The Atomic Age
With the creation of the nuclear bomb, it seemed like the nature and face of warfare was going to change for ever. The devastating power that was released during the end of the Second World War, made many nations afraid of what the future had in store. Military research in the potential of these kinds of weapons didn't just stop at creating more powerful bombs, for a period of time, the military was looking to equip standard soldiers with limited nuclear weapons should a war with the Soviet Union ever occur.
Many of these weapons, are extremely impractical. During the time of the experimentation with these weapons, very little was understood about the long term effects of radiation and the danger to both the enemy and the operator that these kinds of weapons produced.
Nuclear Test Photo
Davy Crockett Tactical Nuclear Recoil-less Rifle
Out of all of the nuclear weapons developed for infantry use, the Davy Crockett Tactical Nuclear Recoil-less Rifle is one of the most popular images of this unique arms race. More of a mortar or rocket than a rifle, the Davy Crockett was a portable nuke launcher that cold be operated with only a small crew. The projectile that was used was the smallest nuclear war head to ever be developed; the MK-54. Weighing in at around 75 pounds, this weapon could be deployed quickly and hit an enemy target at around 2.5 miles. This weapon was deployed to U.S. troops stationed in the European theater after the Second World War but where never used in combat operations. West Germany tried to push for NATO to issue these weapons to German troops to help enact a more secure boarder between the Soviet controlled East Germany.
Davy Crockett Tactical Nuclear Recoil-less Rifle
Snark Missile Launch
As more tests where done on the long term effects of atomic weapons, the realization that in order to use these weapons, the distance for detonation has to be far enough for friendly soldiers to be safe from the effects of the fallout radiation. The Snark missile system was an attempt to address this problem. This was an early attempt at making an ICBM system.This missile could be fired from the back of a truck with a range of around 5,500 miles. It also had the ability to be recalled should a mission objective be change during the mission.
While the Snark had some good aspects to it, over all is was a very dangerous weapon to use. Despite having a long range, the missile was highly inaccurate and with many of the test runs, the missile would end up going off course and would become lost after the initial test. One of these missiles ended up crash landing in Brazil and remained hidden for years after the event. Before the Snark was able to correct the many issues that it faced, research in ICBMs had been complete and made this technology obsolete before it could be deployed in the field.
Prototype Snark Missile
Always Be Prepared in Case of a Nuclear Blast
Nick-named Nuclear Annie, the nuclear cannon was one of the first attempts at making a versatile and particle nuclear weapon for warfare. Unlike missiles and other means of delivering a nuclear war head, the cannon had a limited range and often times would put the crews that where firing it at risk of radiation exposure. The basic mechanics of the cannon involved a small warhead being projected through the air from an explosion caused by gun powder within the barrel. The creation of this weapon led to Russia attempting to create its own line of nuke cannons. Despite the small arms race between the two nations for the creation of the biggest of these cannons, advancements in other delivery systems led to the scraping of this idea.
While there where many experiments that where aimed at creating the biggest nuclear blast and the largest delivery systems, there was also extensive research into the creation of just the opposite. The MK-54 SADM or otherwise known as the "suitcase nuke" was an attempt at creating a nuke that could be used for covert operations. While the attempt may have been to try and create a smaller nuke, the end result was extremely impractical and useless.
Instead of it being a suitcase, the over all bomb was closer to a heavy backpack. With the bomb weighing around fifty pounds, it was found to weigh soldiers down too much for it to see any real field use. Besides the weight, the MK-54 also suffered from fragile detonation systems and limited fields in which it could be used. The project ended up being scraped after repeated tests showed the uselessness of the weapons system.
Suitcase Nuke Detonation System
With an ocean acting as a buffer zone between the two leading nuclear super powers, distance became one of the main focus of their research. For nations that where closer to the USSR, defense became the main focus of development. The nuclear program conducted by the British during the 1950s is a prime example of this mentality. During the previous World Wars, the British isles found themselves having to confront enemies at their boarders, out of fear of this occurring again, the British government attempted to build nuclear mines.
These bombs would be placed in the soil at points of invasion and would explode when enemy forces would step on the trigger. While this would have the effect of destroying the invaders, it would also end up destroying a good portion of Britain as well as spreading nuclear fallout that would infect the rest of the island. One of the crazier aspects of these experiments was the use of chickens to trigger the bombs instead of the weight of an invading army.
A Prototype Nuke Mine
The Decline of Strange Nukes
Since the ending of the cold war, the types of nuclear experiments have been mostly coming from nations that are looking to join the Nuclear Club (nations that have the bomb). Many of these states tend to be rogue states that are operating outside of international law. These test have more to do with the initial creation of the bomb and less to do with trying to make as many unique weapons out of this technology as they can.
Much of the military research that is being done today has more to do with robotics and less to do with the creation of nuclear weapons. For many nations, the future of war rests in taking the solider out of combat. Nuclear weapons, while having devastating power, make the area where they are detonated useless for many years to come. The radiation left behind after the blast poisons both the land and animals within the area. Despite this decrease in nuclear weapons research, as of the writing of this hub, there are more nuclear armed countries than there where during the Cold War. This makes the possibility of a limited nuclear war all the more possible and has given some reinforcement to the anti-nuclear movement that has been around for decades.
Nuclear Test Video
R W on March 20, 2019:
Pres. Bush at a school with kids, being told about the attacks on 911.