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    USSR Archive

    - /Main Archive

    Date: 00:00 UTC 29/08/1949
    Type: Tower @30m
    Yield: 22 Kt

    The first Soviet nuclear test, code named "First Lightning" the RDS-1. Houses, a bridge, a simulated metro, armored vehicles, 50 aircraft and 1500 animals were positioned in the test grounds. The code designation RDS was actually arbitrary, one popular interpretation was "Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina" (Stalin's Rocket Engine), another was "Russia Does It Alone". The whole focus of the Soviet program at this point was to set off a Soviet atomic blast at the earliest possible time whatever the cost. At Project leader Lavrenti Beria's insistence , this device was an exact copy of the U.S. Gadget/Fat Man mainly thanks to extensive espionage. The 17,000 sq/mile test site was located 95 miles west of the city of Semipalatinsk on the steppes of present day Kazakhstan. The device would later be weaponized in RDS-1, the Soviet Union's first nuclear weapon.

    Date: 06:19 UTC 24/09/1951
    Type: Tower @30m
    Yield: 38.3kt

    Joe-2 was exploded on 24 September 1951 with a yield of 38.3 Kt. A plutonium implosion bomb, it incorporated improvements such as tritium boosting and pit levitation that Beria had prevented from being used in Joe-1. The rush to build and test Joe-1 had been so intense, that Soviet scientists had made no preparation for long term nuclear weapons research. Subsequently there was a two year gap between the first and second nuclear test.

    Date: 03:53 UTC 18/10/1951
    Type: Airdrop @380m
    Yield: 42kt

    Code named Joe-3 by the US, this was the first Soviet air-dropped bomb test. Released from an altitude of 10 km, it detonated 380 meters above the ground. It was a boosted weapon using a composite construction of levitated plutonium core with a uranium 235 shell.

    Alternate view

    Date: 12/08/1953
    Type: Tower @30m
    Yield: 400kt

    Joe-4 was the fifth Soviet nuclear test and demonstrated the use of fusion in a weaponizable design known as the Sloika or "Layer Cake" design. The device obtained nearly all of its yield from fission and was limited for practical purposes to yields of less than 1Mt. The RDS-6s warhead used a U-235 fissile core surrounded by alternating layers of lithium-6 deuteride spiked with tritium, and a uranium fusion tamper inside a high explosive implosion system. The RDS-6t “Truba” was a two stage gun-type bomb with a D-T (Deuterium-Tritium) secondary. The Sloika was the brain child of Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov the head of the RDS-6s research project along with physicists Vitali Ginzburg, and Viktor Davidenko. Though not a true thermonuclear weapon as the Soviets claimed, and in conjunction with the fact that it was air-deliverable caused considerable embarrassment to the US. The US did not successfully test a deliverable thermonuclear bomb until 1954.

    Date: 06:33 UTC 14/09/1954
    Type: Airdrop @350m
    Yield: 40kt

    The Joe-8 test involved 44,000 Soviet troops at the Totsk range in the Orenberg region. Troops were positioned in trenches as close as 5 km to the designated ground zero, with one group of troops in a forward post about 2.5 km the epicenter. A Tu-4 "Bull" bomber was used to deliver an RDS-3 nuclear bomb. The weapon detonated at 6:33 GMT with a yield of 40 kt at 350 m. The weapon was 280 m off target, placing it even closer to the group of forward positioned troops. Totsk was chosen because of it's geographical similarity to Western Germany, where a possible war between the Soviet Union and United States might be fought. 40 minutes after the detonation, the troops were ordered to engage in a mock battle under the still rising mushroom cloud, with some soldiers coming as close as half a mile of ground zero. Some soldiers were suffering radiation sickness even before their return to base. Today it is unknown how much radiation the soldiers were exposed to during the exercise. Every soldier was sworn to secrecy following the test, and reportedly the medical archives of the local hospital were destroyed after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Alternate view 1 | Alternate view 2 | Alternate view 3

    Joe-17-|Novaya Zemlya|
    Date: 21/09/1955
    Type: Torpedo @-10m
    Yield: 3.5kt

    The first nuclear test fired at Novaya Zemlya was an underwater test of the RDS-9 warhead deployed on the 53-58 (T-5) torpedo. Over 30 ships were positioned at distances ranging from 300m to 1.6Km. Among the ships were four destroyers, three submarines, minesweepers and seaplanes. Over 500 goats and sheep, 100 dogs, and other animals were on board the ships. Only one ship was sunk by the explosion, a destroyer less than 300m from the explosion.

    Assembly and loading

    Date: 06/11/1955
    Type: Airdrop @1000m
    Yield: 250 Kt

    This was a test of the RDS-27 bomb. The RDS-27 was almost identical to the RDS-6s design, except that is did not use tritium. The 250 kiloton yield was within the predicted range. Photos of this test are often mislabeled as being the November 22, 1955 test of the RDS-37 warhead. This was the world's first airdrop of a device that used thermonuclear reactions. The test was originally scheduled for the 5th, but was postponed until the 6th due to adverse weather conditions. At the time of the test there were some clouds,snowfall, and high winds (7 m/s) which helped reduce downwind fallout. The bomb was dropped by a Tu-16 bomber from an altitude of 12 km, exploded in 10:40 am (local), 1 km over the ground. The yield was within estimates, with 90% due to fission.

