Largest nuclear bomb dismantled to date in the US arsenal, the B53

According to Wikipedia, this warhead (9.1 megatons) was apparently never tested, although an experimental TX-46 predecessor design was detonated 28 June 1958 as Hardtack Oak, which detonated at a yield of 8.9 Megatons.

From The National Nuclear Security Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today

B53 Nuclear bomb - photo NNSA News

announced that the last B53 nuclear bomb has been dismantled. The announcement was made at a ceremony at NNSA’s Pantex Plant outside Amarillo, Texas. Officials from the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration and Pantex joined elected officials to commemorate the dismantlement of the final B53 nuclear bomb.

The dismantlement of the 1960s-era weapon system is consistent with President Obama’s goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons. In his 2009 speech in Prague, the President said “We will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” The dismantlement of the last remaining B53 ensures that the system will never again be part of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

The elimination of the B53 by Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is consistent with the goal President Obama announced in his April 2009 Prague speech to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. The President said, “We will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” The dismantlement of the last remaining B53 ensures that the system will never again be part of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

As a key part of its national security mission, NNSA is actively responsible for safely dismantling weapons that are no longer needed, and disposing of the excess material and components.

Fact Sheet

b53 bw

B53 highlights:

  • The B53 bomb is a 1960s-era system and was introduced into the stockpile in 1962.
  • NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories designed the B53 bomb.
  • The B53 served a key role in the U.S. nuclear deterrent until its retirement in 1997.
  • The B53 supported the B-52G strategic bomber program.
  • The B53 was built at Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in Burlington, Iowa.
  • The Pantex Plant, Amarillo, Texas, dismantled the B53 bomb.
  • Y-12 will dismantle the remaining nuclear portion of the B53 bomb.
  • The B53 is one of the longest-lived and highest-yield nuclear weapons ever fielded by the United States.
  • The B53 is about the size of a minivan and weighs about 10,000 pounds.
  • Dismantlement process utilized the rigid Seamless Safety for the 21st Century (SS-21) process in dismantling the B53.
  • NNSA’s SS-21 process fully integrates the weapon system with the facility, tooling, operating procedures, and personnel involved in the dismantlement program to form a safe, efficient, and effective operating environment.
  • The B53 dismantlement program was safely completed 12 months ahead of schedule.
  • The DoD played a role in staging the weapon prior to dismantlement.
  • The B53 dismantlement program involved more than 130 engineers, scientists, and technicians from Pantex, Y-12, Los Alamos National Laboratory (physics designers and weapon response), Sandia National Laboratories (weapon system), and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (weapon response subject matter expert).

The dismantlement process includes: retiring a weapon from active or inactive service; returning and staging it at NNSA’s Pantex Plant; taking it apart by physically separating the high explosives from the special nuclear material; and processing the material and components, which includes evaluation, reuse, demilitarization, sanitization, recycling, and ultimate disposal.

File:B53 at Pantex.jpg

A B53 nuclear weapon at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas is prepared for dismantiling - image Wikipedia

In other news, a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists, Kenji Watts, was said to be less concerned than before by the reduction in whimpering observed.

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What was the “yield” of this weapon? Too bad. I think it’s a good idea to have something like this “availible” …there might be some other reason than MILITARY that it could have an application. Who knows? (See: War of the Worlds, the 1950’s movie.)

Whoops, missed the first part. Almost 10 Megatons.
What a firecracker!

Whoa – that’s a big bomb…

Austin

This is a puff piece for Obama.
The B53 was taken out of inventory in the 90s and funds for dismantling were budgeted and appropriated under Bush Jr.
The primary use of the B53 was for attacking underground bunkers. We have far better nukes for that now.

crustacean

Like saying goodbye to an old friend…
But what’s with “dismantlement?” Is this related somehow to the crumblement of our infrastructure? Does the NNSA speak English?

Cathy

Well, if Kenji isn’t concerned . . . . . 😉

Castle Bravo was bigger. It was a runaway, several were.

More Soylent Green!

The yield of the B53 is a reported 9 megatons, or the equivalent of 9 million tons of TNT. These large-yield warheads were once considered the only way to destroy a hardened target, but improvements in smart weapons and other bunker-busting technology makes them militarily obsolete and unnecessary.
Further, the B-52G entered service with the USAF in 1959. Some B-52H models are still flying, and they entered service in 1961. (These bombers are older than the crews who fly or service them. I worked on them in the 1980’s.) I don’t know if the new B-1 or B-2 bombers can carry the B53.

George E. Smith

Well it looks big in that picture; but the 10,000 pounds weight is not all that big.
The WW-II Lancaster bombers of the RAF carried ten ton (22,000 pound) bombs that they dropped from high altitude. They were used on the German concrete submarine pens and other discrete targets. Read the book; “The Dambusters” about 617 squadron. But no, that ten ton bomb was not the dam bustng bomb.

Scott Covert

I would like a couple empty casings for my front yard please. Pretty please?

