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Encyclopedia > Nuclear delivery

Contents

Nuclear weapons
One of the first nuclear bombs.
Nuclear weapons history
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear arms race
Nuclear weapon design
Nuclear explosion
Nuclear testing
Nuclear delivery
Nuclear proliferation
Nuclear countries

Nuclear weapons delivery is the technology and systems used to place a nuclear weapon at the position of detonation, on or near its intended target. Several methods have been developed to carry out this task. The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 km (11 mi) above the hypocenter. ... Image File history File links A picture of a mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device, from http://www. ... A nuclear fireball lights up the night in a United States nuclear test. ... Mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. ... US (blue) and USSR/Russian (red) nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945-2004. ... The first nuclear weapons, though large, cumbersome and inefficient, provided the basic design building blocks of all future weapons. ... It has been suggested that Nuclear explosive be merged into this article or section. ... Preparation for an underground nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site in the 1980s. ... World map with nuclear weapons development status represented by color. ... There are currently seven states that have successfully exploded nuclear weapons. ... The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, 1945, rose some 18 km (11 mi) above the hypocenter. ... A weapons cache is detonated at the East River Range on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Detonation is a process of supersonic combustion that involves a shock wave and a reaction zone behind it. ...


Weapons which are used primarily as part of a doctrine of deterrence by threatening large targets, such as cities, are known as "strategic" nuclear weapons. These usually, but not always, have very large explosive yield. Weapons meant for use in limited military manuevers, such as destroying specific military, communications, or infrastructure targets, are known as "tactical" nuclear weapons, and are usually of much smaller yields. Reliance on yield to differentiate can be problematic, though, as by modern standards, the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 may perhaps be considered tactical weapons (with yields between 13 and 22 kilotons), though they were not used in a tactical manner. Deterrence ALOHA!! is a means of controlling a persons behavior through negative motivational influences, namely fear of punishment. ... // The explosive yield of a nuclear weapon is the amount of energy discharged when the weapon is detonated, expressed usually in the equivalent mass of trinitrotoluene (TNT), either in kilotons (thousands of tons of TNT) or megatons (million of tons of TNT), but sometimes also in terajoules (1 kiloton of... Citizens of Hiroshima walk by the A-Bomb Dome, the closest building to have survived the citys atomic bombing. ... 1945 (MCMXLV) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1945 calendar). ...


Basic methods of delivery for nuclear weapons are discussed in the following sections.


Main delivery mechanisms

Gravity bomb

Main article: Bomb
The first nuclear weapons, such as the "Fat Man" device, were large and cumbersome gravity bombs.
The first nuclear weapons, such as the "Fat Man" device, were large and cumbersome gravity bombs.

Historically the first method of delivery, and the method used in the two nuclear weapons actually used in warfare, is as a gravity bomb, by a bomber. Massive ordinance air-burst bomb. ... Image File history File links A picture of a mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device, from http://www. ... Image File history File links A picture of a mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device, from http://www. ... A post-war Fat Man model. ... B-61 gravity bomb; this nuclear munition has been identified as one that could be modified to hit hardened underground targets. ... B-61 gravity bomb; this nuclear munition has been identified as one that could be modified to hit hardened underground targets. ... A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground targets, primarily by dropping bombs. ...


No nuclear weapon qualifies as a "wooden bomb" — US military slang for a bomb that is trouble-free, maintenance-free, and danger-free under all conditions. Gravity bombs are designed to be dropped from planes, which requires that the weapon can withstand vibrations and changes in air temperature and pressure during the course of a flight. Early weapons often had a removable core for safety, installed by the air crew during flight. They had to meet safety conditions, to prevent accidental detonation or dropping. A variety of types also had to have a fuse to initiate detonation. US nuclear weapons that met these criteria are designated by the letter "B" followed, without a hyphen, by the sequential number of the "physics package" it contains. The "B61", for example, was the primary bomb in the US arsenal for decades. Physics package is a euphemism for the portion of a nuclear weapon that includes the actual explosive portion of the weapon: the detonator explosives, the fissile material, and (for fusion weapons) fusion fuel. ... B61 bomb in various stages of assembly. ...


