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Cold War US 280mm 'atomic' cannon, late 50's in Germany.

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These might be of passing interest to some on here. The photos are from the personal collection of an ex-REME squaddie whose unit was attached to the Yanks a couple of times a year by way of providing bridge building services. Apparently the Yanks had the weapon but didn't have the expertise to get it across a gap :-) Copyright is owned by Ivan Baker, posted here with permission for personal viewing.


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  • 2 weeks later...
The Davy Crockett was a ludicrous idea.





Vladimir Putin is probably just now dusting off a few copies , may not be so ludicrous for containment , from WW2 Russia has never bothered about own troop safety - reaching the set target is all important. Fallout would be no worse than DU ammo , I suppose it depends on how many are used in both cases.

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I have to declare a slight interest in weapons effects having been on the fringes of civil defence communications before 1989.


Compared with the 28cm or 20cm nuclear shells, the explosive yield of Davy Crockett was quite small - tens of tons according to various online resources. It also seems to have been fused for ground or near ground detonation. So I expect radiation - whether in the form of direct neutron radiation beyond the fireball, neutron irradiated material from the surroundings or unburnt plutonium, would have been a significant and lasting part of the total effect.


As the lowest yield member of the W54 family - capable of up to 1KT in other uses - it likely had a relatively large amount of fissile material to compensate for the relatively small size of the explosives used to form a critical mass and lack of a heavy tamper (and therefore poor compression and a small duration of criticality). As such I would have expected it - and any other compact low yield fission device - to be quite dirty.


The 17 July 1962 above-ground live test of Davy Crockett which claimed to yield around 20 tonnes was at a range of about 2.7km compared with a fireball of 18 feet (air) or 29 feet (surface), blast minor damage radius (+0.25 atmospheres overpressure) of 500 feet / 160m and a 30 RAD neutron dose radius of 600 feet / 125m based on the graphs and scaling laws published by Glasstone and Dolan in 1977 ( a somewhat incomplete scan is found at http://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/inlinefiles/glasstone%20and%20dolan%201977.pdf and a better version at https://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/www/effects/ ). As such the launch party should be fairly safe if upwind and the main danger to troops in the open is blast out to around 200 metres and the main danger to troops under cover is immediate neutron flux.


Also note that the critical mass is a few KG, but the energy released in a 1KT explosion requires the fission of just over 50 grammes - for 20 tonnes only a few grammes of the critical mass undergo fission and the rest is either dispersed as Plutonium (not environmentally friendly!) or transmuted to other radioactive materials, all with half-lives much shorter than DU - so therefore much more radioactive and widely dispersed than the few pounds of DU in an APFSDS projectile.



Edited by g0ozs
Added fission fraction note
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  • 3 weeks later...
At times it's hard to imagine someone thinking this was good idea then at other times, I get the feeling it looked like the least worst option compared to bigger nukes or overwhelming enemy numbers.


Remembering that the two used in 1945 were both c.20KT, land service nuc weapons were predominantly a lot less than that, although by the late '60s 'dial a yield' was available for at least one system subsequently adopted by several NATO nations.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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