fact make some sort of difference towards the survival of the UK or not.

Yet, a the same time we now know that while one branch of government held exactly that belief, other branches were brutally recognising that the UK would in all likelihood be completely destroyed in a nuclear war - even before thermonuclear weapons had appeared - and were seeking to create an Imperial defence strategy which was designed to ensure that the Empire/Commonwealth's "periphery" was able to fight on when the "centre" was destroyed. This has been shown in several books drawing upon our archives about Australia's involvement in those plans which have been published over the last 20 years in Australia. These plans were why the Snow River Power Generation Scheme was created. Why the Australian National University was founded. Why Woomera and its associated testing grounds were created. Why Uranium mining began in earnest at Rum Jungle and other places. Why the RAAF were early adopters of the EE Canberra bomber.

When thermonuclear weapons appeared and the "four minute warning" became a reality, then it must have really hit home. I somehow think that the people involved in the development of the UK's nuclear deterrent didn't believe it was a "game" but I wonder about the people in Whitehall and Number 10. Or perhaps I am simply becoming too cynical in my old age.

So accept our gratitude for your attendance and information Bri21, most revealing.

I second that. Most interesting. One would hope we would see similar revelations about the US and fUSSR's (or French or Chinese) nuclear matters but I won't be holding my breath.
 

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The basis is Deterrence, if you have to use it its failed its function. No one wants to fight a war with nuclear weapons, nobody wants to fight wars at all unless your a Futurist of the Italian school circa 1930s.

We now know the lack of preparedness was clearly a cost saving measure and meant nukes would be all thats left after about three weeks of fighting at best. Still keep in mind the USSR was bankrupting itself to match this, and ultimately could'nt keep the illusion up.

All warfare is deception - Sun Tzu. A little nuggest of truth, just watch two stags sizing each other up over a female to see war in action, long before any fighting starts a lot of posturing and assessment has occured. If fighting starts its because one side thinks it can get the other to bow to its will by force, and expects that the other will recognise its comparative weakness and surrender. Wars get nasty when neither side will give up.

UK needed to be able to possess 'revenge from beyond the grave', which is the essence of the Deterrent. The certain knowledge that even if you succeed in knocking the UK out, nuclear death is winging its way to you and now with no recal, and no means to stop it.

Sure UK nukes in number where not going to wipe the USSR from the map, but they would inflict serious enough damage to massively weaken them, exposing them to others who would exploit that fact. Indeed exposing the regime to its own internal critics.

At another level, UK nukes mean its impossible to leave the the US out of the targetting or indeed France or visa versa. Once we commit to launch, the others will have little choice but to follow. This makes it impossible for the US to negotiate the sacrifice of the UK with the USSR for peace. If we die the nukes fly and Russia has no certain means to assure itself the US is'nt taking advantage of any deal to fool Moscow into not responding.
Had nukes remained only in US hands its certainly possible elements of the US polity would stand back and let the Soviet hords take Western Europe and the UK or even allow their destruction.
As the UK gains the ability first to make A-bombs and then to make H-bombs, so the US is drawn into becoming a solid ally, that it was not prior to that, despite the PR about WWII.

However 'heath robbinson' this may seem the UK effort is driven not by grandiose illusions of Empire or even 'relevence' but simply of survival. In the end it has succeeded upto now, as the only measure of success is the UK's continuence.

Do also keep Bri21's words in mind over the technology and theory. You may think the UK effort paltry but it forms part of the body of knowledge about these weapons and its undisentanglable from the US's. So it is not all 'heath robbinson', or 'bumbling' but very profound, professional and advanced in certain areas, as surely as we could apply your desriptions to parts of the US effort (or indeed anyone elses).
 

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Curious thoughts and questions.

Assuming BLUE GRAMIT works as advertised and is proceeded with, can we then assume a further development for a reduced size weapon with commensurate reduction in megatonage?

Having the IRBM warhead worked out what is the next move in developments?

Will we see something like the WE.177 produced?
 

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Well after the strategic warheads (Blue Streak, Blue Steel, Yellow Sun Stage 2), the tactical weapon was the next in line. One assumes an all British answer to the original O.1176/1177. With my very limited knowledge of nuclear physics perhaps something along the lines of Una / Ulysses but with something like Pixie (in an evolved form?) as a primary instead of Tony??? Brian, please feel free to shoot me down!
 

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