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“Deadlies” Nominee: Nuke Bazooka

by jason on November 22, 2006

Nominated by Steve Weintz
You can’t have a contest to find the most hazardous equipment of all time without including the legendary Davy Crockett — the tripod-mounted, atomic artillery launcher that inspired Starship Troopers’ nuclear bazooka.
davy4.jpgThe Davy Crockett came in two flavors, 120mm and 155mm. Both used the same round — an itty-bitty nuclear warhead, with a yield equal to “only” 10 to 20 tons of TNT (about what took down the Alfred R. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City). Maximum range was 2.5 miles for the bigger model, half that for the mini. Which meant that the Davy’s three-man crew would survive the initial atomic blast. If they fired the shell perfectly, that is. Unfortunately, “both recoilless rifles proved to have poor accuracy in testing,” Wikipedia notes.
But even if the Davy’s crew managed to make it past the first few seconds of their weapon’s firing, they still had to contend with the subsequent radiation. The minimum detonation range for the Davy was 1000 feet. The problem is, the explosion kicked off an “almost instantly lethal radiation dosage (in excess of 10,000 rem) within 500 feet (150 m), and a probably fatal dose (around 600 rem) within a quarter mile (400 meters).“
The Davy Crockett’s warheads were tested twice, in 1962. 2,100 of the things were manufactured and deployed with American armed forces, until the Davy was retired in 1971.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

m November 22, 2006 at 10:39 am

From the linked article:
“equivalent to 10 tons of TNT, or two to four times as powerful as the ammonium nitrate bomb which destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995″
Two to four times the power, not equal to, what took down the building.

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Haninah November 22, 2006 at 10:40 am

Surely you’re joking about “10 to 20 million tons of TNT”. The Davy Crockett had a yield of about 0.01 kilotons, or about 20 tons of high explosives equivalent (according to GlobalSecurity). “10 to 20 million tons” is 10-20 MT – bigger than all but the biggest thermonuclear devices ever tested. And the OKC bomb was delivered in a Ryder van, so it probably was up to a ton of material at most, probably about half a ton of HE equivalent.

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Mike Jacobs November 22, 2006 at 10:46 am

The Davy Crockett had a yield of 0.25 kilotons (250 tons) of TNT, not “10 to 20 million tons.” According to both the Nuclear Weapons Databook Volume I and US Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History by Chuck Hansen, the W54 Mark 2, used in the Davy Crockett had a yield “selectable to 0.25 kt”. The Davy Crockett with the W54 was actually fired in the Little Feller I test on July 17, 1962, from a ground mounted launcher and had a programmed yield of 20 tons, detonating 20 feet above the ground 9,360 ft from the launch point.
No, I would not like to have been on the firing team for one of these, but it may well have been relatively safe when fired at a low enough yield setting.

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Noah Shachtman November 22, 2006 at 11:52 am

Okay, okay! It’s fixed!
Sorry ’bout that, boys.
nms

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Brian November 22, 2006 at 2:13 pm

The blast at the OKC bombing was concentrated, focused. The destruction caused by the truck bomb was higher than the normal explosives would cause without being shaped.

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David Szucs November 22, 2006 at 2:37 pm

Almost every instance of statistics or performance figures sited by this guy are wrong. Lets start with the only launcher was a jeep mounted 106mm recoilless rifle no 120 no 155 yield was on the order of 200 tons of TNT for the warhead and at minimum distance the base surge not radiation was the threat to the crew. Rad damage was still considerable but no where near the 10,000 Rem’s sited. Finally doctrine called for use primarily in Korea fired over hills or ridge lines to the reverse slope of which anyone who has every marched in Korea will swear there is no shortage. The same warhead was used for the Genie air to air missile and the small atomic demolition munition (SADM) back pack nuke.
Other than blowing every single important fact about the weapon system I agree with the nomination.
BTW a demiled example is at the Sandia Nuclear Museum in Sandia, NM.
David Szucs

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Two to four times the power, not equal to, what took down the building.

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