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    Operation Dominic - 1962

    / Main Archive / USA /

    Bighorn Bighorn - 27/06/1962
    Operation Dominic was the largest and most complex atmospheric nuclear testing operation ever conducted by the United States. The Soviet resumption of nuclear testing in September 1961 following a three year ban on nuclear testing, spurred the United States to counter with a series of nuclear tests at the Pacific Proving Grounds. For this reason, Operation Dominic was operated on a timescale only 1/3 of that of similar nuclear testing operations. Considering the size of the operation, both in terms of shots fired, area covered, and objectives, Dominic was an undertaking of unprecedented proportion in the history of U.S. nuclear weapons testing.

    Dominic covered an area of 38,850,000 square kilometers of Pacific ocean, with firings conducted at four primary locations. The use of Christmas Island, which was used by the British for their thermonuclear experiments, was used by the United States for a series of weapons development air drops. The majority of nuclear testing was conducted off Christmas Island. Further air drops were conducted at Johnston Island. All of the devices were dropped from a B-52 staged out of Hawaii. A live test of the Polaris missile system was conducted 800 km north east of Christmas Island. A combined ASROC anti-submarine system and underwater effects test was conducted in the open ocean some 640 km southwest of San Diego, California.

    A major series conducted as part of Dominic was Operation Fishbowl. Fishbowl was a series of high-altitude experiments conducted to observe the effects of thermonuclear explosions in the upper atmosphere. These devices were launched on Thor missiles fired from Johnston Island. Weapons effects monitoring systems were positions over an area covering the entire size of the Pacific Ocean at over 30 different sites.

    On October 24, 1962, the Department of Defense, under Presidential authority, activated Joint Task Force 8. The primary objective of JTF 8 was to organize, prepare, and conduct the complex task of conducting the high yield nuclear testing series in the Pacific, under a tight time frame. 28,000 personnel were involved in the operation, both military and civilian. Over 200,000 tons of material was used for the series. Final approval for Dominic was given on March 2, 1962, just 7 weeks prior to the first scheduled shot time.

    Arkansas Arkansas - 02/05/1962
    Dominic presented the opportunity to test nuclear warheads that remained unproven due to the moratorium on the nuclear testing observed by the United States and Soviet Union in the years prior. Testing these warheads, in weaponized form, was a primary objective of Operation Dominic. Many of these weapons had entered the national stockpile without ever been proof tested in their final form. Dominic also presented the opportunity to test new, advanced warhead designs.

    Originally it was planned to conduct the weapons development shots over the open ocean several hundred miles south of Hawaii, with ships serving as instrumentation platforms for the shots. However, in February 1962, the United States received permission from the British government to use Christmas Island for the weapons development shots, giving the operation a land-based alternative to open ocean testing. Despite being used for thermonuclear tests by the British from 1956-1958 (Operation Grapple), Christmas Island was largely undeveloped to conduct Dominic when negotiations ended. Most of the infrastructure left by the British following Operation Grapple had been abandoned and left to disintegrate. As a result, an extensive development project was conducted to set up the necessary infrastructure needed to conduct the tests.

    An extensive airborne monitoring system was used for the weapons development shots at Christmas Island. Two modified C-130 aircraft were platforms for high speed cameras used for fireball configuration studies and other explosion phenomena. Control aircraft coordinated the airborne diagnostic measuring operation. Other aircraft recorded thermal radiation, radar attenuation, and biomedical studies. B-57 aircraft collected radioactive cloud samples from inside the nuclear cloud produced by the explosions. Modified KC-135 aircraft recorded a variety of experimental data, search and rescue aircraft monitored the large danger zones around the test site, and photographic planes documented the Dominic shots.

    Round the clock monitoring of the danger zones around Christmas Island and Johnston Island was conducted by Navy Destroyers and aircraft. Soviet instrumentation ships lurked the waters just outside the danger zones, collecting data on the nuclear shots. The presence of these ships was constantly monitored by the U.S. Security forces.

