The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


The RDS-5 was a Soviet experimental tactical atomic bomb with an implosion type shell-nuclear design. Developed in the early 1950s in KB-11, the RDS-5 was similar to the RDS-4 except consisting of a combined implosion core of Pu239 and U235. In 1953 and 1954, the development of an atomic charge for a torpedo T-5 began. The torpedo had a standard caliber of 533 mm. Compared with previous developments in the charge of the RDS-4 series, it was necessary to significantly reduce the diameter of the charge.

The constructive solution to the problem consisted in a reduction in the radius, and consequently in the mass of the explosive, which led to a decrease in the charge power. This required radically to change the design and bring the charge body closer to the inner surface of the torpedo's military compartment. The approach to the design of the charge remained the same as that of the previously developed charges of the RDS series, however, as an explosive, a more powerful composition with a different ratio of constituent components was used as compared with the TG 50/50. Theoretical development of charge was conducted by E.I. Zababakhin, M.N. Nechaev, the design department - in the department of V.F. Grechishnikov, gas dynamical under the general guidance of V.K. Bobolev.

The charge test was held on October 19, 1954 at the Semipalatinsk test site and proved unsuccessful: an atomic explosion did not happen. This was the first failure in the history of development of nuclear weapons in the USSR. To carry out this first test of the atomic charge for the torpedo, a tower 15 m high was erected.

In the explosion at the installation site of the test charge, a small cloud appeared, which was quickly dispersed by the wind. Characteristics characteristic of atomic bomb explosions were not observed with a blasting. Subsequent measurements of a-activity on the soil showed that there was a dispersion of the nuclear filling and radioactive contamination of the terrain.

By order of the Minister of MSM VA. Malyshev to investigate the causes of the failure of the charge was created by a special commission chaired by I.V. Kurchatov As a result of the work of the commission, it was concluded that at the "present time itis not possible to establish the reason for the failure of an atomic explosion with a sufficient degree of reliability."

A number of versions of the reasons for the failure were put forward. These versions formed the basis for carrying out appropriate experiments in the laboratory. Studies were conducted, but did not give an unambiguous answer about the reason for the refusal. The results of these studies, which could contribute to improving overall reliability, were used in the development of subsequent charges.

Several test versions for the torpedo were prepared for the tests of 1955, differing in design, the number of fissile materials, and the methods of neutron initiation. In the new variants, the possibility of separate storage of the central part and the clamping charge of the new explosive was also realized. During July-August 1955, at the Semipalatinsk test site, three atomic explosions were successfully carried out, which allowed selecting the most efficient charge design for the T-5 torpedo. In two of them, the effectiveness of systems of internal and external neutron initiation was compared.

The advantage of an external pulsed neutron source that emits a neutron pulse at the optimum moment was experimentally confirmed. Since that time, the development, improvement and use of an external pulsed neutron source has become much more active, as an effective means of initiating the chain reaction of atomic charges.

This charge was also tested as part of the T-5 torpedo in an underwater (at a depth of 12 m) atomic explosion at the Northern Test Site on September 21, 1955. The energy release of the explosion was 3.5 kt.

The T-5 torpedo test was the first atomic explosion at the Northern Test Site. The test was due to the need to study the impact of an atomic underwater explosion on the Navy's facilities and create a theory of underwater use of atomic weapons. The United States had already conducted an underwater nuclear explosion in the Bikini Atoll area and another underwater test in the Pacific Ocean.

During tests in 1955, the work of charges with new neutron initiation systems and various types of levitating fissile material placement system continued to be tested. In comparison with the initial RDS charges of 1951, by 1955, it was possible to reduce the diameter of nuclear charges by three times, and their masses - more than seven times. In general, these were outstanding scientific and technical results, which significantly increased the use of nuclear munitions in various delivery vehicles.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 22-04-2018 18:58:23 ZULU