Tsetse (nuclear primary)

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The Tsetse was a small American nuclear bomb developed in the 1950s that was used as the primary in several US thermonuclear bombs and as a small stand-alone weapon of its own.

The Tsetse had a boosted composite core which used 2.25 kg Pu-239, 1.4kg U-235 and 6g Tritium.[1] The nominal yield was 10 kilotons. The design was shared with the UK where the anglicised version was known as Tony.[2] The difference between Tsetse and Tony was in the high explosives used. The UK considered the PBX 9404 too shock sensitive and replaced it by EDC-11. This however reduced the nominal yield to 8.5 kilotons.[3]

The Tsetse primary was used in the US B43 nuclear bomb, W44 nuclear warhead, W50 nuclear warhead, B57 nuclear bomb, and W59 nuclear warhead, according to researcher Chuck Hansen.[4]

After deployment of the B43 two problems were identified in the primary. In 1961 Los Alamos scientists concluded that the primary was not one point safe under all conditions. A long series of tests was needed to develop a safe version. The second problem was related to tritium aging. To investigate a lifetime extension of the B43 an aged B43 was fired. The test resulted in half the yield. This was quite a shock as it affected not only the B43 but all similar weapons.[5][6] The solution was to more frequently replenish the tritium supply.[6] This problem was apparently shared by the Python primary designs.

Characteristics of these weapons are:

Tsetse primary based nuclear weapons
Model Max Yield (kt) Diameter (in) Length (in) Weight (lb)
B43 1,000 18 150-164 2,060
W44 10 13.75 25.3 170
W50 400 15.4 44 410
B57 20 14.75 118 490
W59 1,000 16.3 47.8 550

Based on this information it can be assumed that the Tsetse design itself corresponds to the size of the W44 warhead, 13.75 inches diameter and 25.3 inches long, with a weight of around 170 pounds.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ AWPC 1959.
  2. ^ Moore 2010, p. 126.
  3. ^ Moore 2010, p. 201.
  4. ^ Hansen 1995b, p. 461.
  5. ^ Miller, Brown & Alonso 1987.
  6. ^ a b Hansen 1995a, p. 389.

Bibliography

  • AWPC (1959). AWPAC/8/5 (Report).
  • Hansen, Chuck (1995a). The Swords of Armageddon. VI. Chukelea Publications.
  • Hansen, Chuck (1995b). The Swords of Armageddon. VII. Chukelea Publications.
  • Hansen, Chuck (2001). "Beware the old story". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 57 (02): 52–55. doi:10.2968/057002015.
  • Miller, G.H.; Brown, P.S.; Alonso, C.T. (1987). Report to Congress on stockpile reliability, weapon remanufacture, and the role of nuclear testing (Report).
  • Moore, R. (2010). Nuclear Illusion, Nuclear Reality: Britain, the United States and Nuclear Weapons, 1958-64. Springer. ISBN 9780230251403.