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Encyclopedia > Operation Grapple

Operation Grapple, and operations Grapple X, Grapple Y and Grapple Z, were series of British nuclear testing operations which sought to test a hydrogen bomb. The operations were conducted from 1956 to 1958 at Malden Island and Christmas Island (now Kiritimati). A total of 9 nuclear detonations took place during the trials and resulted in Britain becoming a thermonuclear power. The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 lifted nuclear fallout some 18 km (60,000 feet) above the epicenter. ... Year 1956 (MCMLVI) was a leap year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... NASA orbital photo of Malden Island (north at bottom). ... For the island in the Indian Ocean, see Christmas Island. ... At the end of the 20th century, Thermonuclear has came to imply anything which has to do with fusion nuclear reactions which are triggered by particles of thermal energy. ...


Untested and unproven thermonuclear designs being developed at Britain's nuclear weapons research establishment, the AWRE, required proof testing. For this reason, Grapple was conducted as a massive tri-service operation, the largest of its kind since World War II. Initial work and preparation of the operation, as well as establishment of the necessary infrastructure on Christmas Island, began in the end of May 1956. About 1,200 civilian and military personnel were stationed on Christmas Island during this year. All of the bombs were exploded in the air, rather than on the surface, to reduce the effects of fallout. Awre is a village and civil parish in the Forest of Dean district of Gloucestershire, England. ... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... Fallout is the residual radiation hazard from a nuclear explosion, so named because it falls out of the atmosphere into which it is spread during the explosion. ...


Initial landings were from the Bibby Line troopship Devonshire which had sailed from the Far East and embarked servicemen at Suva (Fiji) who had been flown from the United Kingdom by commercial airlines. From early October, following the rebuilding of the island's main runway, the majority of arrivals came directly from the United Kingdom, via Hawaii, using Qantas chartered Super Constellation aircraft. Departures of the first arrivals started early June 1957, using the same Qantas arrangement to Hawaii. The Bibby Line Group is the parent of the current incarnation of the shipping interests of the Bibby family of Britain, which can be traced back to the establishment of the shipbroking partnership of Bibby & Hall in 1801. ... Suva is the capital city of Fiji. ... Official language(s) English, Hawaiian Capital Honolulu Largest city Honolulu Area  Ranked 43rd  - Total 10,931 sq mi (29,311 km²)  - Width n/a miles (n/a km)  - Length 1,522 miles (2,450 km)  - % water 41. ... Qantas Airways Limited (pronounced ) is the name and callsign of the national airline of Australia. ... The Lockheed Constellation, affectionately known as the “Connie”, was a four-engine propeller-driven airliner built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, USA, facility. ...


While Christmas was the main base, three other locations featured as key elements of the operation. Malden Island, about 200 miles south of Christmas Island was the site for the air-dropped tests, and Penrhyn Island, a further 200 miles south was used as a monitoring site and weather station. Air support for the operation was generally routed through Hickam Air Base on the Hawaiian Islands to the north, where a support group was located. Hickam Air Force Base is a U.S. Air Force base located in the city and county of Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. ...


Supplies for the island were shipped primarily from the southern hemisphere — Australia and New Zealand, by freighters of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). The Royal Navy established a water processing plant early in the operation, which provided adequate supplies of drinking water and semi-salt water for showering.

Contents

Grapple

The first trial was Grapple, also known as Grapple 1. All of these nuclear bombs were dropped and detonated over Malden Island. The first test of this trial was code-named Short Granite. It was a two-staged nuclear weapon that had a predicted yield of about 1 megaton. The bomb was dropped by a Vickers Valiant XD818 [1], piloted by Kenneth Hubbard, over Malden Island on May 15, 1957. The bomb weighed around 4,545 kg. The Vickers Valiant was a British four-jet bomber, once part of the RAFs V bomber force. ... is the 135th day of the year (136th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ...


The bomb exploded with a force of 300 kilotons. This yield was far below the predicted power of the bomb. Despite this, Britain hailed this test as a successful thermonuclear explosion and announced to the world it had become a thermonuclear power. While disappointing, the AWRE scientists learned valuable information regarding radiation implosion. // 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... The term radiation implosion describes the process behind a class of devices which use high levels of electromagnetic radiation to compress a target. ...


The next test was Orange Herald (small). This was a large fission bomb which was hoped to arm a future ballistic missile. The bomb was dropped and detonated by a Valiant on May 31, 1957. It exploded with a force of 720 kilotons. The yield was the largest ever achieved by similar bomb designs. This bomb was hailed by the government as a new type of hydrogen bomb and the fact that it was a fission bomb was kept secret by the government until the end of the Cold War. Diagram of V-2, the first ballistic missile. ... is the 151st day of the year (152nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ...


The last shot of Grapple was Purple Granite. This was a last minute addition to the operation and was hoped to give an improved yield over Short Granite. The bomb was detonated on June 19, 1957 with a 200 kiloton yield. is the 170th day of the year (171st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ...


There were other designs that were not tested: Green Bamboo was a single stage thermonuclear bomb similar to the Soviet Joe-4, and Orange Herald (large) was a "political bomb": a large fission bomb that was not suitable for use as a weapon but was certain to give a high yield ensuring that Britain would not appear as a failed nuclear power. The first (not true) Soviet Hydrogen (Super) Test, dubbed Joe 4 Joe 4 was an American nickname for the first Soviet test of a hydrogen bomb and was on August 12, 1953. ...


