American
Nuclear
Weapons
Part of the nuclear arms race
during the Cold War
Tests conducted between 1945 & 1962
Operation Dominic
Central Pacific

The Soviet Union had abrogated the 34 month old de facto nuclear testing moratorium on 1 September 1961 by initiating an unprecedented series of atmospheric nuclear tests. The initial U.S. response was to commence its own test series (Operation Nougat) two weeks later. Nougat was an underground series however, restricted to very low yield devices.

Numerous atmospheric tests, many at high yield, were of course on the drawing board at the weapons labs, some carried over from planning for previous test series. Official U.S. action on convening its own atmospheric series did not begin until 10 October 1961 when President Kennedy approved planning for one. Final approval was given on 2 March 1962, 7 weeks in advance of the first planned test.

Dominic included 36 tests. The majority of the tests (29 airdrops) were weapons development tests, intended to evaluate advanced designs that the labs had been cooking up during the years of the moratorium and before. Five rocket-launched tests were conducted to gather further weapons effects data on high-altitude phenomena. Two tests of operational weapon systems were conducted - the Polaris submarine launched ballistic missile and the ASROC anti-submarine rocket.

Conducted as part of Operation Dominic was a series of high altitude tests known as Operation Fishbowl. These tests were Thor missile launched warheads detonated at very high altitudes (30-248 miles) to evaluate the destructive mechanisms and effects of high yield explosions against ballistic missile RVs. Several test failures occurred with missiles being destroyed in flight by range safety officers when electronics failed , when rocket motors malfunctioned (Starfish and Bluegill Prime), or when the missile veered out of control. The Bluegill Prime test was particularly disastrous since the missile was blown up while still on the launch pad, requiring reconstruction of the demolished and plutonium contaminated Thor launch facility.

Jumbo, a 200-ton steel canister designed to recover the plutonium used in the Trinity test in the event that the explosives used were unable to trigger a chain reaction. In the end, Jumbo wasn't used for recovery.
Operation Dominic
1962
Notable tests from Operation Dominic

Information

Test: Swordfish
Time: 20:02 11 May 1962 (GMT)
Location: San Diego
Test Type: Underwater
Test Height: -650ft
Yield - Actual (Predicted): 20 kt (-)

Comments:

This was the fifth and last U.S. underwater test. It was a Department of Defense sponsored full scale test of the ASROC anti-submarine rocket weapon system. The ASROC used the LASL developed W-44 warhead (similar to that tested in Nougat Chena), which had a nominal yield of 10 kt. This shot had a number of objectives: It was a weapons effects test to evaluate how it would affect U.S. ships, submarines, and sonar systems in the area (a target array of four destroyers and a surfaced submarine were positioned at distances between 2200 and 4600 yards from surface zero); It was a safety test to evaluate the radiation hazard to the launching vessel; It was a proof firing of the ASROC by a regular Navy crew under simulated wartime conditions. The ASROC was fired from the destroyer USS Agerholm (DD-826) at a target raft 4348 yards away. The rocket missed its sub-surface zero point by only 20 yards and exploded 40 seconds later at a depth of 650 feet in water.

Information

Test: Aztec
Time: 16:01 27 April 1962 (GMT)
Location: Christmas Island
Test Type: Airdrop
Test Height: 2,610ft
Yield - Actual (Predicted): 410 kt (-)

Comments:

This was a generally successful LASL of the the XW-50X1-Y3 in a Mk-39 Mod-1 Type 3 drop case. It was the highest yield variant of the W-50 warhead (used on the Nike Zeus and Pershing missiles), giving a yield-to-weight ratio of 2.21 kt/kg. This device used a spherical secondary stage. The device was similar to those tested in Adobe, Kingfish, and Bluegill Triple Prime. The yield was slightly lower than expected. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft.

Information

Test: Arkansas
Time: 18:00 27 April 1962 (GMT)
Location: Christmas Island
Test Type: Airdrop
Test Height: 5,030ft
Yield - Actual (Predicted): 1090 kt (-)

Comments:

This test was the first parachute-retarded device to be dropped at Christmas Island, it missed its intended air zero point by 600 ft. The aim point was over a raft moored off the southern end of Christmas Island. Arkansas was a highly successful LRL test of the XW-56X2 (Fife-I) warhead for the Minuteman missile. This warhead was derived from the breakthrough LRL W-47 warhead developed for the Polaris missile. The characteristics of the two warheads are generally similar although the W-56 kept the same general yield (usually given as 1.2 Mt) as the high yield W-47Y2 variant, while trimming 133 pounds of the weight. This test used a Fife secondary stage. This test demonstrated a yield-to-weight ratio 4.00 kt/kg (remarkably close to the effective practical limit of 6 kt/kg for such a light weight device). The test device included a mockup war reserve firing set. This was similar to the devices (also W-56s) fired in Swanee and Bluestone. The mushroom cloud rose to about 60,000 ft. About 1000 W-56s were eventually produced for the Minuteman I and II missiles. Some 450 remained in service until the Minuteman II was finally retired in the 1990s. The last W-56 was retired sometime between October 1992 and March 1993.

Information

Test: Truckee
Time: 15:37 9 June 1962 (GMT)
Location: Christmas Island
Test Type: Airdrop
Test Height: 6,970ft
Yield - Actual (Predicted): 210 kt (-)

Comments:

This was a parachute retarded LRL test of the XW-58 missile warhead in a Mk 36 drop case. This was a development and verification test for the Polaris A2 missile (which would carry three of these warheads). Satisfactory performance.

Information

Test: Yeso
Time: 16:01 10 June 1962 (GMT)
Location: Christmas Island
Test Type: Airdrop
Test Height: 8,325ft
Yield - Actual (Predicted): 3 Mt (-)

Comments:

Free-fall LASL test of a device in a Mk 39 drop case. This was an advanced concepts test of the "16-M" device; similar to the Hardtack-I Koa test. The device performed as expected. This was the fourth largest Dominic explosion, and the largest to date in the series. The yield-to-weight ratio was 4.22 kt/kg.

Operation Dominic

Country: United States
Test Site: Central Pacific
Test Type: Multiple
Period: 1962
Number of Tests: 31
Total Yield: 8.3 megatonnes of TNT (35 PJ)

Comments:

Operation Teapot was a series of fourteen nuclear test explosions conducted at the Nevada Test Site in the first half of 1955. It was preceded by Operation Castle, and followed by Operation Wigwam. Wigwam was, administratively, a part of Teapot, but it is usually treated as a class of its own. The aims of the operation were to establish military tactics for ground forces on a nuclear battlefield and to improve the nuclear weapons used for strategic delivery.



The "ton of TNT" is a unit of energy defined by that convention to be 4.184 gigajoules, which is the approximate energy released in the detonation of a metric ton (1,000 kilograms or one megagram) of TNT.
Yield

600 kt
190 kt
1 Mt
410 kt
670 kt
100 kt
100 kt
73 kt
50 kt
500 kt
20 kt
97 kt
43 kt
210 kt
3 Mt
1.2 Mt
782 kt
800 kt
52 kt
2.2 kt
2.6 kt
1 Mt
81.5 kt
1.2 Mt
11 kt
1.4 Mt
3.8 Mt
75 kt
1.5 Mt
0 t
1000 kt
800 kt
8.3 Mt
7.6 Mt
0 t
1000 kt

8.3 Mt
Words from Fenella Saunders
Code by Luke Hoban