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Tsar Bomba

Tsar Bomba (Russian for "King of the Bombs"; During its development the bomb was actually nicknamed Ivan) was the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated. It was a fusion bomb with a yield of 50 megatons, though the design was capable of approximately 100 megatons. It was not intended for actual use in warfare, however; it was developed and tested as part of the sabre-rattling between the Soviet Union and United States in the course of the Cold War. Such a bomb would have made an inefficient weapon, since a substantial portion of its energy would have simply been radiated out into space; modern nuclear weapon tactics call for multiple smaller bombs to produce more damage on the ground.

Tsar Bomba was designed and constructed in only 14 weeks after Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev initiated the project on July 10, 1961. The bomb itself weighed 27 metric tons and was 8 meters long by 2 meters wide; a special parachute had to be designed to allow it to be dropped from an airplane. The fabrication of this parachute required so much material that the Soviet hosiery industry was noticeably disrupted. Tsar Bomba was detonated on October 23, 1961, at a height of 4000 meters over Novaya Zemlya Island in the Arctic Sea; it was dropped from a Tu-96 bomber at 10,500 meters altitude by pilot A. E. Durnovtsev. The fireball touched the ground and reached nearly as high as the release plane and light from the detonation was visible 1000 km away; the mushroom cloud rose as high as 64 km.

The Tsar Bomba had its yield scaled down by replacing the uranium fusion tamper (which amplifies the reaction) with one made of lead to eliminate fast fission by the fusion neutrons. If detonated at full yield, the force of this bomb would have been approximately 6,500 times the 15-16 kiloton bomb detonated at Hiroshima and would have increased the world's total fission fallout since the invention of the atomic bomb by 25%.

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