The “impractical” Tsar Bomba


When the first (and only) Tsar Bomba, the most powerful thermonuclear device ever built, exploded, all the "experts" hastened to say that it was "unusable for strategic tasks". The justification they threw on the table was that, since a Tsar Bomba was 8 meters long and 2 meters wide (on the weight it was speculated), it was impossible to load it on a missile of any type, let alone on a strategic bomber.

This evaluation of practicality obviously suffers from the context. An umbrella is not very practical under water, but it is very practical if you are on land. The question of practicality, therefore, is very much affected by the context.

The Americans hypothesized an aerial context because the only two atomic bombs had been launched from a plane, so this was the only context they knew.

But "now" things have changed.

Let's talk about Poseidon. This is a weapon of which little is known. Essentially it is a huge torpedo, which today is called a "submarine drone" (as if the torpedoes of the past weren't already drones), which is spacious enough to carry a Tsar Bomba. ( ).

Consequently, it would be a bomb capable of reaching the coast and then exploding. Since the American population is concentrated on the coasts and an object of this kind (we are talking about 100 Megatons, the Tsar Bomba at its full power: in tests the power was halved to avoid damage) releases a lot of radiation if it explodes in water or in contact with the ground, the result is devastating. Not so much for the tsunami that it would release, formed mainly by boiling salted water, vapors and radiation, but due to the radioactivity that would precipitate on the coast immediately afterwards.

The effect on New York is estimated as follows:


The Russian object does not seem to have problems of autonomy since it has the dimensions to accommodate a small cold nuclear reactor, and the problem is that it is difficult to stop. It is difficult to stop because when it was also idenfified one would have to send someone to hit him. Apart from "hitting" a 100 megatons device is never a good idea, the problem is that between when it is identified and when action can be taken to stop it, it is too late. Even exploding offshore, the tsunami of radioactive water is sufficient.

We are talking about a bang that makes a mushroom cloud 200 km wide, 53 km high.

But let's go back to the evaluation of the practicality of the weapon. The first Tsar Bomba was released in the 1960s, and NATO commands never bothered it, since it was immediately called "impractical". The subsequent shrinking of nuclear weapons made everyone think that the Russians had declassified the project as "propaganda".

You yourself will be thinking that, of course, TODAY is possible to build a submarine drone that can carry the bomb, and so at that time the experts were right.

Mistaken. Or rather, almost.

It is true that the Poseidon could not be built in the 60s. But once it is established that the Tsar Bomba has a maritime use, and not only in the air, it is not necessary to force the Poseidon to carry an object 8 meters long and two meters wide on the seabed.

Many of the Soviet submarines had the tonnage to do it. Moreover, the same Poseidon will be launched by the new Russian submarines, the Sarovs: but merely laying the head would have been much easier.


Of course, it was more risky, but carrying the object and depositing it on the bottom was possible even in those days, whether using a boat or a submarine. Also because in the 60s it was very difficult to have a naval defense capable of intercepting anything. Not to mention Cuba.

The problem is not "Poseidon or Poseidon". The problem is "Naval use or not".

All the American assessments of the "impracticality" of the Tsar Bomba were based on the idea that nuclear weapons were artillery, aviation weapons or at least nuclear land mines. The naval option was never taken into consideration, although it was known that the Russians had torpedoes armed with nuclear warheads.

Once it is admitted that the Tsar Bomba has a naval use, it is necessary to conclude that it has ALWAYS been a weapon too "practical". Since its invention.

There has never been, since the invention of the Tsar Bomba, a logistical limitation in bringing a bomb 8 meters wide and two meters close to the coasts. Neither with surface boats, nor with submarines. We can discuss how far we could go, but let's remember that we talk about the 60s. And that the Russians had Cuba. How many Tsar Bomba have passed through Cuba, a few miles from the American coasts, nobody knows.

Probably no one will ever know if the Russians ever built a Tsar Bomba to carry around on submarines or warships. It is something that will be lost in the meanders of the Kremlin.

The problem we should face with Poseidon is not so much the Poseidon itself: like any technology, once we are aware of it we can look for a technological solution.

The real problem is the catastrophic mistake that was made in not imagining the naval use of a weapon, just because the US had never used it the same way.

Maybe the Russians had never before assumed any similar use, and Poseidon is the first application of its kind. But what strikes me is the fact that practical use would have been theoretically possible, and the wizards never imagined it.

To put down a similar monster in the Gulf of Taranto, to say, would not have been difficult. Soviet submarines often stopped in those parts. But no one had imagined a naval use of the Tsar Bomba.

It is not the ability of the Russians to build the Poseidon to hit me. It is the inability of NATO to imagine the concept that leaves me very puzzled.

And it strikes me because the next probable enemy of the US will be the Chinese, who when they start thinking about "strange concepts" are much, much more alien than the Russians.

And so, my next question is: when we hear that China will only reach American military power in thirty years, are we using the same kind of assessment that led to the conclusion that the Tsar Bomba was "impractical"?

I ask for a friend.

To tell the truth, the maritime use of nuclear power was known. And this still worsens the situation.


And the thing was taken seriously, to the point that it reached a treaty to prohibit the various navies from putting themselves to lay nuclear weapons on the bottom of the coasts, in front of the enemy countries.

This is the "Treaty on the Prohibition of the Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof" .

So worries existed. And how. And this is where my question arises: if the naval use of nuclear weapons was known, why did all the experts struggle to say that the Tsar Bomba was "not usable for practical purposes"?

We need to think about it, because if others think about it first, a country with 8000 km of coastline like Italy should have some problems.


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