Ivor Ward

Does this mean that we can ask GREENPEACE to disband now. After all, they were only set up to promote nuclear disarmament. I’d say they’ve won so can they sod off.
“Greenpeace evolved from the peace movement and anti-nuclear protests in Vancouver, British Columbia in the early 1970s. On September 15, 1971, the newly-founded Don’t Make a Wave Committee sent a chartered ship, Phyllis Cormack, renamed Greenpeace for the protest, from Vancouver to oppose United States testing of nuclear devices in Amchitka, Alaska. The Don’t Make a Wave Committee subsequently adopted the name Greenpeace.” (Wikipaedia)[

Pat Frank

Shouldn’t that be spokesChin, Kenji Watts, of the UCS? 🙂

John Whitman

The USA’s B53 bomb was a wimpy firecracker compared to the 50 megaton USSR’s Tsar Bomba (AN602 hydrogen bomb). It was 50 megaton when tested, compared to the B53’s ~10 megaton.
John

Pull My Finger

9 MT is small compared to some of the beasts the USSR built. The US aimed for accuracy with the nukes, the USSR… blunt force. They tested a 50MT bomb which had a total destruction radius of 22 miles. The SS-18 ICBM could carry up to a 20MT warhead, or 10 independent 50+kt warheads. US missiles were much smaller and much more accurate. The Soviet theory was horseshoes, hand grenades, and 20MT warheads. Good thing even the Soviets recognized, eventually, that no one wins when if you EVER fire off one of those mothers in anger. Thank god delivery technology is way more difficult to master than the actual bomb. Makes me much less worried about N.Korea and China, much less Pakistan. India… I want them on our side.
Political Science classes must be boring post-cold war. MAD, Superpower Summits and Cloak and Daggar skullduggery have been replaced by what? Copyright issues, outsourcing and killing scraggly sheep buggerers hiding out in caves?

John Whitman

Anthony,
Your dog shouldn’t be messing with dismantling nuclear devices. : )
John

Adam Gallon

A mere firecracker compared to The Tsar Bomb!

John Whitman

Pull My Finger says:
October 25, 2011 at 11:51 am
Adam Gallon says:
October 25, 2011 at 11:55 am
————
Pull-My-Finger & Adam Gallon,
HA HA . . . . we had virtually simultaneous thoughts and posts!!!
Love it.
John

Eric Gisin

Check the article reference http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/nuclear/multimeg.html, there were 5 larger bombs in the US arsenal.

kwik

Lets hope Dr. Strangelove isnt around…..

RHS

I’m sure a newer B52 could carry one of these since the B52 in general is the only plane which can carry the Daisy Cutter/BLU82. Also a huge bomb. Not used a whole heck of a lot any more but there is not better way to clear a large area instantly and still have it humanly habitual.

Andy

Great, now only our enemies will have nukes. I feel safer already.

Jeff in Calgary

I read an article that stated that this was the end of the “Big Megaton Bombs”. It may be the end of the American Big Megaton Bombs, but you can be sure that it is not the true end. There are plenty in other countries. I think we (Canada) needs to end our “No Nukes” policy and start to build some large ones to protect ourselves. Our resources may become coveted as the rest of the world is financially melting down. We may need to defend ourselves in the near future

More Soylent Green!

When you outlaw nuclear weapons, only outlaws will have nukes.

1DandyTroll

OMG it really is worse than the eco-drones have thought, now they don’t have the super bomb to fix the catastrophic global warming, so what will they do now? :°

John Whitman

Is Iran likely to have more than the USA in the near future?
China’s nuclear weapons program will protect the USA from Iran, right? Because China owns a lot of the USA so they would actually be protecting themselves by protecting the USA . . . . . irony is great. : )
Is the USA nuclear stockpile the largest?
I believe the Israelis have some interest in this matter.
John

DirkH

Ivor Ward says:
October 25, 2011 at 11:23 am
“Does this mean that we can ask GREENPEACE to disband now. After all, they were only set up to promote nuclear disarmament. I’d say they’ve won so can they sod off.”
They have expanded their mission statement; they now want to stop all nuclear energy and all genetic manipulation when it leads to the spreading of new organisms. This might of course change any time , but that’s how I interpret their current FAQ.
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/about/faq/
Would you stop such a successfull extortion machine?

DirkH

Pull My Finger says:
October 25, 2011 at 11:51 am
“Political Science classes must be boring post-cold war. MAD, Superpower Summits and Cloak and Daggar skullduggery have been replaced by what? Copyright issues, outsourcing and killing scraggly sheep buggerers hiding out in caves?”
Creating the New World Order by co-opting science.

juanslayton

RHS: …still have it humanly habitual.
Had to think about this a bit. I guess you mean habitable?
: > )

timg56

The addendum to the phrase “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” – i.e. “… and atom bombs.” had this puppy in mind.
Reminds me of a tee-shirt from my sub days – “16 empty tubes and a mushroom cloud. Now it’s Miller time.”

