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    Blue Peacock - The Chicken-powered Nuke
    Blue Peacock Conceived during the Cold War, the seven tonne device was the size of small truck and was designed to be buried or submerged by a British Army retreating from Soviet forces. |Read More|

    In 1950s-era Germany, the British forces stationed there after WWII were understandably nervous about a potential invasion by the Soviet Union. The Cold War had begun, the Iron Curtain was in place, and Stalin was making every effort to compromise Germany’s capacity for another war despite attempts by the U.S. and England to rebuild Germany's Economy. Additionally, amid tensions, Stalin had split off the Soviet sector of Germany as a communist state.

    It was generally perceived that the Soviet Union possessed overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons, and the threat of a new war with the communist USSR was looming over Europe. As part of the preparations for such a conflict, British forces developed a new kind of landmine to leave behind if they were forced to withdraw in the face massed columns of Soviet tanks and troops. Codenamed the Blue Peacock, and it was essentially a nuclear landmine.

    The landmine would have been detonated remotely, causing mass destruction and contamination over a wide area to prevent subsequent enemy occupation. The mines were to be left buried or submerged by the British Army of the Rhine. They would then have been detonated by wire from up to five kilometres away or by an eight-day clockwork timer. If disturbed or damaged, they were also primed to explode within 10 seconds. The devices had a nominal yield of 10 kT, producing a crater over 200 meters in diameter, and spreading radioactive contamination over several kilometers.

    Development work on the mine began at the Armament Research and Development Establishment at Fort Halstead in Kent in 1954. The weapon was designed, its components tested (short of fission) and two prototypes constructed, as part of a secret army "atomic demolition munitions" programme.

    The design was based on Blue Danube, a free-fall nuclear bomb that was already in service with the Royal Air Force. But Blue Peacock, weighing in at over seven tonnes, would have been far more massive. The steel casing was so large that it had to be tested outdoors in a flooded gravel pit near Sevenoaks in Kent.

    One technical problem was that buried objects—especially during winter—can get very cold, and it was possible the mine would not have worked after some days underground, due to the delecate electronics being too cold to operate properly. Various methods to get around this were studied, such as wrapping the bombs in insulating blankets. One particularly remarkable proposal suggested that live chickens should be included in the mechanism. The chickens would be sealed inside the casing, with a supply of food and water. The body heat given off by the chickens would, it seems, have been sufficient to keep all the relevant components at a working temperature.

    In July 1957 the British Army ordered ten Blue Peacocks for use in Germany, under the cover story that they were atomic power units for troops in the field. However in the end, the risk from radioactive fallout would have been "unacceptable", and hiding nuclear weapons in an allied country was deemed "politically flawed". As a result, the Ministry of Defence cancelled Blue Peacock in February 1958.

    The proposal was so outlandish, that it was thought to be an April Fool's Day joke when the Blue Peacock files were declassified in 2004. Tom O'Leary, head of education and interpretation at the National Archives, replied to the media that, "It does seem like an April Fool but it most certainly is not. The Civil Service does not do jokes."

    | More

    Former Atomic Weapons Establishment employee David Hawkings
    in front of the Blue Peacock exhibit at the AWE historical Collection.

    This article was originaly published on sonicbomb.com in June 2007
    Posted on Saturday, July 31 @ 10:05:53 MDT by sonicbom
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