Voices from Russia

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Peacemaker: How the Soviet Tsar Bomba Helped Prevent Nuclear War

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Fifty-five years ago, the USSR detonated a 50-megaton bomb over an uninhabited island north of the Arctic Circle. The most powerful thermonuclear weapon ever built by man, aptly called the Tsar Bomba, gave the USSR nuclear parity with the USA.

The Super Bomb was a Necessity

The “thaw” in Soviet-US relations resulting from, amongst other things, Nikita Khrushchyov’s visit to the USA in autumn 1959 ended on 1 May 1960, when the Soviets shot down a US U-2 spy plane flown by CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers in their airspace as it performed photographic aerial reconnaissance of the Baikonur cosmodrome and a number of Soviet military and nuclear facilities. Powers parachuted safely, the Soviets captured him, and he admitted the military nature of his mission. As a result, Khrushchyov cancelled the scheduled opening of an east-west summit in Paris. The incident prompted a marked deterioration of US-Soviet relations, especially after US-backed Cuban emigrants bungled an attempt to invade Cuba in April 1961. The Moscow-proposed moratorium on nuclear tests by the USSR, the USA, and the UK, in effect since 1958, left the USSR lagging far behind the USA in the size of its nuclear arsenal. By 1960, the Americans used the moratorium to bring the number of their nuclear and thermonuclear warheads to 18,600 from 7,500 in 1958. In July 1961, Khrushchyov decided that he had enough of the moratorium and decided to start work on super-powerful thermonuclear weapons to restore nuclear parity with the USA. He also announced the need to build a 100-megaton thermonuclear bomb as a means of forcing the Americans to wake up to reality.

The Tsar Bomba

A four-man development team of nuclear physicists… Viktor Adamsky, Yuri Babaev, Yuri Smirnov, and Yuri Trutnev… had the responsibility to design and build a three-stage thermonuclear device in just 15 weeks. Officially designated the AN602 thermonuclear bomb, the Tsar Bomba used the common three-stage Teller-Ulam design. The primary fission reaction compressed a secondary mixed fission/fusion fuel layer, which in turn compressed a large tertiary thermonuclear payload, essentially stringing a pair of hydrogen fission reactions together to generate enough energy to activate fusion in a uranium payload.

Record-Breaking Blast

At 09.00 on 30 October 1961, a specially modified Tu-95 strategic bomber took off; it carried the Tsar Bomba and a Tu-16A flying laboratory accompanied it. They headed for a testing range on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. At 27 tonnes, the Tsar Bomba weighed nearly as much as the Tu-95 that carried it; it was so big that groundcrew had to cut off the bomb-bay doors to fit it in. At 11.30, the crew released the device from 10,500 metres, using a parachute to retard its fall so that the bomber and its companion craft had sufficient time… 188 seconds… to leave the area. The bomb went off at an altitude of 4,200 metres. The calculated power of the unprecedented explosion was 51.5 megatons. In reality, its power was between 57 and 58.6 megatons. The fireball from the explosion was 4.6 kilometres across; it was visible 1,000 kilometres away, despite dense clouds. The mushroom cloud rose up to almost 70 kilometres and had a diameter of 95 kilometres. For about an hour after the explosion, people observed radio signal distortions hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre due to ionisation of the atmosphere. The shockwave circled the planet three times. On Dikson Island, some 800 kilometres from the range, the shockwave shattered windows, bringing the sound of cannonade with it.

Aftermath

Even though the Tsar Bomba wasn’t an active service weapon, its creation confirmed the USSR’s ability to have as many megatons of nuclear might as it desired. With this realisation in mind, the USA stopped their nuclear buildup. On 5 August 1963, the USSR, the USA, and the UK signed a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater. Thus, the test of the Tsar Bomba played a crucial role in achieving nuclear parity between the USSR and the USA. This prevented nuclear war.