Various air-dropping techniques exist, including toss bombing, parachute-retarded delivery, and laydown modes, intended to give the dropping aircraft time to escape the ensuing blast. Toss bombing (sometimes known as loft bombing) is a method of bombing where the attacking aircraft pulls upwards and releases its bomb load, giving the bomb additional forward velocity. ... The Apollo 15 capsule landed safely despite a parachute failure. ... Laydown delivery is a mode of deploying a free-fall nuclear weapon in which the bombs fall is slowed by parachute so that it actually lands on the ground before detonating. ...


The first gravity nuclear bombs could only be carried by the B-29 Superfortress. The next generation of weapons were still so big and heavy that they could only be carried by bombers such as the B-52 Stratofortress and V bombers, but by the mid-1950s smaller weapons had been developed that could be carried and deployed by fighter-bombers. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress (Boeing Model 341/345) was a four-engine heavy bomber propeller aircraft flown by the United States Army Air Forces and other military organizations. ... A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground targets, primarily by dropping bombs. ... A B-52 in flight. ... The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the UKs strategic nuclear strike force. ... // Events and No. ... A ground attack aircraft is an aircraft that is designed to operate very close to the ground, supporting infantry and tanks directly in battle. ...


Ballistic missile

Main article: Ballistic missile
A MIRVed missile (such as the LG-118A Peacekeeper) can hold multiple nuclear warheads on one missile bus.
A MIRVed missile (such as the LG-118A Peacekeeper) can hold multiple nuclear warheads on one missile bus.

Missiles using a ballistic trajectory usually deliver a warhead over the horizon. Some ballistic missiles may have a range of tens to hundreds of kilometers, while larger intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), including submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), carry out a sub-orbital spaceflight. Polish missile wz. ... W87 warhead on MIRV bus. ... W87 warhead on MIRV bus. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Test launch of a Peacekeeper ICBM by the 576 Flight Test Squadron, Vandenberg AFB, CA (USAF) The LG-118A Peacekeeper was a land-based ICBM deployed by the United States starting in 1986. ... A missile (CE pronunciation: ; AmE: ) is, in general, a projectile—that is, something thrown or otherwise propelled. ... A ballistic body is a body which is free to move, behave, and be modified in appearance, contour, or texture by ambient conditions, substances, or forces, as by the pressure of gases in a gun, by rifling in a barrel, by gravity, by temperature, or by air particles. ... A warhead is an explosive device used in military conflicts, used to destroy enemy vehicles or buildings. ... Polish missile wz. ... A Minuteman III missile soars after a test launch. ... French M45 SLBM and M51 SLBM Submarine-launched ballistic missiles or SLBMs are ballistic missiles delivering nuclear weapons that are launched from submarines. ... A sub-orbital spaceflight (or sub-orbital flight) is a spaceflight that does not involve putting a vehicle into orbit. ...


Historically, the Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System was designed to carry out a partial orbital spaceflight: a low Earth orbit, with deorbiting after less than one full orbit. The system was phased out in January 1983 in compliance with the SALT II treaty. Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) was a Soviet ICBM in the 1960s that after launch would go into a low Earth orbit and would then de-orbit for an attack. ... A low Earth orbit (LEO) is an orbit in which objects such as satellites are below intermediate circular orbit (ICO) and far below geostationary orbit, but typically around 350 - 1400 km above the Earths surface. ... 1983 (MCMLXXXIII) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... nSALT II was a second round of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks from 1972-1979 between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which sought to curtail the manufacture of strategic nuclear weapons. ...


An ICBM is more than 20 times as fast as a bomber and more than 10 times as fast as a fighter plane, and also flying at a much higher altitude, and therefore more difficult to defend against.


Early ballistic missiles carried a single warhead, often of megaton-range yield. Because of the limited accuracy of the missiles, this kind of high yield was considered necessary in order to ensure a particular target's destruction. A megaton or megatonne is a unit of mass equal to 1,000,000 metric tons, i. ...


