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Nuclear Weapons Test Film Descriptions
Atomic Demolition Munitions - Back Pack Size Nuclear WeaponsW-76 Warhead

Looking down the barrel: so far, sufficient nuclear technology and know-how have eluded jihadists
(© Science Photo Library / Van Parys Media)
0800031 - SADM Delivery by Parachutist/Swimmer (Special Atomic Demolition Munition) - No Date Given - 9:45 - Black&White (No explosions) - The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was a Navy and Marines project that was demonstrated as feasible in the mid-to-late 1960s, but was never used. The project, which involved a small nuclear weapon, was designed to allow one individual to parachute from any type of aircraft carrying the weapon package that would be placed in a harbor or other strategic location that could be accessed from the sea. Another parachutist without a weapon package would follow the first parachutist to provide support as needed.

The two-man team would place the weapon package in an acceptable location, set the timer, and swim out into the ocean where they would be retrieved by a submarine or other high-speed water craft. The parachute jumps and the retrieval procedures were practiced extensively.

The video shows a man in a wet suit donning his parachute, the weapon package, and a reserve parachute. After he jumps from the aircraft and is nearing the water, he drops the weapon package down on a 17-foot line to lessen the impact of his landing. He then floats the weapon package to the desired location


Atomic Demolition Munitions

Scientists displaying the warhead (left) and packing container for the Medium Atomic Demolition Munition (MADM), a low-yield (1- to 15-kiloton) nuclear land mine designed to be deployed behind enemy lines and destroy tunnels, bridges, dams, and disrupt enemy troop movements. The entire unit (including warhead) weighed less than 400 pounds and was deployed from 1965 to 1986.

Another view of the MADM, showing (from left) the packing container, warhead, code-decoder unit, and firing unit.

The carrying case for the W54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM). The SADM had a yield of 0.01, or 0.02-1 kiloton and was operationally deployed between 1964 and 1988. The entire unit weighed less than 163 pounds (74 kilograms).

Credit: Department of Defense (courtesy Natural Resources Defense Council)

The Davy Crockett

The Davy Crockett (shown here at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in March 1961) was the smallest and lightest nuclear weapon ever deployed by the U.S. military. It was designed for use in Europe against Soviet troop formations.

The Davy Crockett consisted of an XM-388 projectile launched from either a 120-millimeter (XM-28) or 155-millimeter (XM-29) recoilless rifle (the 120 millimeter version is shown above). This weapon had a maximum range of 1.24 miles (120 millimeter) to 2.49 miles (155 millimeter). The XM-388 casing (including the warhead and fin assembly) weighed 76 pounds, was 30 inches long and measured 11 inches in diameter (at its widest point).


Infantry personnel of the 101st Airborne Division preparing to fire a Davy Crockett during a training exercise at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, May 14, 1962




Soldiers conducting tests of the Davy Crockett at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, December 16, 1959

W54 warhead used on the Davy Crockett weighed just 51 pounds and was the smallest and lightest fission bomb (implosion type) ever deployed by the United States, with a variable explosive yield of 0.01 kilotons (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), or 0.02 kilotons-1 kiloton. A 58.6 pound variant—the B54—was used in the Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM), a nuclear land mine deployed in Europe, South Korea, Guam, and the United States from 1964-1989.




The crew of an XM-29 version of the Davy Crockett prepares it for a live fire demonstration at Fort Carson, Colorado, March 13, 1967. Here, the 37-millimeter spotting gun is being loaded (this gun is fired before the warhead to check the weapon's trajectory and make necessary adjustments).


The Davy Crockett was deployed with U.S. Army forces from 1961 to 1971. Between 1956 and 1963, 2,100 were produced at an estimated cost (excluding the warhead) of $540 million (in constant 1996 dollars). The weapon's non-nuclear components were manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Illinois. The W54 warhead was designed at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now the Los Alamos National Laboratory) and built by the Atomic Energy Commission.




Soldiers at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, demonstrate how to set up an XM-29 version of the Davy Crockett (1961).

Stockpiled W54 warheads were test fired at the
Nevada Test Site on July 7 and 17, 1962, during the Little Feller II and Little Feller I shots. In Little Feller II on July 7, the warhead was suspended on cables about three feet above the ground (yield was 22 tons). In Little Feller I on July 17, a Davy Crockett was fired from a stationary 155 millimeter launcher (in tandem with simulated battlefield manuevers under Operation IVY FLATS) and detonated about 20 feet above the ground at a distance of 9,357 feet (1.7 miles) from the launch point (yield was 18 tons). This test, the last atmospheric detonation at the Nevada Test Site, was observed by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and presidential adviser General Maxwell D. Taylor. Footage of Operation IVY FLATS was declassified by the Department of Energy on December 22, 1997.



The Davy Crockett could also be launched from specially equipped jeeps.

