Third generation nuclear weapons

Third generation nuclear weapons


As you know, to nuclear arms The first generation, it is often called atomic, carries warheads based on the use of fission energy of uranium-235 or plutonium-239. First in stories Testing of such a charger with a capacity of 15 CT was conducted in the USA on July 16 1945, at the Alamogordo test site. The August 1949 explosion of the first Soviet atomic bomb gave new impetus to the deployment of work on the creation of second-generation nuclear weapons. It is based on the technology of using the energy of thermonuclear fusion reactions of the nucleus of heavy isotopes of hydrogen - deuterium and tritium. Such weapons are called thermonuclear or hydrogen. The first test of the Mike thermonuclear device was conducted by the United States on November 1 1952 on the island of Elugelab (Marshall Islands), whose capacity was 5-8 million tons. The following year, a thermonuclear charge was blown up in the USSR.


The implementation of atomic and thermonuclear reactions has opened up wide opportunities for their use in the creation of a series of various ammunition of subsequent generations. The third generation nuclear weapons include special charges (ammunition), which due to the special design achieve redistribution of the explosion energy in favor of one of the damaging factors. Other variants of the charges of such a weapon provide the creation of a focusing of a striking factor in a certain direction, which also leads to a significant increase in its striking effect. An analysis of the history of the creation and improvement of nuclear weapons shows that the United States has always been in the lead in creating new ones. However, it took some time and the USSR eliminated these unilateral advantages of the United States. Is no exception in this regard nuclear weapon third generation. One of the most well-known third-generation nuclear weapons is neutron weapons.

What is a neutron weapon? Neutron weapons were widely talked about at the turn of the 60s. However, it later became known that the possibility of its creation was discussed long before that. The former president of the World Federation of Scientists, a professor from the UK, E. Burop, recalled that he first heard about this back in 1944, when, as part of a group of English scientists, he worked in the USA on the Manhattan Project. The work on the creation of neutron weapons was initiated by the need to obtain a powerful combat weapon with selective destruction capability for use directly on the battlefield.

The first explosion of a neutron charger (code number W-63) was made in the Nevada underground gallery in April 1963. The neutron flux obtained during testing turned out to be significantly lower than the calculated value, which significantly reduced the combat capabilities of the new weapon. It took almost another 15 years for the neutron charges to acquire all the qualities of military weapons. According to Professor E. Burop, the fundamental difference between a neutron charge device and a thermonuclear device lies in different energy release rates: "In a neutron bomb, energy release is much slower. It is something like a delayed-action patron." Due to this deceleration, the energy going to form a shock wave and light radiation decreases and, accordingly, its release in the form of a neutron flux increases. In the course of further work, certain successes were achieved in ensuring the focusing of neutron radiation, which made it possible not only to enhance its striking effect in a certain direction, but also to reduce the danger in using it for its troops.

In November 1976, in Nevada, the next tests of a neutron warhead were conducted, during which very impressive results were obtained. As a result, at the end of 1976, the decision was made to produce components of neutron shells 203-mm caliber and warheads for the Lance missile. Later, in August 1981, a meeting of the US National Security Council Nuclear Planning Group made a decision on the full-scale production of neutron weapons: 2000 shells for the 203-mm howitzer and 800 warheads for the Lance missile.

With the explosion of a neutron warhead, the main damage to living organisms is inflicted by a stream of fast neutrons. According to calculations, for each kiloton of charge power, about 10 neutrons are emitted, which propagate with great speed in the surrounding space. These neutrons have an extremely high damaging effect on living organisms, much stronger than even Y-radiation and a shock wave. For comparison, let us point out that if an 1 kiloton explodes a conventional nuclear charge, the openly located living force will be destroyed by the shock wave at a distance of 500-600 m. When the neutron warhead of the same power blows up, the destruction of the living force will occur at a distance of about three times greater.