Gil Dewart

OK now, how about the link between the military and the validity (?) of weather/climate data?
In WWII service personnel risked their lives to take out enemy met stations.

RHS

juanslayton – I did mean habitable but in hindsight…

Jim G

Supposedly the largest bomb tested by the US was planned to yield 5 megatons but actually yielded 15 while the Soviets lit off a 50 megaton bomb in 1961, capable of 100 megatons if so fueled. I have heard that the US had one, or planned one, never tested that if detonated could change the axial tilt of the planet. Such power, as noted by one comment above, could be useful, particularly in the event of a need to deter a large impact, had we the time and delivery capability. I, for one, never throw much away that might be useful in the future.

More Soylent Green!

You can have my B53 when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Since two others mentioned the Tsar Bomba, so will I.
It was 50mt yes, but the fun part? it was scaled down from a 100mt design–which of course was undeliverable by any means at the time..

what aircraft model is that in the opening of the clip? I don’t recognize it offhand.

Sal Minella

If the yield is truly 9.1MT, it is by far not the largest yield nuclear weapon in the US arsenal. It is, in fact, the physically largest nuke ever built but, far from the largest yield. Several 100+ MT weapons exist in the US arsenal however, they are fission/fusion devices that would fit in the back of a pickup truck.

More Soylent Green!

You can dismantle my B53 nuclear bomb when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

LearDog

I am glad that Mr Obama is protecting the essence of my bodily fluid….. ;-D

Pull My Finger

These giant bombs are as much an anachranism as B-17s and Krupp Howitzers. In the 50s and 60s you couldn’t target missile sites or submarine bases with much accuracy at all so you made up for accuracy with… coverage. The Soviets went even further, they would kill the target site and every human being within 10 miles of the site instantly, 50%+ casualty rate triple that radius, and then obliterate every urban area in the USA just for good measure. The Soviets had close to 20,000 strategic wareheads at one time that could reach the US.
A 5kt nuke tipped cruise missile is much more effective and has little colatteral damage, if you’d even need the nuke tip. So, Canada doesn’t need 5MT bombs these days, rest well. 🙂 I’m pretty sure everyone agrees that millions of deaths due to nuclear holocause is a pretty un PC these days. And pretty pointless considering we don’t need stop a million of Ruskies screaming across West Germany these days. Chinese don’t have the logistical framework to be a threat to anyone they don’t share a land border with.

Laurie Bowen (the troll?)

More Soylent Green! says:
October 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm
When you outlaw nuclear weapons, only outlaws will have nukes.
I guess only the criminals have tanks??? /sarc
What this country lacks, many times, is circumspection . . . . . in my opinion.

DT

News article from 2012 – As the world mournfully waits for the impact of the recently discovered comet Wolf-Biederman, Greenpeace activists are forced to ponder the bitter irony of their semi-successful campaign to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Had America not dismantled her last remaining megaton class B53 bombs just one year ago they could have been used to deflect the comet, which will now destroy the environment and most life on the planet.

Laurie Bowen (the troll?)

Deep Impact . – Fun Facts and Information
http://www.funtrivia.com/en/Movies/Deep-Impact-6923.htmlSimilar
How big does the President say is the size of the original comet, before it was … After the inital comet, Wolf-Biederman, is split in two, what is the name for the …

percy

how many of these bombs – retired in 1997 – still exist? Is this really the last one? 10 tons mass is equivalent to the Grand Slam bomb used a few times in WW2 but the explosive impact of this is horrific.

This is Damn Interesting

More Soylent Green!

Laurie Bowen (the troll?) says:
October 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm
More Soylent Green! says:
October 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm
When you outlaw nuclear weapons, only outlaws will have nukes.
I guess only the criminals have tanks??? /sarc
What this country lacks, many times, is circumspection . . . . . in my opinion.

Lauren, I was having fun paraphrasing some bumper stickers I often see on pickup trucks here in fly-over country.
But should have posted When you outlaw nuclear weapons, only outlaw nations and terrorists will have nuclear weapons.
The genie is out of the bottle. It’s been almost 70 years since the first atomic bombs were created. What once could only be created by the world’s only superpower can now be built by any dictatorship that possess the will to do so. We can’t erase that knowledge from human memory.

Laurie Bowen (the troll?)
Retired Engineer

re: Sal Minella
I was under the impression that the B-58 Hustler carried a 20 MT nuke, ditto the Titan ICBM. Perhaps the B53 was not hydrogen? That would take a heck of a lot of Plutonium.

The aircraft in the clip at the beginning is a Martin B57. Likely a B model as the A had the goldfish bowl canopy same as the English Electric Canberra of which it was an Americanised version.

David A. Evans

The plane in the opening sequence was an English Electric Canberra, manufactured under licence by Martin in the U.S.A.

David A. Evans

Oops Mike Borgelt beat me to it.

“Chinese don’t have the logistical framework to be a threat to anyone they don’t share a land border with.”……YET