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Encyclopedia > Nuclear artillery

A nuclear artillery shell is a limited yield nuclear weapon delivered by artillery. Historically, artillery refers to any engine used for the discharge of projectiles during war. ... A shell is a projectile, which, as opposed to a bullet, is not solid but contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage includes large projectiles without a filling. ... The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 km (11 mi) above the hypocenter. ...


Shortly after the development of the first atomic bombs the USA and the USSR began investigations into devices with limited yield that could be used in sub-strategic situations, even tactically. This developed into a number of short-range delivery systems and low yield warheads from the late 1950s onwards. The weapons included landmines, depth charges, torpedoes, demolition munitions and artillery shells. A landmine is a type of mine which is placed onto or into the ground and explodes when triggered by a vehicle or person. ... Depth Charge used by U.S. Navy later in World War II The depth charge is the oldest anti-submarine weapon. ... A modern torpedo, historically called a self-propelled torpedo, is a self-propelled guided projectile that (after being launched above or below the water surface) operates underwater and is designed to detonate on contact or in proximity to a target. ... Historically, artillery refers to any engine used for the discharge of projectiles during war. ...


US nuclear artillery

Operation Upshot/Knothole, a 1953 test of a nuclear artillery projectile at Nevada Test Site (photo depicts 280 mm gun and explosion)
Operation Upshot/Knothole, a 1953 test of a nuclear artillery projectile at Nevada Test Site (photo depicts 280 mm gun and explosion)

The US development resulted in a number of test weapons. The first artillery test was on May 25, 1953 at the Nevada Test Site. Fired as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole and codenamed Shot GRABLE, a 280 mm shell with a gun-type fission warhead was fired 10,000 m and detonated 160 m above the ground with an estimated yield of 15 kilotons. This was the only nuclear artillery shell ever actually fired in the US test program. The shell was 1384 mm long and weighed 365 kg; it was fired from a specially built artillery piece, nicknamed "Atomic Annie", by the Artillery Test Unit of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Around 3,200 personnel were present. The warhead was designated the W-9 and 80 were produced from 1952-53 for the T-124 shell. It was retired in 1957. Operation Upshot/Knothole, a 1953 test of a nuclear artillery projectile at Nevada Test Site (photo depicts 280 mm gun and explosion). ... May 25 is the 145th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (146th in leap years). ... 1953 (MCMLIII) is a common year starting on Thursday. ... November 1951 nuclear test at Nevada Test Site - Test is shot Dog from Operation Buster, 21 kilotons. ... Operation Upshot-Knothole was a series of eleven nuclear test shots conducted in 1953 at the Nevada Test Site. ... Gun-type fission weapons are fission-based nuclear weapons whose design assembles their fissile material into a supercritical mass by the use of the gun method: shooting one piece of sub-critical material into another. ... A megaton or megatonne is a unit of mass equal to 1,000,000 metric tons, i. ...


Development work continued and resulted in the W-19. A 280 mm shell, it was a longer version of the W-9. Only 80 warheads were produced and the system was retired in 1963 with the development of the W-48 warhead. The W-48 was 846 mm long and weighed 58 kg; it could be fitted in a 155 mm M-45 AFAP (artillery fired atomic projectile) and used in a more standard 155 mm howitzer. The fission warhead was a linear implosion type, consisting of a long cylinder of subcritical mass which is compressed and shaped by explosive into a supercritical sphere. The W-48 yielded just 72 tons TNT equivalent. Trinitrotoluene (TNT, or Trotyl) is a pale yellow crystalline aromatic hydrocarbon compound that melts at 354 K (178 Â°F, 81 °C). ...


The W-48 went into production from 1963; and 135 examples of the Mod 0 variant were built up to 1968 when it was retired. It was replaced by the Mod 1 which was manufactured from 1965 up until 1969; 925 of this type were made. Efforts were made to update the warheads: the 203 mm W-74 was developed from around 1970, intended to have a yield of 100 tons or higher; it was cancelled in 1973. A further development program began in the 1980s: the W-82, for the XM-785 (a 155 mm shell), was intended to yield up to 2 kt with an enhanced radiation capability. Development was halted in 1983. A W-82-1 fission only type was designed but finally cancelled in 1990. A neutron bomb is a type of nuclear weapon specifically designed to release a relatively large portion of its energy as energetic neutron radiation. ...

The small Davy Crockett could be fired from a M-388 recoilless rifle.
The small Davy Crockett could be fired from a M-388 recoilless rifle.

Other developments also continued. In 1958 a fusion warhead was developed and tested, the UCRL Swift. It was 622 mm long, 127 mm diameter, and weighed 43.5 kg. At its test it yielded only 190 tons; it failed to achieve fusion and only the initial fission explosion worked correctly. As well as linear implosion devices, the US developed a spherical implosion device that was very close to the theoretical limit of nuclear weapons. The Mk-54 Davy Crockett was designed to be fired from the M-388 recoilless rifle. Weighing only 23 kg, the warhead in its casing was 400 mm by 273 mm. It was first tested in October 1958 as part of Operation Hardtack and yielded 10 tons, but later developments increased that to 1 kt. 400 Mk-54 warheads were produced from 1961-65 and the last was withdrawn in 1971. The warhead was also adapted for the Mk-54 SADM (Special Atomic Demolition Munition), a cylinder 40 cm by 60 cm and weighing 68 kg. Fired by a mechanical timer, it had a variable yield from 10 tons up to 1 kt. 300 SADMs were made and they remained in the US arsenal until 1989. Davy Crockett Bomb (U.S. Government Archive photo) File links The following pages link to this file: Nuclear weapon Nuclear artillery Davy Crockett (nuclear device) Categories: U.S. Army images ... Davy Crockett Bomb (U.S. Government Archive photo) File links The following pages link to this file: Nuclear weapon Nuclear artillery Davy Crockett (nuclear device) Categories: U.S. Army images ... Davy Crockett mounted to a recoilless rifle on a tripod The M-388 Davy Crockett was a tactical nuclear recoilless rifle projectile that was deployed by the United States during the Cold War. ... M67 recoilless rifle The first effective recoilless rifles (RCL) were developed during World War II as a lightweight form of anti-tank weaponry. ... The deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion reaction is considered the most promising for producing fusion power. ... Davy Crockett mounted to a recoilless rifle on a tripod The M-388 Davy Crockett was a tactical nuclear recoilless rifle projectile that was deployed by the United States during the Cold War. ... M67 recoilless rifle The first effective recoilless rifles (RCL) were developed during World War II as a lightweight form of anti-tank weaponry. ... Hardtack Oak mushroom cloud Hardtack Sorocco mushroom cloud An RB-57 Canberra observes Juniper. ... The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was a United States Navy and Marines project that was demonstrated as feasible in the mid-to-late 1960s, but was never used. ...


Only one type of artillery round other than the W-48 was produced in large numbers, the W-33 for use in a 203 mm shell. Around 2,000 warheads of this type were manufactured from 1957-65, each 940 mm long and weighing around 109 kg. They were fitted in the T-317 AFAP and fired from a specialised howitzer. The warhead yield was greater than the W-48 and it was made in four types, three yielding 5 to 10 kt and one 40 kt.


In 1991 the US unilaterally withdrew its nuclear artillery shells from service, and Russia responded in kind in 1992. The US removed around 1,300 nuclear shells from Europe and reportedly dismantled its last shells by 2003.


See also: Supergun A supergun is a large cannon with an extremely high muzzle velocity; they were originally designed to bombard an enemy from extremely far away. ...


External links

  • Video clip of nuclear artillery being fired
  • More information about the cannon and its "precursor" effect

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