Preparation for testing the RDS-37 (RDS-6c) product proved to be even more complicated than the RDS-27 product test in terms of ensuring the safety of the aircraft and its crew in flight. It became known that with the realization of the ideas of A.D. Sakharov inherent in this design, the power of a thermonuclear explosion can reach from 1.5 to 2 Mt of TNT. Calculations showed that during the tests of this product safety was not ensured due to excessive heating of the irradiated elements of the aircraft, the possibility of destruction or ignition of them from the thermal impact of the explosion. The possibility of loss of the strength of the aircraft and the stability of flight under the action of a shock wave was not ruled out.
A two-stage thermonuclear bomb, in which the energy release threshold of 1 Mt was exceeded, was RDS-37. The estimated amount of allocated energy was around 3 Mt. However, for safety reasons, the power of the charge during the tests was limited to 1.6 Mt.
The first attempt of the test, scheduled for November 20, 1955, was unsuccessful. Due to the loss of visibility and the radar sight that emerged from the standing position, the Tu-16A bomber with a suspended hydrogen bomb was forced to return to the airfield. Thus, the first in the USSR, though not planned, was the landing of a bomber with thermonuclear weapons on board.
A repeated attempt on November 22, 1955 turned out to be successful. On November 22 bomber Tu-16 dropped a particularly powerful bomb RDS-37 with a fundamentally new charge The so-called stage type with radiation implosion (compression) of nuclear and thermonuclear material, enclosed in a separate "puff", as in RDS-6c, "secondary" module. The radiation compression was provided by X-rays during the explosion of the "primary" nuclear module. The body of the charge was made of natural uranium-238, and the tritium in the battery was not used. In this bomb the reaction of synthesis of deuterium and tritium with division of nuclei of uranium-238. The total emission of the RDS-37 test was 1.6 megatons TNT equivalent. The RDS-37 thermonuclear bomb exploded at an altitude of 1500 meters, the bomber was at a safe distance of 15 km at the time of the explosion.
As a result of the explosion, an unprecedented amount of energy was allocated. Observers located at a distance of 35 km, felt a strong influx of heat, and the sound of the explosion was like a close roll of thunder. In a radius of up to 200 km in the houses flew glass, two people were killed as a result of collapses and partial destruction of buildings, more than thirty people were injured of varying severity.
The product RDS-37 was decided to equip with a brake parachute with an area of 6 m2. In the scientific research institute of the PDS surprisingly operatively, in a five-day period, several copies of parachutes were made and by October 22 they were delivered to the Semipalatinsk test site. Chief engineer KB-11 N.A.Petrov completed the tail part of the products for placing the parachute system. The flight-ballistic testing of the parachute system was carried out on six models. The mass-dimensional characteristics of the RDS-37 product corresponded to the RDS-27 (RDS-6) product. The final calculation of the ballistic characteristics of the product with a parachute system based on the materials of the experimental development, as well as the assessment of the expected effects on the medium on the instructions of IV Kurchatov were performed by a group of AA. Dorodnicyna, Ya.B. Zeldovich, K.A. Semendyaeva, RO Burdin and A.G. Dudareva.
The RDS-37 was to be dropped from a height of 12,000 m with idle turns on the target. During the flight, the weather began to deteriorate, the goal was closed with a continuous two-layer cloud cover, with a total thickness of -1500 m with the upper edge at an altitude of 10,000 m. In connection with the deterioration of weather conditions, it was decided to work the crew on a reduced program. The discharge of the product for a given target was carried out at 9 h 47 min from a height of 12 000 m and a flight speed of 870 km / h using the radar means of a carrier aircraft. After dropping the product, recommendations were made by the Tupolev Design Bureau and TsAGI MAP on additional actions to ensure flight safety, the windows of the cabins were covered with protective curtains, the crew put on sunglasses.
According to observations of the carrier's crew, a bright flash from the explosion was perceived within 10-12 seconds. Despite the fact that the cockpit of the crew members were closed with light-shielded curtains from the direct light of the explosion, the illumination in the cockpit was perceived much more than from the sun. The thermal impact of the explosion on the exposed parts of the body by crew members, especially in the navigator's cabin, was felt much more strongly than in the hottest sunny weather. By the time the shock wave came, the aircraft's autopilot was switched off, the flight control was carried out manually. The shock wave acted on the plane in 224 seconds after the dropping products, aircraft instruments showed an increase in congestion to 2.5 units, there was a slight lift of the aircraft. Approximately 5-7 minutes after the explosion, the height of the radioactive cloud reached 13-14 km; the color of the cloud was red-brown. The diameter of the "fungus" of the cloud at that time was 25-30 km. The plane after the flight made a successful landing at the departure aerodrome, when inspecting the aircraft and checking its equipment, it was not revealed any damage from the explosion.
According to the materials of the processing of records of measuring equipment, the explosion power of 1.7-1.9 Mt has been unheard of until now, which caused huge destruction of the objects of armament, military equipment and other structures in the experimental field of the test site. Significant destruction fell on the share of the residential town of the test site, remote from the place of the explosion to 70-75 km.
The design of the RDS-37 charge was laid in the basis of subsequent developments. This opened the way to the creation of thermonuclear munitions of extra-large capacity.
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