30 October 2016

Sputnik International

https://sputniknews.com/russia/201610301046887680-ussr-bomb-history/

Friday, 2 November 2012

2 November 2012. RIA-Novosti Infographics. The First Hydrogen Bomb

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60 years ago, on 1 November 1952, the first thermonuclear device test took place on Eniwetok Atoll, which led to the birth of the hydrogen bomb. This experimental device was housed in a building the size of a three-storey house; it destroyed the islet of Elugelab, leaving a crater 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) wide and 52 metres (170 feet) deep. The H-bomb is a nuclear weapon whose destructive force derives from the energy of nuclear fusion of light elements into heavier ones, which releases an enormous amount of energy. A thermonuclear weapon has much more power than that of a fission-based atomic bomb. Despite the fact that the USA tested the first experimental thermonuclear device, Soviet scientists also developed this type of bomb. The Soviet response to the November 1952 test was the explosion of a 50-megaton weapon in October 1961. The bomb detonated at an altitude of 4,000 metres (13,124 feet) above ground level over the Arctic Ocean island of Novaya Zemlya… the shock wave of the explosion circled the globe three times. However, despite the success of the test, the powerful “Tsar Bomba” didn’t enter service with the Soviet forces.

1 November 2012

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/infographics/20121101/177113197.html

Friday, 28 September 2012

Russia “Consecrates” North Pole to Reassert Ownership

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Russian Orthodox Bishop Iakov Tislenko of Naryan-Marsky lowered a “holy memorial capsule” into the sea at the North Pole in an attempt to “consecrate” the Arctic and reassert Moscow‘s claims to the territory. Bishop Iakov conducted a service on the ice alongside the nuclear icebreaker Rossiya during a polar expedition titled “Arctic-2012”, organised by the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. The metal capsule bore the inscription, “With the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias, the consecration of the North Pole marking 1,150 years of Russian Statehood”.

The Kremlin is keen to claim the hydrocarbon riches off its northern coast despite territorial claims from other governments, and is gradually re-militarising the area. In July, a Moscow think-tank suggested that the Arctic Ocean should be renamed the “Russian Ocean“, and, this week, the Defence Ministry announced that MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft would have bases in the region by the end of the year.

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (sic), is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, who says exploiting oil and gas reserves in the North is a “strategic priority”. At the North Pole, a small group of scientists and the Rossiya’s captain Oleg Shchapin attended the bishop’s service, which was held during an expedition to find a floe suitable for Russia’s 40th drifting polar research station and to deliver a 17-strong team to man the outpost for the next year. The consecration earlier this month highlights Russia’s urge to claim international waters beyond its continental shelf because of underwater ridges it says are attached to the mainland.

Bishop Iakov, who is thought to be the first Russian priest to visit the pole {not so, there was liturgy served here some time back: editor}, emphasised that the consecration symbolised efforts “to restore Russia’s position and confirm its achievements in the Arctic”. In 2007, in another political move, Russia planted its flag on the seabed below the polar ice cap using a remotely-operated mini-submarine, symbolically laying claim to the surrounding area. The Rossiya carried on its voyage an icon and holy relics of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, the patron saint of sailors, normally kept in the diocese’s main church on land.

The MP appointed Bishop Iakov last year as ruling bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Naryan-Marsky, which lies inside the Arctic Circle on the White and Barents Seas, which is its most northerly diocese. The diocese includes the islands of Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land, where the Long-range Aviation (VVS-DA) has recently upgraded airfields as operational strategic bomber stations. One airbase on Graham Bell Island boasts a 7,000-foot year-round compacted-ice runway. Bishop Iakov has taken part in other polar missions, sailing the length of the contested Northern Sea Route between Scandinavia and Alaska along Russia’s Arctic coast, which Russia claims and seeks to charge ships for using like the Panama Canal, but most other countries regard it as international waters. In 2004, the bishop consecrated an Orthodox church in Antarctica at Russia’s Bellingshausen research station.

27 September 2012

Bruce Jones

Tom Parfitt

The Telegraph (London UK)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9571743/Russia-consecrates-North-Pole-to-reassert-ownership.html

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