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    Goldsboro Broken Arrow
    On 24 January 1961, Goldsboro North Carolina, a B-52 Stratofortress carrying two multi-megaton nuclear bombs broke up in mid-air, dropping its thermonuclear payload near the tiny farming village of Faro.|Read More|

    The aircraft, a B-52G, was on a 24-hour "Coverall" airborne alert mission on the Atlantic seaboard. Around midnight on January 23/24, 1961, it rendezvoused with a tanker for mid-air refuelling. During the hook-up, the tanker crew advised the B-52 captain, Major W.S. Tullock, that his aircraft was venting from its port wing fuel cell. The refuelling was imediately broken off, and ground control notified of the problem. The aircraft was then directed to assume a holding pattern off the coast until the majority of it's fuel was consumed.

    Mark 39 TN Bomb
    The B-52's payload was two unarmed, 4,500 kg Mark-39 hydrogen bombs. The Mk-39 was capable of a nominal 3.8 megaton yield, approximately 250 times the power of the blast that annihilated Hiroshima. Had even one of the weapons achieved full yield at ground-level, the detonation would have left a crater half a kilometer wide and leveled homes eight kilometers away. While the thermal pulse would have set fires and inflicted third-degree burns up to fifteen kilometers away.

    When the B-52 reached its assigned position and altitude, the captain reported that leak had worsened and that 17,000 kg of fuel had been lost in 3 minutes. The aircraft was immediately directed to land at Seymour Johnson Air Base. As it descended through 3,000 m on its approach to the airfield, the pilots were no longer able to keep the aircraft in trim and lost control. The captain ordered the crew to eject.

    The plane exploded as it fell. Five crewmen parachuted to earth safely. Three died -- two who went down with the doomed bomber, and one who was found two miles from the crash site hanging by his parachute in a tree, his neck broken.

    The two nuclear weapons were torn free of the aircraft as it broke up. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs activated, causing it to carry out many of the steps needed to arm itself, such as the charging of the firing capacitors and, critically, the deployment of a 30 m diameter retardation parachute. The parachute allowed the bomb to hit the ground intact with very little damage.

    The second bomb plunged into a muddy field at around 300 meters per second (700 mph). The bomb tail assembly tail was buried in six meters of soil, but both the primary and secondary of the bomb smashed through the nose of the weapon and penetrated farther into the waterlogged farmland.

    Excavation began immediately after the crash, but was hindered by freezing weather, water in the hole, and the presence of the high explosive portion of the weapon. The primary was recovered at a depth of 8 meters on January 30th. By April 3rd, digging had resulted in the excavation of a crater 13 m deep and 60 m in diameter. The recovered bomb parts were taken to the AEC's Medina Base near San Antonio, Texas.

    Bomb Recovery
    Parachute pack removal
    Uncontrollable flooding of the crater caused by a high local water table made further excavation impractical despite 14 pumps removing a combined total of 22,000 litres of water per hour and retrieval work was halted on May 25th. Calculations based on the weight and configuration of the secondary, impact angle and velocity, and soil composition placed the missing bomb components at a depth of 55 meters. The minimum estimated cost of recovery was in the neighborhood of $500,000 USD.

    Rather than continue a losing battle to recover all of the bomb, the military covered over the great hole it had dug, and purchased an easement from the landowners. The agreement describes a "circle 200 feet in radius where no current or future landowner may dig or drill deeper than five feet, nor ever again use the land "in any manner other than for the growing of crops, the growing of timber, or as a pasture."

    Military reports at the time of the accident described the two thermonuclear devices as "unarmed." However, that word is inherently inexact, no matter how it is used. The final "arming" of any military nuclear device requires the completion of numerous steps, executed in the proper sequence and timed correctly. It is thus arguable that any nuclear device could be called technically "unarmed" right up to the moment of its detonation.

