The K Project
The K Project, or also Operation K, was a series of five high altitude nuclear explosion tests performed by the Soviet Union during the years 1961 and 1962. Their purpose was to test the performance of anti-ballistic missiles of the ABM System A and their resistance against nuclear blasts in their vicinity. Artificial radiation belts were created and their effect was measured.
Each test involved a pair of R-12 missiles launched from the Kapustin Yar test complex, to high altitude above the Sary Shagan anti-ballistic missile testing range in Kazakhstan. The first missile carried a nuclear warhead. The second one carried sensors to evaluate the effects of the first missile's blast and to act as a target for the anti-ballistic missile being tested.
|Soviet Test Name||United States Name||Date||Nuclear weapon yield||Altitude||Comments|
|K-1||Test #128||27 October 1961||1.2 kilotons||300 km (186 mi)|
|K-2||Test #127||27 October 1961||1.2 kilotons||150 km (93 mi)|
|K-3||Test #184||22 October 1962||300 kilotons||290 km (180 mi)||worst electromagnetic pulse effects|
|K-4||Test #187||28 October 1962||300 kilotons||150 km (93 mi)|
|K-5||Test #195||1 November 1962||300 kilotons||59 km (37 mi)|
The worst effects of a Soviet high altitude test were from the electromagnetic pulse of the nuclear test on 22 October 1962 (during the Cuban missile crisis). In that Operation K high altitude test, a 300 kiloton missile-warhead detonated west of Dzhezkazgan (also called Zhezqazghan) at an altitude of 290 km (180 mi).
The Soviet scientists instrumented a 570-kilometer (350 mi) section of telephone line in the area that they expected to be affected by the nuclear detonation in order to measure the electromagnetic pulse effects. The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) fused all of the 570-kilometer monitored overhead telephone line with measured currents of 1500 to 3400 amperes during the 22 October 1962 test. The monitored telephone line was divided into sub-lines of 40 to 80 kilometres (25 to 50 mi) in length, separated by repeaters. Each sub-line was protected by fuses and by gas-filled overvoltage protectors. The EMP from the 22 October (K-3) nuclear test caused all of the fuses to blow and all of the overvoltage protectors to fire in all of the sub-lines of the 570 km (350 mi) telephone line. The EMP from the same test started a fire that burned down the Karaganda power plant, and shut down 1,000 km (620 mi) of shallow-buried power cables between Astana (then called Aqmola) and Almaty.
The Partial Test Ban Treaty was passed the following year, ending atmospheric and exoatmospheric nuclear tests.
Although the weapons used in the K Project were much smaller (up to 300 kilotons) than the United States Starfish Prime test of 1962, the damage caused by the resulting EMP was much greater because the K Project tests were done over a large populated land mass, and at a location where the Earth's magnetic field was greater. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the level of this damage was communicated informally to scientists in the United States.
After the 1991 Soviet Union collapse, there was a period of a few years of cooperation between United States and Russian scientists on the high-altitude nuclear EMP phenomenon. In addition, funding was secured to enable Russian scientists to formally report on some of the Soviet EMP results in international scientific journals. As a result, formal scientific documentation of some of the EMP damage in Kazakhstan exists but is still sparse in the open scientific literature.
The 1998 IEEE article, however, does contain a number of details about the measurements of EMP effects on the instrumented 570 km telephone line, including details about the fuses that were used and also about the gas-filled overvoltage protectors that were used on that communications line. According to that paper, the gas-filled overvoltage protectors fired as a result of the voltages induced by the fast E1 component of the EMP, and the fuses were blown as the result of the slow E3 component of the EMP, which caused geomagnetically induced currents in all of the sub-lines.
The Aqmola (Astana) to Almaty buried power cable was also shut down by the slow E3 component of the EMP.
Published reports, including the 1998 IEEE article, have stated that there were significant problems with ceramic insulators on overhead electrical power lines during the tests of the K Project. In 2010, a technical report written for a United States government laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, stated, "Power line insulators were damaged, resulting in a short circuit on the line and some lines detaching from the poles and falling to the ground."
- Zak, Anatoly (March 2006). "The K Project: Soviet Nuclear Tests in Space". The Nonproliferation Review 13 (1): 143–150. doi:10.1080/10736700600861418.
- Johnston, Robert (28 January 2009). "High-altitude nuclear explosions". johnstonsarchive.net. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- Greetsai, Vasily N.; Kozlovsky, A.H.; Kuvshinnikov, V.M.; Loborev, V.M.; Parfenov, Y.V.; Tarasov, O.A.; Zdoukhov, L.N. (November 1998). "Response of Long Lines to Nuclear High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP)". IEEE Transactions on Electromagnetic Compatibility 40 (4): 348–354. doi:10.1109/15.736221.
- Seguine, Howard (17 February 1995). "US-Russian meeting – HEMP effects on national power grid & telecommunications" (TXT). memorandum for record.
- United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Committee on Environmental Policy (2000). Environmental Performance Reviews: Kazakhstan. (First Review.). p. 78. ISBN 92-1-116770-1. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
- Pfeffer, Robert and Shaeffer, D. Lynn. Combating WMD Journal, (2009) Issue 3. pp. 33-38. "A Russian Assessment of Several USSR and US HEMP Tests"
- Loborev, Vladimir M. "Up to Date State of the NEMP Problems and Topical Research Directions," Electromagnetic Environments and Consequences: Proceedings of the EUROEM 94 International Symposium, Bordeaux, France, 30 May – 3 June 1994, pp. 15–21
- Metatech Corporation (January 2010). The Early-Time (E1) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid." Section 3 – E1 HEMP History. Report Meta-R-320. Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
- Emanuelson, Jerry (2011). "Electromagnetic Pulse - Soviet Test 184 - EMP". futurescience.com. Retrieved 31 July 2012.