Since the 1970s modern ballistic weapons have seen the development of far more accurate targeting technologies, particularly due to improvements in inertial guidance systems. This set the stage for ICBMs with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) with up to a dozen independently targetable warheads, usually in the hundreds-of-kilotons-range yield, on one ballistic platform. This has a number of advantages over a missile with a single warhead. Within limits it allows a single missile to strike multiple targets, or it can inflict maximum damage on a single target by attacking it with multiple warheads, making defense even more difficult than it is already, due to, among other things, the high speed. Soviet plans in the '70s were said to entail dropping one MIRV based warhead every ninety seconds to three minutes on major US targets for up to an hour. The 1970s decade refers to the years from 1970 to 1979, inclusive. ... An inertial guidance system consists of an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) combined with control mechanisms, allowing the path of a vehicle to be controlled according to the position determined by the inertial navigation system. ... A multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle, or MIRV, is one of a collection of nuclear weapons carried on a single intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM). ... A warhead is an explosive device used in military conflicts, used to destroy enemy vehicles or buildings. ... A megaton or megatonne is a unit of mass equal to 1,000,000 metric tons, i. ...


Missile warheads in the American arsenal are indicated by the letter "W"; for example, the W61 missile warhead would have the same physics package as the B61 gravity bomb described above, but it would have different environmental requirements, and different safety requirements since it would not be crew-tended after launch and remain atop a missile for a great length of time. Physics package is a euphemism for the portion of a nuclear weapon that includes the actual explosive portion of the weapon: the detonator explosives, the fissile material, and (for fusion weapons) fusion fuel. ...


Cruise missile

Main article: Cruise missile
Cruise missiles have a shorter range than ICBMs, but would be harder for an enemy to detect or intercept.
Cruise missiles have a shorter range than ICBMs, but would be harder for an enemy to detect or intercept.

A cruise missile is a jet engine or rocket-propelled missile that flies at low altitude using an automated guidance system (usually inertial navigation, sometimes supplemented by either GPS or mid-course updates from friendly forces) to make them harder to detect or intercept. Cruise missiles can carry a nuclear warhead. They have a shorter range and smaller payloads than ballistic missiles, so their warheads are smaller and less powerful. A Tomahawk cruise missile A cruise missile is a guided missile which uses a lifting wing and most often a jet propulsion system to allow sustained flight. ... Download high resolution version (2100x1575, 2341 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (2100x1575, 2341 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... A Tomahawk cruise missile A cruise missile is a guided missile which uses a lifting wing and most often a jet propulsion system to allow sustained flight. ... A Minuteman III missile soars after a test launch. ... A Tomahawk cruise missile A cruise missile is a guided missile which uses a lifting wing and most often a jet propulsion system to allow sustained flight. ... A Pratt and Whitney turbofan engine for the F-15 Eagle is tested at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, USA. The tunnel behind the engine muffles noise and allows exhaust to escape. ... A Redstone rocket, part of the Mercury program A rocket is a vehicle, missile or aircraft which obtains thrust by the reaction to the ejection of fast moving exhaust gas from within a rocket engine. ... A missile (CE pronunciation: ; AmE: ) is, in general, a projectile—that is, something thrown or otherwise propelled. ... An inertial navigation system measures the position and altitude of a vehicle by measuring the accelerations and rotations applied to the systems inertial frame. ... Over fifty GPS satellites such as this NAVSTAR have been launched since 1978. ...


As opposed to conventional cruise missiles, which sometimes use cluster munition payloads, and as opposed to bombers, nuclearly armed cruise missiles have a single warhead. Cluster bomb exploding A cluster bomb is an air-dropped bomb that ejects multiple small submunitions (bomblets). ...


The AGM-129 ACM (Advanced Cruise Missile) is the US Air Force's current nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile. The START II treaty forbids the USA from using stealth weapons on stealth aircraft, therefore the ACM is only carried on the B-52 Stratofortress. This plane can carry 20 missiles. Thus the cruise missiles themselves can be compared with MIRV warheads. The BGM/UGM-109 Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but does not in present configurations. An AGM-129 missile in flight. ... Seal of the Air Force. ... A Boeing X-43 being air launched from under the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress. ... START II, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed by George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin in January 1993, which banned the use of MIRVs and hence often cited as De-MIRV-ing Agreement. ... A B-52 in flight. ... The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile with stubby wings. ...


Cruise missiles may also be launched from mobile launchers on the ground, and from naval ships.


There is no letter change in the US arsenal to distinguish the warheads of cruise missiles from those for ballistic missiles.


Other delivery systems

The Davy Crockett artillery shell was the smallest nuclear weapon developed by the USA.
The Davy Crockett artillery shell was the smallest nuclear weapon developed by the USA.