    The Goldsboro accident occurred at the height of the Cold War. President John F. Kennedy had taken office only four days earlier, and would soon lead the nation through its closest brush with nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Moreover, the B-52 involved in the Goldsboro crash was not on a training flight; it was, according to the Department of Defense account, on an "airborne alert" mission, an operation designed to keep U.S. nuclear arms airborne and deliverable 24 hours a day. Given the circumstances and the times, it is unlikely that the Air Force was transporting in its "airborne alert" bomber fleet nuclear weapons which were not fully capable of detonation.

    An on-going environmental concern centers on the portions of the one bomb that remains buried. The state of North Carolina still conducts periodic radiation testing on local ground water.

    Source: Chuck Hansen -"The Swords of Armageddon".

    Source: www.wikipedia.org

    Source: www.ibiblio.org

    In nuclear strategy, second strike capability is a country's ability to respond to a nuclear attack with an equally devastating counter attack. To have such an ability is considered vital in nuclear deterrence, as otherwise the other side might be tempted to try to win a nuclear war in one massive first strike against the opponent's nuclear forces and command structure.

    Prior to the 1980s, most nuclear weapons were delivered by long-range bomber or ICBM. These early systems were considered too inaccurate and/or slow for a first strike. An opponent with effective radar and satellite surveillance could expect at least 30 minutes warning of an attack, making an effective first-strike impossible.

    The issue of a possible pre-emptive surprise attack became prominent with the development of highly accurate short-range missile systems in the 1980s. The following American weapons were considered by the Soviets as possible first strike weapon systems:
    • Pershing II IRBM - Single 50Kt warhead, 50m CEP* with a 7-minute flight-time, 1,800km range, designed to strike bunkers, air fields, and ICBM silos in Eastern Europe.
    • BGM-109G Cruise Missile - Single 10-200Kt warhead, range 2,500km, CEP 30m.
    • MX Missile (Peacekeeper) - 10 MIRVed 300Kt warheads, CEP 120m.
    • Trident II SLBM - Up to 14 100/475Kt warheads, CEP 90m.
    * CEP - circular error probable; the radius within which a weapon aimed at a given point will land with a 50% confidence; for example, a CEP of 150 m indicates that 50% of the time, the weapon will impact within 150 m of the target.

    The purpose of Dead Hand (AKA aka Perimetr) was to maintain a second strike capability, by ensuring that the destruction of the Soviet leadership would not prevent the Soviet military from releasing its weapons.

    How did it function?

    Perimetr was designed to lie semi-dormant until switched on by a high official in a crisis. It would then would then begin monitoring a network of seismic, radiation, and air pressure sensors for signs of nuclear explosions. If it detected a hit Soviet soil, the system would check to see if the communication links to the war room of the Soviet General Staff remained. If they did, the machine would assume officials were still living who could order the counterattack and itself shut down.

    But if the line to the General Staff went dead, then Perimeter would infer that apocalypse had arrived. It would immediately transfer launch authority to whoever was manning the system at that moment deep inside a protected bunkeróbypassing all normal layers of command authority. At that point, the ability to destroy the world would fall to whoever was on duty.

    Once initiated, the counterattack would be controlled by so-called command missiles. Hidden in hardened silos designed to withstand the massive blast and electromagnetic pulses of a nuclear explosion, these missiles would launch and then radio down coded orders to whatever Soviet weapons had survived the first strike. Soaring over the smouldering, radioactive ruins of the motherland, and with all ground communications destroyed, the command missiles would ensure the destruction of the US.

    The US did build versions of these technologies, deploying command missiles in what was called the Emergency Rocket Communications System. It also developed seismic and radiation sensors to monitor for nuclear tests or explosions the world over. But the US never combined it all into a system of zombie retaliation, fearing that accidents or a mistake could lead to Armageddon.

    It is not known for sure whether Russia continues to use the system, and it is possible that it is still in place.

    | More

    Test of the Mk-15/39 thermonuclear bomb during Operation Redwing in 1956 - Yield 3.8MT
    Posted on Monday, November 30 @ 12:13:44 MST by sonicbom
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