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Country Soviet Union
Test site Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakh SSR
Period November, 1955
Number of tests 1
Test type Atmospheric Test
Device type Fusion
Max. yield Total yield 1.6 megatons of TNT (6.7 PJ)
Previous test RDS-27
Next test RDS-41

RDS-37 was the Soviet Union's first two-stage hydrogen bomb, first tested on November 22, 1955. The weapon had a nominal yield of approximately 3 megatons. It was scaled down to 1.6 megatons for the live test.

It was a multi-stage thermonuclear device which utilized radiation implosion called Sakharov's Third Idea in the USSR (the Teller–Ulam design in the USA). It utilized a fissile core containing Uranium-235 and synthetic Uranium-233,[1] and a dry lithium deuteride fusion fuel, with some of it replaced with a "passive material" to reduce its total yield.[2] Despite this reduction in yield, much of its shock wave was focused back downward at the ground unexpectedly because the weapon exploded under an inversion layer, causing a trench to collapse on a group of soldiers, killing one. It also caused a building in Kurchatov, 65 km (40 mi) away, to collapse and kill a young girl.[3]

It was air-dropped at Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakhstan, making it the first air-dropped two-stage thermonuclear test. The RDS-6s device (Joe-4) exploded in 1953 had one-stage design, and was not scalable into the megaton yield range.

Video footages of the RDS-37 are often confused with video footages of the Tsar Bomba, although they can be quite similar. RDS-37 footage have the explosion moved to the center, and Tsar Bomba footage have the explosion moved to the right (except for the mushroom cloud footage, which is in the center). In addition, the RDS-37 test occurred in the Semipalatinsk test area, and some of the footage looks across the roofs of the secret city of Kurchatov, aka Semipalatinsk-16. The Tsar occurred over the Arctic polar desert island of Novaya Zemlya, with no similar population centers within hundreds of kilometers at that time.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stephen F. Ashley. "Thorium and its role in the nuclear fuel cycle". Retrieved 16 April 2014.  PDF page 8, citing: D. Holloway, “Soviet Thermonuclear Development”, International Security 4:3 (1979–80) 192–197.
  2. ^ Johnston, Wm. Robert. "RDS-37 Nuclear Test, 1955". Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Sakharov, Andrei D. (14 April 1992). Memoirs. Vintage Paperback. 
  • Holloway, David (1995). Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy 1939-1956. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-06664-3. 
  • Kojevnikov, Alexei (2004). Stalin's Great Science: The Times and Adventures of Soviet Physicists. Imperial College Press. ISBN 1-86094-420-5. 
  • Rhodes, Richard (1995). Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80400-X. 

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