Other potential delivery methods include artillery shells, mines such as the Medium Atomic Demolition Munition and the (very odd) Blue Peacock, and nuclear depth charges and torpedoes for anti-submarine warfare. An atomic mortar was also tested. In the 1950s the U.S. developed small nuclear warheads for air defense use, such as the Nike Hercules. Further developments of this concept, some with much larger warheads, showed promise as anti-ballistic missiles. Most of the United States' nuclear air-defense weapons were out of service by the end of the 1960s, and nuclear depth bombs were taken out of service by 1990. However, the USSR (and later Russia) continues to maintain anti-ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Small, two-man portable tactical weapons (erroneously referred to as suitcase bombs), such as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, have been developed, although the difficulty to combine sufficient yield with portability limits their military utility. 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. ... A nuclear artillery shell is a limited yield nuclear weapon delivered by artillery. ... Various anti-tank and anti-personnel land mines A landmine is a type of self-contained explosive device which is placed onto or into the ground, exploding when triggered by a vehicle or person. ... Blue Peacock was the codename of a British project in the 1950s with the goal to place a number of 10 kiloton nuclear mines in the Rhine area in Germany. ... Depth Charge used by U.S. Navy later in World War II The depth charge is the oldest anti-submarine weapon. ... Anti-submarine warfare is a term referring to warfare directed against submarines. ... // Events and No. ... Launch of a Nike Zeus missile Project Nike was a US Army project, proposed in May 1945 by Bell Labs, to develop a line-of-sight anti-aircraft missile system. ... An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) is a missile designed to counter ballistic missiles: a ballistic missile is used to deliver nuclear weapons or their elements in a ballistic flight trajectory. ... The 1960s decade refers to the years from 1960 to 1969, inclusive. ... This article is about the year. ... Suitcase with hypothetical nuclear weapon mock-up inside A suitcase bomb is a bomb which uses a suitcase as its delivery method. ... H-912 transport container for Mk-54 SADM 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. ...


Design issues

The Mk-17 was an early U.S. thermonuclear weapon and weighed around 21 short tons (19,000 kg).
Enlarge
The Mk-17 was an early U.S. thermonuclear weapon and weighed around 21 short tons (19,000 kg).

The key nuclear weapon design issue related to delivery mechanisms is miniaturization— the physical size of a warhead most generally limits what kinds of delivery systems it can be coupled with. As an example, the first hydrogen bombs weighed over a dozen tons and could only be delivered by the largest aircraft. Later thermonuclear warheads, which were engineered to fit on top of missiles, were designed to weigh around a quarter of a ton. The short ton is a unit of mass equal to 907. ... The first nuclear weapons, though large, cumbersome and inefficient, provided the basic design building blocks of all future weapons. ...


A second issue is accuracy. It has been suggested, for example, that Soviet nuclear weapons were designed to be of greater yield than U.S. weapons to compensate for the lesser accuracy of Soviet delivery vehicles.


Finally, there is the issue of penetration. See the article on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator. Nuclear weapons designed to detonate in the atmosphere often have a salvage or impact fuze that detonates them if they, unintendedly, hit the ground. The salvage fuze may even be designed to detonate when the weapon is about to be destroyed by an anti-ballistic missile; this requires an even faster fuze. [1] This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) is a missile designed to counter ballistic missiles: a ballistic missile is used to deliver nuclear weapons or their elements in a ballistic flight trajectory. ...


See also

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Nuclear delivery
Nuclear technology  
Nuclear physics Nuclear fission - Nuclear fusion - Radiation - Atomic nucleus - Nuclear reactor - Plasma
Nuclear material Nuclear fuel - Fertile material - Uranium - Enriched uranium - Depleted uranium - Plutonium
Nuclear power Nuclear power plant - Radioactive waste - Fusion power - Future energy development - Pressurized water reactor - Boiling water reactor - Generation IV reactor - Fast breeder reactor - Fast neutron reactor - Gas cooled fast reactor - Molten salt reactor - Lead cooled fast reactor - Supercritical water reactor - Very high temperature reactor - Pebble bed reactor - Integral Fast Reactor - Nuclear propulsion
Nuclear medicine X-ray - PET - MRI - Radiation therapy - Thomotherapy - Brachytherapy
Nuclear weapons History of nuclear weapons - Nuclear warfare - Nuclear arms race - Nuclear weapon design - Nuclear explosion - Nuclear testing - Nuclear delivery - Nuclear proliferation - List of countries with nuclear weapons

 
 

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