That Time the US Military Made an Atomic Cannon

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Winston, Mar 26, 2019.

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  1. Mar 26, 2019 #1

    Winston

    Winston

    Winston

    Lorenzo von Matterhorn

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    About as dumb as the German rail artillery in WWII. If there was sufficient air superiority to protect it from easy air attack, being a maximum of a mere 20 miles from its target, why not drop a similar bomb from an aircraft?

    An important contribution it made besides the development of artillery shell nuke tech which was later miniaturized making them much more practical:

    Upshot-Knothole Grable

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upshot-Knothole_Grable

    An anomalous feature of the blast was the formation of a precursor, a second shock front ahead of the incident wave. This precursor was formed when the shock wave reflected off the ground and surpassed the incident wave and Mach stem due to a heated ground air layer and the low burst height. It resulted in a lower overpressure, but higher overall dynamic pressure, which inflicted much more damage on drag sensitive targets such as jeeps and personnel carriers. This led strategists to rethink the importance of low air bursts in tactical nuclear warfare.


     
  2. Mar 26, 2019 #2

    shanejohnson2002

    shanejohnson2002

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    Two words: Fulda Gap.

    Three words: Because we can.

    This was produced at a time when we were proving just how far we could go with nuclear tech. The intent was to be a one-shot deterrent for areas like the Fulda Gap in Germany, which was an obvious point of entry for any Warsaw Pact invasion.

    Think about the logistics of even short-range nukes vs this thing. Yes, you need to devote some resources to protecting it, but it's as simple to launch as pulling a string. It's also an artillery weapon....a tried and true delivery system when nuclear rockets were still in their relative infancy. The final advantage is you can put it in places short range missiles, ICBMs etc cant go. Good luck convincing the Germans to let us build an ICBM bunker within range of the FG. This, on the other hand, can be parked on a convenient hilltop.
     
  3. Mar 26, 2019 #3

    DaveW6DPS

    DaveW6DPS

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    I have actually seen an example at the artillery museum at Fort Sill, where my son went for basic and AIT.

    It was actually quickly deployed and definitely provided battlefield superiority. Other than maybe killing as many friendlies and enemies...
     
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  4. Mar 26, 2019 #4

    shanejohnson2002

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    I'll be at Sill this summer as a DS...and that museum is definitely cool. I went there last year and made a stop at the museum, and Geronimo's prison / grave.
     
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  5. Mar 26, 2019 #5

    Winston

    Winston

    Winston

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    21 words: blown away by Soviet aircraft in "secret" storage location, during road transit, or during their "15 minute setup" (yeah, I'm sure).

    Because the Army wanted to get their nose more into the nuke game, too. The also stupid, but very cool little Davy Crockett nuclear hand grenade-ish weapon was another example.

    I said that in my original post: ..."important contribution it made besides the development of artillery shell nuke tech which was later miniaturized making them much more practical"

    And if those most likely airborne assets were successful in doing so a mere 20 miles from the intended target, why not just drop a similar bomb from those airborne assets on that target?

    Finally, the best measure of "stupid military systems" is how long they're fielded. From Wikipedia:

    "Due to the size of the apparatus, their limited range, the development of nuclear shells compatible with existing artillery pieces (the W48 for the 155 mm and the W33 for the 203 mm), and the development of rocket- and missile-based nuclear artillery (such as the Little John and Honest John tactical nuclear missiles), the M65 was effectively obsolete soon after it was deployed. However, it remained a prestige weapon and was not retired until 1963."

    Also:

    https://olive-drab.com/idphoto/id_photos_atomic.php

    The Army deployed the 280mm atomic cannons to Europe in the early 1950s. Some sources say there was also deployment to other areas, but
    details were classified. The units were difficult to maneuver because of their length and heavy weight, and could only be driven on paved roadways or packed ground. The atomic cannon weapon system appeared in the Inagural Parade for Gen. Dwight Eisenhower when he became President of the United States, 20 January 1953. The gun had difficulty maneuvering the parade route in downtown Washington, DC.

    According to information from Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, Jim Michalko served as a crew member of one of the cannons in Germany in 1955. He said, "They couldn't turn well and the streets of Germany were narrow so we had a hard time moving it around." He remembers that several buildings were destroyed at one point when the cannon had no where else to go.
     
  6. Mar 26, 2019 #6

    shanejohnson2002

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    I never said it was actually deployed in any real capacity (it *was* deployed though)...only the thought process (however flawed) behind it. This is 1950s-era strategy, which absolutely sounds utterly ridiculous to modern ears. However, when all branches of the military are trying to beat The Red Menace in just about every category...sure, why not have a nuclear arty?

    It was also *not* intended to be air dropped, or guarded by airborne units. It was intended to be towed to the FFP (hence the prime movers towing them in the parade), fired once into the FG (or any similar pinch point), and then pretty much abandoned.

    I can definitely see where it would cause damage while being towed. Not sure which major thought it was a brilliant idea to drag it through the streets, but he probably got a medal. Because that's just how the Army works.

    Source: I've actually, physically, touched the thing. I can provide pictures of it in person later this year, if it'll help the thread.
     
  7. Mar 26, 2019 #7

    shanejohnson2002

    shanejohnson2002

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    Edit: Wrong decade. I was thinking 1945 vice 1955. My bad.
     
  8. Mar 26, 2019 #8

    rharshberger

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    There is also an Atomic Cannon on display on the ridge above Fort Riley, KS, seen it many times on the boring as hell drive across Kansas.
     
  9. Mar 26, 2019 #9

    rocketguy101

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    Here's pics from Ft. Sill museum...pretty impressive beast!
     

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  10. Mar 27, 2019 #10

    Winston

    Winston

    Winston

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    Yep, walked up the hill to closely examine it myself.

    EDIT: A photo I took of it.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2019
  11. Mar 27, 2019 #11

    Winston

    Winston

    Winston

    Lorenzo von Matterhorn

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    There is a quote by an unnamed as far as I can find American military analyst: “In Germany, the towns are only two kilotons apart.” Nuclear defense of West Germany using standard nukes would have destroyed West Germany. That's why the neutron bombs were deployed there and that's what I believe the unnamed military analyst was referring to.
     
  12. Mar 28, 2019 #12

    Johnly

    Johnly

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    Well they did later develop the W48 for the 155mm cannons with a yield of just .07kt. Later on even looked at an 155mm ER variant of the 2kt W82.
     

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