Neutrons generated by the explosion travel at speeds of several tens of kilometers per second. Bursting like shells into living cells of the body, they knock out nuclei from atoms, tear molecular bonds, form free radicals with high reactivity, which leads to disruption of the main cycles of life processes. When neutrons move in air as a result of collisions with the nuclei of gas atoms, they gradually lose energy. This leads to the fact that at a distance of about 2 km their destructive effect almost stops. In order to reduce the destructive effect of the accompanying shock wave, the neutron charge power is chosen in the range from 1 to 10 kt, and the height of the explosion above the ground is of the order of 150-200 meters.

According to the testimony of some American scientists, thermonuclear experiments are being conducted at the Los Alamos and Sandia Laboratories of the United States and at the All-Russian Institute of Experimental Physics in Sarov (Arzamas-16), in which, along with studies on the production of electrical energy, the possibility of obtaining purely thermonuclear explosives is being studied. The most likely side effect of the research, in their opinion, could be an improvement in the energy-mass characteristics of nuclear warheads and the creation of a neutron mini-bomb. According to experts, such a neutron warhead with a TNT equivalent of only one ton can create a lethal dose of radiation at distances 200-400 m.

Neutron weapons are powerful defensive means and their most effective use is possible in repelling aggression, especially when the enemy has invaded the protected territory. Neutron munitions are tactical weapons and their use is most likely in the so-called "limited" wars, primarily in Europe. These weapons may acquire special significance for Russia, since in the conditions of the weakening of its armed forces and the growing threat of regional conflicts, it will be forced to place greater emphasis in ensuring its security on nuclear weapons. The use of neutron weapons can be particularly effective in repelling a massive tank attack. It is known that tank armor at certain distances from the epicenter of the explosion (more than 300-400 m in the explosion of a nuclear charge with a power of 1 kt) protects crews from shock waves and Y-radiation. At the same time, fast neutrons penetrate steel armor without significant attenuation.

The calculations show that with the explosion of a neutron charge with a power of 1 kiloton, tank crews will be instantly disabled within 300 radius from the epicenter and will die within two days. Crews that are at a distance of 300-700 m will fail within a few minutes and will also die within 6-7 days; at distances 700-1300 m they will be incapable in a few hours, and the death of most of them will last for several weeks. At distances 1300-1500 m a certain part of the crews will receive serious illness and gradually fail.

Neutron warheads can also be used in missile defense systems to combat the warheads of attacking missiles on the trajectory. According to the calculations of specialists, fast neutrons, possessing high penetrating power, will pass through the lining of the enemy warheads, and will cause the defeat of their electronic equipment. In addition, neutrons interacting with the nuclei of uranium or plutonium of a nuclear warhead detonator will cause their division. Such a reaction will occur with a large release of energy, which, ultimately, can lead to heating and destruction of the detonator. This, in turn, will lead to the failure of the entire charge of the warhead. This property of neutron weapons has been used in US missile defense systems. Back in the middle of the 70s, neutron warheads were installed on Sprinter interceptor missiles of the Safeguard system deployed around the Grand Forks airbase in North Dakota. It is not excluded that in the future US national missile defense system neutron warheads will also be used.

As is known, in accordance with the commitments announced by the presidents of the United States and Russia in September-October 1991, all nuclear artillery shells and warheads of ground-based tactical missiles must be eliminated. However, there is no doubt that in the event of a change in the military-political situation and the adoption of a political decision, the developed technology of neutron warheads allows them to start mass production in a short time.

"Super-EMP" Shortly after the end of World War II, in a monopoly on nuclear weapons, the United States resumed testing to improve it and determine the damaging factors of a nuclear explosion. At the end of June, 1946, in the area of ​​the Bikini Atoll (Marshall Islands) under the code "Operation Crossroads", nuclear explosions were conducted, during which the destructive effect of atomic weapons was investigated. In the course of these test explosions a new physical phenomenon was discovered - the formation of a powerful electromagnetic radiation pulse (EMP), to which great interest was immediately shown. Especially significant was the EMR during high explosions. In the summer of 1958, nuclear explosions at high altitudes were made. The first series under the code "Hardtek" held over the Pacific Ocean near the island of Johnston. During the tests, two megaton class charges were blown up: "Tech" - at an altitude of 77 kilometers and "Orange" - at an altitude of 43 kilometer. In the 1962, high-altitude explosions were continued: at an altitude of 450 km, the 1,4 megaton warhead with an 1961 warhead exploded. The Soviet Union also during the 1962-180 years. conducted a series of tests, during which the effect of high-altitude explosions (300 km) on the operation of missile defense system equipment was investigated.


