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The King of Bombs: The Decision That Almost Led to Nuclear Annihilation


Innovative Tech Channel is known for its updates on ecological projects and high-tech developments. However, it is easy to forget that all these innovations are possible due to the decisions made by scientists and leaders of the past. In this article, we will discuss one such decision that almost led to the complete destruction of our planet. We will delve into the history of the creation of nuclear weapons, the race for power between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the testing of the most powerful explosive device in the history of mankind – the King of Bombs.

The Race for Power

The creation of nuclear weapons began during the Second World War. After the end of the conflict, the United States took the lead in developing weapons of mass destruction. The bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima demonstrated the willingness of the American leadership to use nuclear weapons. By the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union was still far behind the United States in this area. Although the first samples of thermonuclear weapons were already at the disposal of the communists, they experienced a catastrophic shortage of delivery vehicles. Moreover, the USSR had a very limited amount of such ammunition. The Politburo, headed by Khrushchev, did not have the opportunity to deliver a nuclear strike on US territory, and the Soviet leadership was not going to put up with such a situation.

The King of Bombs

It is critical to understand here that the threat of an atomic bombing in those days was more real than ever. The Soviet government wanted to demonstrate that in the event of an attack, the communist empire was ready to drag the whole world to hell. The AN-602 was the project that aimed to create a thermonuclear weapon with a design capacity of 100 megatons. At that time, it was an outrageous explosive potential since by 1960, the most explosive weapon was a 15-megaton bomb tested by the United States.

The first developments to create a super powerful nuclear device began in 1956 when Soviet scientists presented their superiors with a preliminary calculation to create a 150-megaton bomb. The document also provided for an increase in the charge power to one gigaton, which would have had unforeseen consequences. Surprisingly, in February 1961, nuclear engineers sent a letter to the leadership of the USSR where they seriously raised the question of the advisability of creating a 100-megaton bomb. However, Nikita Khrushchev, the then-leader of the Soviet state, had to prove to geopolitical opponents that his country was capable of creating nuclear weapons of unlimited power. Therefore, he insisted on continuing work on the AN-602 and provided all kinds of support to the engineers.

The Danger of Testing

After a lengthy analysis, scientists concluded that testing a complete three-stage version of a 100-megaton bomb posed an extreme danger. This was mainly due to radioactive contamination that could have been provoked by the third degree of uranium fission, known as the Jekyll and Hyde reaction. As a result, Academician Andrei Sakharov suggested using a two-stage version of the device and, instead of uranium-238, use a nuclear passive material lead or rather plumb. So the future bomb acquired a total power of 51 megatons. Its design provided for several innovations at once, including a by-failure scheme of an implosion of the main thermonuclear unit.

Soviet aircraft manufacturers were engaged in the creation of a unique 295B aircraft that served one task only to deliver the 26.5-ton Ivan to the test site. The bomber existed in a single copy, and this miracle technique dropped the first model of a nuclear bomb in 1959. After that, the aircraft waited almost two years for the AN-602 to be ready.

The Consequences of Testing

On October 30th, 1961, the USSR conducted the most terrible test in the history of mankind. The 295B bomber being at an altitude of 11.5 kilometers dropped the King of Bombs on the test range number six located on the New Land Novaya Zemlya. In 189 seconds at 8:33 UTC, the barometric fuse detonated the weapon at an altitude of 3700 to 45 meters above sea level. The force of the explosion was terrifying, exceeding the design capacity of the device by 17, reaching 58.6 megatons.

First, a new sun bloomed in the sky, a fireball with a diameter of 10 kilometers. It literally incinerated everything around it and even left scorched spots on the specifically protected body of the carrier aircraft, although it was 40 kilometers from the point of detonation. The flash of light could be seen at a distance of over 1,000 kilometers in Norway, Greenland, and Alaska.

The formed nuclear mushroom was striking in its proportions and in just a couple of minutes rose to a height of 67 kilometers. The diameter of the murderous cloud reached 000 meters, and the line of sight remained…


The testing of the King of Bombs showed the world how close humanity was to complete destruction. The decision to create it was based on geopolitical ambitions, and the consequences of detonation were impossible to predict. The global community was horrified, and for almost two years, the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over the world. Our world came one step closer to the brink of destruction, and it’s a lesson to remember that we should use technology for the betterment of our world and not for its destruction.

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