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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM)

In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. developed lightweight nuclear devices to use in the interest of U.S. national security. The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was a Navy and Marines project that was demonstrated as feasible in the mid-to-late 1960s, but was never used. The project, which involved a small nuclear weapon, was designed to allow one individual to parachute from any type of aircraft carrying the weapon package that would be placed in a harbor or other strategic location that could be accessed from the sea. Another parachutist without a weapon package would follow the first parachutist to provide support as needed. The two-man team would place the weapon package in an acceptable location, set the timer, and swim out into the ocean where they would be retrieved by a submarine or other high-speed water craft. The parachute jumps and the retrieval procedures were practiced extensively. While the procedures were practiced extensively, SADM was never used. These types of weapons are no longer in the stockpile.


Davy Crockett

The Davy Crockett was developed to give U.S. Army units an effective nuclear capability against potentially larger units of Soviet armored forces. The Davy Crockett was designed in the late 1950's primarily for frontline use by the U.S. infantry in Europe against Soviet troop formations. The Davy Crockett, a recoilless launcher, was the third artillery piece deployed, those earlier being a l55mm piece designed to fire a nuclear round and a 280mm mobile piece, commonly called an "atomic cannon." Nuclear-capable ground artillery pieces were gradually replaced by increasingly accurate, nuclear carrying missiles and aircraft.

The weapon system used a spin-stabilized, unguided rocket fired from a recoilless rifle. It's 51-pound nuclear warhead had an explosive yield of 0.18 kilotons (equivalent to 18 tons of TNT, with an added radiation effect). As a secondary design feature, the system could also fire a conventional high-explosive round for other use, such as an anti-tank weapon.

The Davy Crockett's warhead was launched from either a 120-millimeter (M-28) or 155-millimeter (M-29) recoilless rifle. The 155 millimeter version, which became the standard issue, had a maximum range of 2.49 miles and could be fired from either a ground tripod mount or from a specially designed jeep mount. The system was deployed with U.S. Army from 1961 to 1971, and over 2,100 were produced.

The heavy version was transported by either an armored personnel carrier or a large truck. The light version was generally carried on and fired from an Army jeep, but could be carried for a short distance and fired by a 3-man team. The W-54 nuclear warhead in a projectile was launched by the Davy Crockett and had a subkiloton yield. The projectile was 30 inches long, 11 inches in diameter, and weighed 76 pounds. The l55 mm launcher had a maximum range of 13,000 feet, and the 120 mm could reach a distance of 6,561 feet.

The W54 nuclear warhead was designed at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now the Los Alamos National Laboratory) and built by the Atomic Energy Commission. Successful test-firings of the warhead took place on July 7 and 17, 1962, at the Nevada Test Site in what were called the "Little Feller" shots. The July 17 test (using the 155 millimeter Davy Crockett) was conducted under simulated battlefield maneuvers and detonated 20 feet above ground at a distance of 1.7 miles, as planned.

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