In conducting these tests, powerful electromagnetic pulses were recorded that had a large damaging effect on electronic equipment, communication lines and power supply, radio and radar stations at long distances. Since then, military experts have continued to pay great attention to the study of the nature of this phenomenon, its striking effect, and ways to protect its combat and support systems from it.

The physical nature of electromagnetic radiation is determined by the interaction of Y-quanta of instantaneous radiation of a nuclear explosion with atoms of air gases: Y-quanta knock electrons out of atoms (the so-called Compton electrons), which move with great speed away from the center of the explosion. The flow of these electrons, interacting with the magnetic field of the Earth, creates a pulse of electromagnetic radiation. With the explosion of a megaton class charge at altitudes of several tens of kilometers, the electric field strength on the earth's surface can reach tens of kilovolts per meter.

On the basis of the results obtained during testing, US military specialists launched research into the beginning of the 80-ies aimed at creating another type of third-generation nuclear weapon - Super-EMP with enhanced output of electromagnetic radiation.

To increase the output of Y-quanta, it was supposed to create a shell around a charge from a substance whose nuclei, actively interacting with the neutrons of a nuclear explosion, emit high-energy Y-radiation. Experts believe that with the help of Super-EMP it is possible to create a field strength at the surface of the Earth on the order of hundreds or even thousands of kilovolts per meter. According to the calculations of American theorists, the explosion of such a charge with a power of 10 megatons at an altitude of 300-400 km above the geographical center of the USA - the state of Nebraska will lead to disruption of radio electronic equipment almost throughout the country for a time sufficient to disrupt a nuclear missile response.

The further direction of work on the creation of Super-EMP was associated with the enhancement of its damaging effect due to the focusing of Y-radiation, which should have led to an increase in the amplitude of the pulse. These properties of Super-EMP make it a first-strike weapon designed to disable the state and military control systems, ICBMs, especially mobile ones, trajectory missiles, radar stations, spacecraft, power supply systems, etc. Thus, the Super-EMP is clearly offensive in nature and is a destabilizing weapon of the first strike.

Penetrating warheads (penetrators) The search for reliable means of destroying highly protected targets led the US military to the idea of ​​using underground nuclear explosions for this purpose. With the penetration of nuclear charges into the ground, the proportion of energy going into the formation of a crater, the zone of destruction and seismic shock waves significantly increases. In this case, with the existing accuracy of ICBMs and SLBMs, the reliability of destroying “pinpoint”, especially durable targets on the enemy’s territory significantly increases.

Work on the creation of penetrators was initiated by the order of the Pentagon in the middle of the 70-s, when the concept of "counter-force" strike was given priority. The first penetrating warhead model was developed in the early 80-s for the Pershing-2 medium-range missile. After the signing of the Treaty on Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF), the efforts of US specialists were redirected to the creation of such munitions for ICBMs. The developers of the new warhead encountered significant difficulties, primarily due to the need to ensure its integrity and efficiency while moving in the ground. Huge overloads acting on the warhead (5000-8000 g, g-acceleration of gravity) impose extremely stringent requirements on the design of the munition.

The striking effect of such a warhead on deep, highly durable targets is determined by two factors - the power of the nuclear charge and the magnitude of its penetration into the ground. In addition, for each value of the charge power there is an optimal amount of penetration, at which the maximum efficiency of the action of the penetrator is ensured. So, for example, the destructive effect on particularly strong targets of a nuclear charge with a power of 200 kilotons will be quite effective when it is deeper to a depth of 15-20 meters and it will be equivalent to the impact of a ground explosion of the MX missile warhead with a power of 600 кт. Military experts have determined that with the accuracy of delivery of a penetrator warhead characteristic of MX and Trident-2 missiles, the probability of destroying an enemy missile shaft or command center with a single warhead is very high. This means that in this case the probability of destruction of the targets will be determined only by the technical reliability of the delivery of the warheads.