    A live fired test of the Polaris missile system was conducted in the Christmas Island danger zone. The nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Ethan Allen fired the Polaris missile which detonated 1,600 km downrange toward Christmas Island. This shot was both the first full-scale test of the Polaris missile system and the first test of the W-47 warhead in weaponized form. Meanwhile, the ASROC event, codenamed Swordfish, was conducted in the ocean some 800 km off the Southern California coast. This shot also had a duel purpose; it was a test of the ASROC anit-submarine system as well as a major underwater nuclear effects test. This was the last underwater nuclear test conducted by the United States.

    The Fishbowl event at Johnston Island was a series of Thor missile launched high-yield shots intended to study the effects of nuclear explosions in the upper atmosphere. Extensive monitoring systems were set up to record data from these shots. Monitoring stations were located in Okinawa, Kwajalein Atoll, Samoa, Alaska, and various other locations on the boundary of the Pacific Ocean. Over 200 ground instrument stations were installed and manned for the high-altitude shots. On May 2, 1962, a non-nuclear daylight certification shot was fired at Johnston Island which tested all systems that would be later used for the live-nuclear shots.

    On April 23, President John F. Kennedy gave the green light to proceed with the first shot of Operation Dominic. Two days later, Adobe was fired off the south east coast of Christmas Island, initiating Operation Dominic.

    The series was the last to conduct atmospheric testing at Bikini and Enewetak atolls. Test names were taken from North American trees and shrubs.

    Primary Dominic Testing Locations

    Operation Dominic I was conducted entirely at the Pacific Proving Grounds. The whole operation covered an area of the Pacific ocean equivalent to 38,850,000 square kilometers. Testing was conducted at four primary locations ,illustrated below. Due to the high-yield of many of the test devices, it was neccassary to conduct Dominic in the Pacific, while smaller shots were conducted at the Nevada Proving Grounds (Operation Dominic II). Most of the Dominic devices were dropped from a B-52 over Christmas and Johnston Islands. Others were fired from rockets at Johnston Island as well as the open ocean.

    Pacific Proving Grounds

    Christmas Island: Located about 1,900 km south of Hawaii, Christmas Island was the site of extensive weapons development shots during Dominic. 24 nuclear tests in total were conducted at this location. All of these shots were air drops, delivered by a B-52 staged out of Hawaii. Christmas Island belonged to the British and its use for this test series was negotiated by the United States in February 1962. In the late 1950s, Christmas Island had been the site of Operation Grapple, Britain's hydrogen bomb trials. All of the Dominic airdrops were conducted off the south eastern end of the atoll.

    Johnston Island: Johnston Island is a small, 1.6 kilometers long atoll located 800 km south of Hawaii. It was the site of several weapons development airdrops as well as rocket launched high-altitude thermonuclear shots as part of Operation Fishbowl. The Fishbowl shots were detonated in the upper atmosphere where their effects would be recorded. Fishbowl was plagued by bad luck early on as several attempts to fire a nuclear tipped rocket failed. Over 200 monitoring stations located at 30 different locations across the Pacific Ocean recorded the effects of the explosions.

    Open Ocean (800 km NE of Christmas Island): This was the site of the United State's first and only test of a ballistic missile system with a live nuclear warhead. The Polaris A1 missile was launched from the submarine USS Ethan Allen and detonated over the open ocean some 800 km off Christmas Island.

    Open Ocean (640 km SW of San Diego, California): This was the site of the Swordfish event, a test of the ASROC anti-submarine defense system. Also part of this shot was extensive underwater weapons effects experiments. This was the last underwater nuclear test conducted by the United States.