The two Granites and Green Bamboo were designed to achieve high yields by using the Li-6 D/U-238 cycle rather than the large scale fusion of deuterium achieved at Grapple-Y. Boosted fission weapons are a type of nuclear bomb that uses a small amount of fusion fuel to increase the rate, and thus yield, of a fission reaction. ... Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is a stable isotope of hydrogen with a natural abundance in the oceans of Earth of approximately one atom in 6500 of hydrogen (~154 PPM). ...


Grapple X

Following the disappointing results of the first Grapple trial, Grapple X was conducted at Christmas Island. For Grapple X, the bombs would be exploded over Christmas Island instead of Malden Island to save time and money.


With the experience and knowledge gained from the first Grapple trial, the scientists had developed a new hydrogen bomb design with a 50% more powerful fission trigger and a simplified thermonuclear secondary. Grapple X was dropped and detonated over the southern end of Christmas Island on November 8, 1957. The two-stage thermonuclear bomb exploded with a force of 1.8 megatons. This was close to being the real hydrogen bomb Britain wanted, but used a relatively large quantity of (expensive) highly enriched uranium. is the 312th day of the year (313th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ...


The explosion did some collateral damage to the island, resulting in demolished buildings and damaged infrastructure. This damage was due to the high yield of the test, which was not expected.


Grapple X was spectacularly successful, exceeding the predicted yield of 1 megaton almost by 100%. Britain became a true thermonuclear power with the detonation of Grapple X.


Grapple Y

Grapple Y sought to develop a more efficient thermonuclear bomb based on the successful Grapple X design. Like Grapple X, only one detonation was conducted during Grapple Y. The bomb was detonated off Christmas Island on April 28, 1958. The bomb achieved a yield of three megatons and was the largest British nuclear test ever conducted. [1] The Grapple Y design was successful as the majority of the yield came from thermonuclear reactions instead of fast fission yield from the uranium tamper. is the 118th day of the year (119th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Fast fission is fission that occurs when a heavy atom absorbs a high-energy neutron, called a fast neutron, and splits. ... Tamper-evident devices are ones designed to make it easy to see whether they have been altered. ...


Grapple Z

With a nuclear testing moratorium quickly approaching, Grapple Z was conducted at Christmas Island in the summer of 1958. This was a four shot series and the largest of the four Grapple trials. Grapple Z sought to develop lighter nuclear warheads as well as weapons that were radiologically hardened meaning they would not predetonate if exposed to radiation from other nuclear weapons. Two of the tests were fission devices tested for development of the primary stage of a two-stage device.


The first shot, codenamed Pendant, was detonated on August 22, 1958. Rather than being dropped by a bomber, the bomb was suspended from balloons. Pendant had a 24 kiloton yield and used solid fusion boosting with lithium deuteride. [1] The next shot, Flagpole, was airdropped over Christmas Island on September 2, 1958. It was a smaller version of the bomb exploded at Grapple Y and exploded with a yield of 1.2 megatons. This test was followed by Halliard 1 (September 11, 1958) an unusual three-stage bomb with two fission components and one thermonuclear component which achieved its predicted yield of 800 kilotons and was immune despite not using boosting. The final test was Burgee (September 23, 1958), another balloon shot which was fusion boosted with tritium gas and achieved a yield of 25 kilotons. is the 234th day of the year (235th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Boosted fission weapons are a type of nuclear bomb that uses a small amount of fusion fuel to increase the rate, and thus yield, of a fission reaction. ... September 2 is the 245th day of the year (246th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 254th day of the year (255th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 266th day of the year (267th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1958 (MCMLVIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Tritium (symbol T or 3H) is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. ...


Grapple Z was the last atmospheric nuclear testing trial conducted by Britain. [1] The result of it was that Britain had the capability of making a 1 megaton H-bomb that weighed no more than 1 ton and was immune to radiation from nearby nuclear weapons.


Cooperation with the USA

The practical result of the British H-bomb project (in conjunction with other political events [2]) was that the United States became willing to enter into the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement. This put an end to Britain's independent nuclear weapons system in favour of American designs. The Americans, to their surprise, also benefited by access to information where Britain was technically ahead including details of explosives and electronics, and experience in designing weapons without large numbers of tests. While the designs tested during Grapple were successful, they were not put into service by Great Britain. Their useful effect was to greatly increase the quality of information that the USA was willing to share. The 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement is a bilateral treaty between the US and the UK on nuclear weapons cooperation. ...


See also

Operation Antler was a series of three open-air nuclear tests conducted by the United Kingdom in September and October, 1957 at Maralinga, Australia. ...

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Arnold,Lorna, Britain and the H-Bomb, (New York: Palgrave Publishers Ltd., 2001), 174.
  2. ^ http://www.awe.co.uk/main_site/about_awe/history/timeline/1958/index.html Other political considerations at the AWE website

References

  • Britain's Cold War Super Weapons, Channel 4, 2005-04-24 [2]
  • House of Commons, enquiry for Nuclear Test Veterans, 2002-09-04 [3]
  • Arnold, Lorna, Britain and the H-Bomb

Channel 4 is a public-service British television station, broadcast to all areas of the United Kingdom (and also the Republic of Ireland), which began transmissions in 1982. ... Lorna Arnold is a historian who has written a number of books connected with the British nuclear weapons programmes. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Operation Grapple - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (574 words)
Operation Grapple was a United Kingdom tri-service exercise leading to the detonation of the first British hydrogen bomb on May 15, 1957.
The operation was initiated by the arrival of the advanced party of troops at the end of May 1956, building up to around 1,200 civilian and military participants at the end of that year.
The success of Operation Grapple led to the Americans sharing their H-Bomb designs with the British under the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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