Obviously, penetrating warheads are designed to destroy the enemy’s state and military control centers, ICBMs located in mines, command posts, etc. Consequently, penetrators are offensive, "counter-force" weapons intended for delivering a first strike, and therefore have a destabilizing character. The value of penetrating warheads, if adopted, can increase significantly in the context of reducing strategic offensive arms, when a reduction in combat capabilities for a first strike (reducing the number of carriers and warheads) will require an increased likelihood of hitting targets with each ammunition. At the same time, for such warheads it is necessary to ensure a sufficiently high accuracy of hitting the target. Therefore, the possibility of creating warheads-penetrators equipped with a homing system in the final part of the trajectory, like high-precision weapons, was considered.

X-ray nuclear-pumped laser. In the second half of the 70-s, research began in the Livermore Radiation Laboratory on the creation of a “missile weapon of the 21st century” - a nuclear-excited X-ray laser. From the very beginning, this weapon was conceived as the main means of destroying Soviet missiles in the active part of the trajectory, before the separation of the warheads. The new weapon was given the name - "volley fire weapon".

In a schematic view, a new weapon can be represented as a warhead, on the surface of which it is strengthened to 50 laser rods. Each rod has two degrees of freedom and, like a gun barrel, can be autonomously directed to any point in space. Along the axis of each rod, several meters long, is placed a thin wire of dense active material, "such as gold." Inside the warhead is a powerful nuclear charge, the explosion of which should serve as an energy source for pumping lasers. According to some experts, to ensure the defeat of the attacking missiles at a distance of more than 1000 km will require a charge capacity of several hundred kilotons. The warhead also houses an aiming system with a high-speed real-time computer.

To combat the Soviet missiles, US military experts developed a special tactic for its combat use. To this end, it was proposed to place nuclear-laser warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). In a “crisis situation” or in preparation for a first strike, submarines equipped with these SLBMs should secretly move into patrol areas and take up combat positions as close as possible to the positional areas of the Soviet ICBMs: in the North Indian Ocean, in the Arabian, Norwegian, Okhotsk the seas. When a signal is received about the launch of Soviet missiles, submarine missiles are launched. If the Soviet missiles rose to an altitude of 200 km, in order to reach the line of sight, missiles with laser warheads need to rise to an altitude of about 950 km. After that, the control system, together with a computer, induces laser rods at Soviet missiles. As soon as each rod takes the position at which the radiation will hit the target exactly, the computer will give the command to undermine the nuclear charge.

The tremendous energy released during an explosion in the form of radiation instantly translates the active substance of the rods (wire) into a plasma state. After a moment, this plasma, while cooling, will create radiation in the X-ray range, propagating in an airless space for thousands of kilometers in the direction of the axis of the rod. The laser warhead itself will be destroyed in a few microseconds, but before that it will have time to send powerful radiation pulses towards the targets. Absorbing in a thin surface layer of the rocket material, X-rays can create an extremely high concentration of thermal energy in it, which will cause its explosive evaporation, leading to the formation of a shock wave and, ultimately, to the destruction of the body.

However, the creation of an X-ray laser, which was considered the cornerstone of the IDF Reagan program, met with great difficulties that had not yet been overcome. Among them in the first place are the difficulties of focusing laser radiation, as well as the creation of an effective guidance system for laser rods. The first underground X-ray laser tests were conducted in Nevada galleries in November 1980, codenamed Dauphin. The results confirmed the theoretical calculations of scientists, however, the output of X-rays was very weak and obviously insufficient to destroy the missiles. This was followed by a series of test explosions "Excalibur", "Super-Excalibur", "Cottage", "Romano", during which the experts pursued the main goal - to increase the intensity of X-rays by focusing. At the end of December 1985 of the year, an underground Goldstone explosion was effected with a capacity of about 150 kt, and in April of the following year a test of the Mighty Oak with similar targets. Under the ban on nuclear tests on the way to the creation of these weapons, serious obstacles have arisen.