    - Click on a thumbnail for a larger version

    Aztec Bluestone Bluestone Chama
    Checkmate Frigate Bird Housatonic Sunset Yeso Yukon

    Test Shots

    Video Name Yield Date |UTC| Type Warhead Location LAT/LONG
    - Adobe 190 Kt 15:46 25/04/1962 Airdrop @884m W-50 Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    Aztec 410 Kt 16:02 27/04/1962 Airdrop @796m W-50 Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    Arkansas 1090 Kt 18:02 02/05/1962 Airdrop @1533m XW-56X2 Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    Questa 670 Kt 19:05 04/05/1962 Airdrop @1594m XW-59 Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    Frigate Bird 600 Kt 23:30 06/05/1962 Missile @3350m W-47 Y1 Pacific 4.83330 -149.41670
    Yukon 100 Kt 18:01 08/05/1962 Airdrop @878m - Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Mesilla 100 Kt 17:01 09/05/1962 Airdrop @747m Mk-15 Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Muskegon 50 Kt 15:37 11/05/1962 Airdrop @913m - Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    Swordfish 20 Kt 23:26 13/06/1962 Subsea @-198m W-44 Off San Diego 31.24500 -124.21170
    - Encino 500 Kt 17:03 12/05/1962 Airdrop @1679m XW-43 Y5 Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Swanee 97 Kt 15:21 14/05/1962 Airdrop @896m XW-56 Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Chetco 73 Kt 18:06 25/05/1956 Airdrop @2105m - Off Christmas Isl.k 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Tanana 2.6 Kt 16:09 25/05/1962 Tower @2752m - Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Nambe 43 Kt 17:03 27/05/1962 Airdrop @2176m Mk-15 Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Alma 782 Kt 17:03 08/06/1962 Airdrop @2702m Mk-59 Off YChristmas Isl. 1.50000 -157.20000
    - Truckee 210 Kt 15:37 09/06/1962 Airdrop @2125m XW-58 Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Yeso 3 Mt 17:01 10/06/1962 Airdrop @2537m - Off Christmas Isl. 1.50000 -157.20000
    - Harlem 1.2 Mt 15:37 12/06/1962 Airdrop @4160m W-47 Y2 Off Christmas Isl. 1.50000 -157.20000
    - Rinconada 800 Kt 16:01 15/06/1962 Airdrop @2775m Mk-15-2 Off Christmas Isl. 1.50000 -157.20000
    - Dulce 52 Kt 18:01 17/06/1962 Airdrop @2771 - Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Petit 2.2 Kt 15:01 19/06/1962 Airdrop @4570m - Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Otowi 81.5 Kt 16:01 22/06/1962 Airdrop @2746 Mk-15-2 Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    - Bighorn 7650 Kt 15:19 27/06/1962 Airdrop @3600m - Off Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    Bluestone 1270 Kt 15:21 30/06/1962 Airdrop @1518m XW-56 x2 Off Christmas Isl. 1.50000 -157.30000
    - Starfish Prime 1450 Kt 09:00 09/07/1962 Rocket @399km W-49 Johnston Isl. 17.20000 -169.10000
    Sunset 1 Mt 16:33 10/07/1962 Airdrop @1500m XW-59 Christmas Isl. 1.60000 -157.30000
    Pamlico 3880 Kt 15:37 11/07/1962 Airdrop @4370m - Christmas Isl. 1.40000 -157.30000
    - Androscoggin 75 Kt 16:18 02/10/1962 Airdrop @3130m - Johnston Isl. 14.00000 -172.00000
    - Bumping 11.3 Kt 16:03 06/10/1962 Airdrop @3050m - Johnston Isl. 15.00000 -169.00000
    - Chama 1590 Kt 16:001 18/10/1962 Airdrop @3650m - Johnston Isl. 14.00000 -169.00000
    Checkmate ? Kt 07:30 20/10/1962 Rocket @147km XW-50 x1 Johnston Isl. 16.00000 -169.50000
    Bluegill TP 400 Kt 08:59 26/10/1962 Airdrop 48200 W-50 Johnston Isl. 16.90000 -169.20000
    - Calamity 800 Kt 15:46 27/10/1962 Airdrop @3590m - Johnston Isl. 15.00000 -169.00000
    Housatonic 8.3 Mt 18:02 30/10/1962 Airdrop @3700m - Johnston Isl. 13.50000 -172.00000
    Kingfish 400 Kt 11:10 01/11/1962 Airdrop @86300m W-50 Johnston Isl. 16.60000 -169.40000
    Tightrope 20 Kt 06:30 04/11/1962 Airdrop @21000m W-31 Johnston Isl. 17.10000 -169.10000

    Published on: 2010-09-23 (4460 reads)

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