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    French Archive

    - /Main Archive

    Gerboise Bleue-|Reggane|
    Date: 07:04 UTC 13/02/1960
    Type: Tower @105m
    Yield: 65kt

    The first French test, Gerboise Bleue was a surface shot fired atop a 105m tower in Reganne Algeria. The device was a prototype for the AN-11 warhead deployed three years later, used plutonium and had the highest yield for any countries first test. General Ailleret personally activated the firing switch for the detonation of the device. The name of the test originates from the Gerboise (jerboa), a desert rodent, while blue is the first color of the French tricolor flag. The AN-11 was the first nuclear weapon to be stockpiled by the French. A pure fission weapon with a 60 kilotons yield, it entered service in 1963; only 40 were made before being replaced by the AN-22 in 1967.

    Gerboise Blanche-|Reggane|
    Date: 06:17 UTC 01/04/1960
    Type: Surface
    Yield: 10kt

    The second French test, Gerboise Blanche was a surface shot fired in a seven meter deep pit, which accounted for the strange, Christmas tree-like shape of the fireball. The 1288 kg device was cubic in form, with a plywood outer casing and housed in a crude hut. The device was built to achieve a nuclear reaction and was not heavily instrumented. Security was much lighter than the previous shot Gerboiuse Bleue shot. Personal cameras were allowed to record the detonation with proper authorization. General Ailleret once again personally initiated the firing of the device. The explosion produced a 13 meters deep crater, which was later filled in.

    Béryl-|In Ecker|
    Date: 10:00 UTC 01/05/1962
    Type: Underground @-?m
    Yield: 40kt

    Béryl was a test of a prototype AN-11 bomb. Fired as part of a series of 13 underground nuclear tests conducted at In Ecker between 1961 and 1966 in the Algerian Sahara. A spiral shaped tunnel drilled into the mountain for the shot, designed to self-seal before any material could reach the surface. This system failed and 5-10% of the explosion's radioactive products escaped in the form of lava, aerosols and gases which formed a cloud which reached 2600m and spread 150km downwind. Several hundred personnel including two government ministers were exposed to the contamination as well as an unknown number of Algerians.

    Date: 15:34 UTC 02/07/1966
    Type: Barge
    Yield: 28kt

    France's first Pacific nuclear test, using the M-50 CTC (Charge Tactique Commune - common tactical warhead) device which went on to be deployed as the AN-51 and AN-52 tactical warheads. The barge containing the nuclear device was moored at the Dindon testing sector on the western end of the atoll. This method of testing would be used for a further three tests (Rigel, Sirius, and Arcturus). Un-predicted weather conditions and the fact that it was a suface shot, caused significant radioactive contamination of the Mururoa Atoll. The local populations were not notified about the radiological situation.

    Date: 17:30 UTC 02/07/1967
    Type: Surface
    Yield: 22Kt

    Arcturus was the last barge shot conducted by France. It was a test of the primary trigger that would be used the following year for the testing of France’s first two-stage thermonuclear device, Canopus. The cloud reached an altitude of 15,000 meters. Slight wind change following the shot resulted in the cloud passing near the atoll of Tureia, resulting in some fallout.

    Date: 18:30 UTC 24/08/1968
    Type: Baloon @520
    Yield: 2.6Mt

    France's attempts to produce a staged thermonuclear weapon came to fruition with Canopus, it was also the largest French atmospheric test. Like most of the French tests, the three tonne device was suspended from a balloon. The top of the mushroom cloud reached an altitude of 23,400 meters, while the base reached an altitude of 14,500 meters. The cloud drifted to the north-east and fallout was detected on the atolls of Pukarua, Tureia, and Reao. The device used a lithium-6 deuteride secondary jacketed with HEU that caused massive contamination of the atoll, requiring it to be quarantined for six years. The device was weaponised, entering the stockpile in 1977 as the TN-60 with a 1 megaton nominal yield. These warheads were deployed on the Redoutable class ballistic missile submarines as well as on the land based SSBS S3 missiles.