It must be emphasized that the X-ray laser is primarily a nuclear weapon and, if it is blown up near the surface of the Earth, it will have approximately the same destructive effect as a conventional thermonuclear charge of the same power.

"Hypersonic shrapnel" In the course of work on the PIO program, theoretical calculations and

The results of the simulation of the interception of the warheads of the enemy showed that the first echelon of the missile defense system, designed to destroy missiles on the active trajectory, cannot completely solve this problem. Therefore, it is necessary to create combat means capable of effectively destroying warheads in the phase of their free flight. To this end, US experts have proposed the use of small metal particles, accelerated to high speeds using the energy of a nuclear explosion. The basic idea of ​​such a weapon is that at high speeds even a small dense particle (with a mass not more than a gram) will have great kinetic energy. Therefore, in the event of a collision with a target, the particle can damage or even penetrate the shell of the warhead. Even if the shell is only damaged, then when entering the dense layers of the atmosphere, it will be destroyed as a result of intense mechanical action and aerodynamic heating. Naturally, if such a particle hits a thin-walled inflatable false target, its shell will be broken through and it will immediately lose its shape in a vacuum. The destruction of light false targets will greatly facilitate the selection of nuclear warheads and, thereby, will contribute to the successful fight against them.

It is assumed that structurally such a warhead will contain a nuclear charge of relatively low power with an automatic detonation system, around which a shell is created, consisting of many small metal striking elements. With a shell weight of 100 kg, more than 100 thousands of fragmentation elements can be obtained, which will make it possible to create a relatively large and dense field of destruction. In the course of the explosion of a nuclear charge, a hot gas is formed - a plasma, which, flying at an enormous speed, carries with it and disperses these dense particles. A difficult technical task is to preserve a sufficient mass of fragments, since when they flow around a high-velocity gas flow, there will be a carry-over of the mass from the surface of the elements.

In the US, a series of tests was conducted to create "nuclear shrapnel" under the "Prometheus" program. The power of a nuclear charge during these tests was only a few tens of tons. When evaluating the destructive capabilities of this weapon, it should be borne in mind that in dense layers of the atmosphere, particles moving at speeds of more than 4-5 kilometers per second will burn. Therefore, “nuclear shrapnel” can be used only in space, at altitudes of more than 80-100 km, in airless conditions. Accordingly, shrapnel warheads can be successfully used, in addition to combating warheads and false targets, as well as anti-space weapons for the destruction of military satellites, in particular those belonging to the missile attack warning system (EWS). Therefore, it is possible his combat use in the first strike to "blind" the enemy.

The various types of nuclear weapons discussed above do not exhaust all the possibilities in creating their modifications. This, in particular, concerns projects of nuclear weapons with an enhanced effect of an airborne nuclear wave, increased Y-radiation, increased radioactive contamination of the terrain (such as the notorious "cobalt" bomb), etc.

Recently, the United States has been considering ultra-low power nuclear projects: mini-nukes (hundreds of tons), micro-nukes (tens of tons), tayni-nukes (units of tons), which, in addition to low power, should be much more “clean”, than their predecessors. The process of improving nuclear weapons continues and it is impossible to exclude the emergence in the future of subminiature nuclear charges created on the basis of the use of super-heavy transplutonium elements with a critical mass from 25 to 500 grams. In the Kraftovia transplutonium element, the critical mass is about 150 grams. When using one of the California isotopes, the charger will be so small that, having a capacity of several tons of TNT, it can be adapted for firing from grenade launchers and small arms.

All of the above indicates that the use of nuclear energy for military purposes has significant potential, and continued development in the direction of creating new types of weapons could lead to a "technological breakthrough" that would reduce the "nuclear threshold" and have a negative impact on strategic stability. The prohibition of all nuclear tests, if it does not completely block the paths of development and improvement of nuclear weapons, it significantly slows them down. Under these conditions, mutual openness, trust, the elimination of acute contradictions between states and the creation, ultimately, of an effective international system of collective security, take on particular importance.
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