    Date: 22/11/1955
    Type: Airdrop @1550m
    Yield: 1.6 Mt

    Designated Joe-19 was the Soviet Union's first test of a two-stage radiation implosion design aka Sakharov's "Third Idea",a rediscovery of the Teller Ulam design, later weaponised and designated RDS-37. The bomb's yield was reduced from its design yield for the test by 50% by replacing part of the Li-6 D fusion fuel with lithium hydride. Air dropped by a crew commanded by F. P. Golovashko (made Hero of the Soviet Union). The bomb exploded underneath an thermal inversion layer, which focused the shock back toward the ground unexpectedly. This refracted shock wave did unanticipated collateral damage, killing two people. The RDS-37 gave the Soviet Union a short lived monopoly on thermonuclear weapons. It had demonstrated, along with the RDS-27 test, that the Soviet Union had air deliverable thermonuclear weapons. The United States would not achieve this until 1956 when it successfully dropped a hydrogen bomb during Operation Redwing, codenamed Cherokee.

    Alternate clip showing a wide-angle view and damage to structures.

    Roza-|Novaya Zemlya|
    Date: 12/09/1961
    Type: Airburst @1190m
    Yield: 1150 Kt

    Operation Roza was conducted under the command of Colonel General Victor Anisimovich Bolyatko. An R-12 balistic missile with a “product 49” warhead (a thermonuclear device, derived from the RDS-37) was launched in Vorkuta, north of Ural mountains. The launch was delayed when communication between the launch point and the base in Novaya Zemlya was broken twenty minutes before the launch. Communication was restored and the rocket launched, exploding in Mityushika bay at an altitude of 1190 meters with a yield of 1150 kt.

    Korall-|Novaya Zemlya|
    Date: 23/10/1961
    Type: Subsurface @-20m
    Yield: 4.8 Kt

    Korall was an experiment with the objective of studying the effectiveness of the nuclear torpedo T-5 and the use of a new warhead system named ASBZO. Testing took place in Chyornaya bay. Torpedoes were launched from a B-130 submarine, commanded by Captain N.A.Shumkov at a range of 12.5 km. The system was initially tested with a conventional explosive warheads, and later on the 27th of October with a more powerful 16kt warhead.

    Tsar Bomba-|Novaya Zemlya|
    Date: 08:33 UTC 30/10/1961
    Type: Airburst @4000m
    Yield: 50 Mt

    Tsar Bomba, the King of all Bombs. No other man made explosion has come close to the power of 1961 test. Its yield was ten times greater then all of the munitions exploded during WWII. It was not a practical weapon, but a Cold War political stunt to frighten the West. Weighing 27 tons and 8 meters long, the TU-95 that carried had to be specially modified. Parachute retarded, it detonated 4km over the Novaya Zemlya testing grounds. It initially created a 6.5km wide fireball, Light from the detonation was visible 1,000 km away; blast damage 1000km away; the mushroom cloud rose as high as 64 km and developed to a width of 30-40 km.

    More info

    More Clips: Construction | Loading

    Tyulpan-|Novaya Zemlya|
    Date: 8-18/09/1962
    Type: Airburst @~2000m
    Yield: 1.3-1.9 Mt

    Test of the R-14 Chusovaya ballistic missile NATO reporting name SS-5 Skean during Operation Tyulpan. The warhead detonated at approximately 2000m above the Mityushikha bay area of the Novaya Zemlya test range. The video shows one of two possible tests, on either the 8th or the 18th of September.

    Date: 06:00 UTC 15/01/1965
    Type: Subsurface @-178m
    Yield: 140 Kt

    Chagan was the USSR's first Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE), the purpose being to gather data on the use of nuclear explosives for industrial purposes. A 140 kiloton low-fission thermonuclear device utilized a pure fusion secondary and a 5-7 kiloton fission primary. The test was situated in the Chagan River dry bed so that the crater lip that would be formed by the explosion would serve as a dam during the Spring high flow. The explosion formed a crater 400 meters in diameter and 100 meters deep. A lake was formed behind the 34 meter upraised lip. Earth moving equipment then cut a channel through the lip allowing the river to enter the crater filling it with 12 billion litres of water. The reservoir was named Lake Chagan also known as Lake Balapan or the "Atomic Lake". Approximately 20% of the fission products released by the Chagan test escaped into the atmosphere, with dose levels at the crater lip of 20-30 R/hr. While the test did not violate the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty (it was an underground test), radiation was later detected over Japan. Today, the dose level on the lip is reported to be ~2.6 mR/hr. Beyond a restricted area 100-150 m from the lip, the dose rate is at background levels.

    Date: 08:00 UTC 30/03/1965
    Type: subsurface @˜-1350m
    Yield: 2.3/7.6kt

    1965, two 2.3kt devices are used to stimulate the release of butane and oil from subterranian deposits at the Grachevskij oil field, 40 km east of the city of Meleuz, Bashkortostan, Russia. A third 7.6kt was detonated 3 months later. The operation was repeated again in the 1980s with a further two 3.2kt devices.

    Date: 05:59 UTC 30/09/1966
    Type: subsurface @-1532m
    Yield: 30kt

    Control of the Urtabulak gas well in the Bukhara region had been lost. When conventional techniques to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, a subsurface 30 kiloton nuclear device was used to seal off the well. It was listed as a 'seismic event' by the Soviets to conceal the true nature of ordnance used.

    Taiga Experiment-|Semipalatinsk|
    Date: 07:00 UTC 23/03/1971
    Type: Subsurface @-124m
    Yield: 15Kt (x3)

    The Taiga experiment was set of Soviet PNE's (Peaceful Nuclear Explosion) in 1969. Three nuclear devices, each with a 15 kiloton yield were detonated 124 meters underground. The nuclear devices were specially designed to have a minimal fission yield with Only 0.3 kilotons coming from fission reactions. Despite these measures, the radiation from the explosion was detected outside the Soviet Union by several countries, including the United States and Sweden.

    |More Information|

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    Red Bomb

    A compilation of un-identified Russian test shots and effects.

    Published on: 2005-12-16 (207147 reads)

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