    Alternative clip | Cloud Timelapse

    Date: 19:00 UTC 08/09/1968
    Type: Baloon
    Yield: 1.28Mt

    Procyon was France's second hydrogen bomb test designed to produce a larger fusion reaction from the secondary stage. The largest nuclear test conducted at Mururoa atoll and the second largest French test overall. The device was hoisted high above the Dindon testing sector, on the western end of Mururoa, by a helium filled balloon. Detonated at an altitude of 700 meters, the highest balloon test conducted by France. The device was fired at this height to reduce local radioactive fallout. The yield exceeded all pre-shot predictions. Though less powerful than the Canopus test, Procyon was considered a much more efficient design. Excellent meteorological conditions during shot time permitted ideal photography of the test, much of which was subsequently published in the media following the test.

    Wide View

    Date: 18:30 UTC 03/07/1970
    Type: Baloon @500m
    Yield: 914kt

    Licorne was a test of an experimental thermonuclear device for the TN-60 warhead; the fourth thermonuclear test conducted by France. The nuclear device was suspended from a balloon, which was filled with 14,000 cubic meters of helium, 500 meters (1600 feet) feet over the Dindon testing sector. Shot day was characterized by cloudy conditions but good visibility, with weak winds (2 to 4 knots) due southeast were forecast on shot day. The cloud reached an altitude of 24,000 meters approximately six minutes after shot time, with the base of the cloud reaching 15,800 meters. Two Vautour aircraft conducted cloud sampling missions at H+1 hour 15 minutes. Four rockets were fired into the mushroom cloud to collect gaseous samples. Fallout was detected on several atolls downwind, including Tureia, Reao and Puka Rua. Newly appointed Minister of Defense Michel Debré observed the test from the De Grasse along with 12 representatives from the French press. Debré reportedly swam in the Mururoa lagoon during this time to make the reporters think the radiological effects of the nuclear tests were harmless.

    Date: 19:00 UTC 03/08/1970
    Type: Baloon @500m
    Yield: 594kt

    Toucan shot day was characterized by partial cloud cover, the mushroom cloud reached an altitude of 19,000 meters.

    Date: 19:14 UTC 12/06/1971
    Type: Baloon @438m
    Yield: 440Kt

    Encelade was a proof test of the MR-41 boosted fission warhead. The MR-41 entered service in 1971 and had a nominal yield of 500 kilotons. The mushroom cloud reached an altitude of 16.5 kilometers 10 minutes after the explosion. Fallout fell over the atoll of Tureia following the test.

    Date: 21:30 UTC 04/07/1971
    Type: Baloon @224m
    Yield: 9Kt

    Japet was possibly a developmental test for a primary trigger for the TN-60/61 warhead. The mushroom cloud reached an altitude of 8.7 kilometers.

    Date: 19:00 UTC 14/08/1971
    Type: Baloon @480m
    Yield: 955Kt

    Rhéa was a test of the TN-60/61 warhead. It was the third largest and last megaton range test conducted by France. The mushroom cloud reached an altitude of 64,000 feet. Four aircraft made seven passes each through the mushroom cloud to collect samples. Eight rockets were fired into the cloud to collect particulate samples. Fallout was detected on the Gambiers and several uninhabited islands.

    Alternate clip

    Date: 19/08/1973
    Type: Baloon
    Yield: 4kt

    Shot day was characterized by heavily cloudy conditions. Mushroom cloud rose to an altitude of 5,400 meters. Three aircraft conducted cloud sampling missions.

    Date: 14/09/1974
    Type: Baloon
    Yield: 433kt

    Verseau was the last atmospheric test conducted by France, a test of the TN-60/61 warhead. The mushroom cloud rose to an altitude of 19,000 meters. Four cloud sampling aircraft conducted a total of 24 passes through the mushroom cloud between 11,250 and 12,500 meters. Light fallout was detected on Tureia and Reao.

    Date: 18:15 UTC 05/06/1975
    Type: Underground @-623m
    Yield: 5kt

    France ceased atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in 1974, with testing being conducted underground at Mururoa and Fangataufa. Deep shafts were drilled, the test devices were lowered then detonated deep below the atoll. These underground tests were far less polluting, but the process was more complex and therefore more expensive. As it turned out the porous nature of the coral meant that there was still significant leakage and contamination.

    Published on: 2005-12-16 (93631 reads)

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