Sources: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project; Thomas B. Cochran, William M. Arkin, Milton M. Hoenig, U.S. Nuclear Forces and Capabilities, Volume I, Nuclear Weapons Databook (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1984), pp. 60, 311; Robert Standish Norris and Thomas B. Cochran, "United States Nuclear Tests: July 1945 to 31 December 1992," (Washington, D.C.: Natural Resources Defense Council, 1 February 1994), NWD-94-1, p. 35; Chuck Hansen, U.S. Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History (New York: Orion Books, 1988), pp. 197-198; Ted Nicholas and Rita Rossi, U.S. Historical Military Aircraft and Missile Data Book (Fountain Valley, California: Data Search Associates, 1991), pp. 3-95, 3-101; U.S. Department of Energy.

Credit: National Archives

(Return to 50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons)

(Return to "Nuclear Davy Crockett")

Nuclear Weapons - Misc Facts

This page holds a few misc. facts about nuclear weapons that may be surprising to many.

Recent Terrorist Related Information ("Suitcase Nukes")

  • The US produced, and for many years deployed "Atomic Demolition Munitions." The Medium Atomic Demolition Munition (MADM) produced 1-15 kilotons of yield, and weighed 400 pounds. The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM)  yielded .01-1 kilotons and weighed only 163 pounds.   See here and here.

  • The smallest nuclear weapon the US produced was the "Davy Crockett"  - a recoilless rifle round. It weighed about 51 pounds, was 16 inches long and 11 inches in diameter. It produced a variable yield of up to 1 kiloton. See here.

  • An excellent discussion of this issue is here.

  • The Soviets supposedly produced "suitcase nukes" and there is no reason to doubt this assertion. Former Soviet General Ledbed has asserted that a number of these are not accounted for. There are reasons, however, to doubt his assertions given his political position.

General Observations


Most information comes from "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons" - 1964 - US DOD

  • There was no significant fallout in the vicinity of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. All radiation injuries were a result of immediate (first 1 minute) radiation.
  • The only cases of significant fallout exposure (as of 1964) to individuals (other than globally ) was in the Marshall Islands after a U.S. test. The short term effects were skin "burns." As of 1964, no long term effects were known, although a slight excess cancer rate would be expected based on modern knowledge.
  • Almost all radioactivity in fallout - even in a ground burst - comes from the fission products themselves or transmutation of parts of the weapon. Thus air bursts and ground bursts produce approximately the same amount of radioactive products. However, ground bursts cause much more of the radioactive debris to be deposited within a fallout pattern, rather than distributed (and accordingly diluted and decayed) across the entire planet.
  • In Hiroshima, there was a 50% survival rate .12 miles (200 meters) from ground zero. The bomb went off at 1850 feet above ground zero with a yield of about 20kt. Concrete structures at ground zero survived.
  • In Hiroshima, there was only one known case of burst eardrums among the survivors.


More Technical Information

Blast Effects

The blast effect is primarily determined by the "overpressure" - given in english units in PSI.
This effect at any distance is proportional to the cube root of the weapons yield. Thus a 20 megaton bomb, which is large by today's standards, will affect only 10 times the radius of a 20 kiloton bomb - which was the yield at Hiroshima.
A human being can withstand up to about 35PSI of peak overpressure from a nuclear blast (1% fatality rate).  Your mileage may vary. Thus a human will almost always survive the blast overpressure at approximately the following distances (slant range) from a blast according to the following table:
Distance From Blast to Survive Blast Wave
Yield Distance (mi) Distance (km) Comments
20 kT .35 .56 Hiroshima and Nagasaki
600 kT 1.1 1.8 Typical Strategic US Nuke
20 MT 3.5 5.6 Very Big Bomb
The blast wave can, however, pick people up and throw them. For a 165 pound standing person to be thrown at 20 feet per second, the following table shows the distance from the blast:
Distance From Blast to be Thrown at 20 fps
Yield Distance (mi) Distance (km)
20kT 1.06 1.75
600kT 4.1 6.6
20MT 16.8 27
Max Wind at Distance from Blast
Yield 1 mi
1.6 km
3 mi
4.8 km
10 mi
16 km
30 mi
48 km
20kT 200 mph
89 mps
47 mph
21 mps
5 mph
2 mps
600kT 1000 mph
447 mps
210 mph
94 mps
51 mps
5 mps
20MT off scale 1200 mph
536 mps
195 mph
87 mps
47 mph
21 mps

The greatest danger from the blast wave comes from destruction of structures and the conversion of objects into missiles. The following tables gives the destruction distance from various yields for a few kinds of structures:

Window Breakage
Yield Distance (mi) Distance (km)
20kT 3.2 5.1
600kT 10 16
20MT 32 51
Wood-frame Building Destruction
Yield Distance (mi) Distance (km)
20kT 1.5 1.9
600kT 4.8 7.7
20MT 15 19
Multi-story Brick
Yield Distance (mi) Distance (km)
20kT 1. 1.6
600kT 3.0 4.8
20MT 10 16
Multi-story Reinforced Concrete Offices
Yield Distance (mi) Distance (km)
20kT .5 .81
600kT 1.3 2.1
20MT 5 8.1



  • A ground burst produces a crater. The following table shows crater sizes:
    Crater Sizes
    Yield Width
    20kT 633 193 80 24
    600kT 2112 643 211 64
    20MT 7392 2253 792 241



Nuclear Weapons Archive and FAQ:

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