Nuclear tests: databases and other material--Johnston's Archive

Tsar Bomba nuclear test, 1961

compiled by Wm. Robert Johnston
last modified 6 November 2006

Date: 30 October 1961

Location: Novaya Zemlya, Russia, USSR

Type of event: burn injury from atmospheric nuclear test


At 8:33 UT on 30 October 1961 the USSR conducted the world's largest nuclear test. The device was designated RDS-220 and nicknamed "Vanya" or "Tsar Bomba" (King of Bombs); it was a three-stage thermonuclear device with a mass of 24.8 metric tons. The full design yield is reported as 100 megatons or 150 megatons, but in the test device the uranium sleeve on the tertiary stage was replaced with lead to reduce the yield to about 50 megatons. The RDS-220 was air-dropped from a Tupolev-95V bomber, a Tu-95 version specially modified to carry the device, from an altitude of 10,500 meters. It descended by parachute, allowing the bomber and chase planes to reach a distance of 45 km before detonation at an altitude of 3,500 meters with a yield of 58 megatons. Although the delivery bomber and chase planes had been painted with reflective paint to avoid thermal damage, cables were ignited on one Tupolev-16 chase plane, causing burns to one crew member.

Consequences: 1 injury.


© 2006 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 6 November 2006.
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