1962 - Christmas Island, Johnston Island, Central Pacific.
The Soviet Union had abrogated the 34 month old de facto nuclear testing moratorium on 1 September 1961 by initiating an unprecedented series of atmospheric nuclear tests. The initial U.S. response was to commence its own test series (Operation Nougat) two weeks later. Nougat was an underground series however, restricted to very low yield devices.
Numerous atmospheric tests, many at high yield, were of course on the drawing board at the weapons labs, some carried over from planning for previous test series. Official U.S. action on convening its own atmospheric series did not begin until 10 October 1961 when President Kennedy approved planning for one. Final approval was given on 2 March 1962, 7 weeks in advance of the first planned test.
Dominic included 36 tests. The majority of the tests (29 airdrops) were weapons development tests, intended to evaluate advanced designs that the labs had been cooking up during the years of the moratorium and before. Five rocket-launched tests were conducted to gather further weapons effects data on high-altitude phenomena. Two tests of operational weapon systems were conducted - the Polaris submarine launched ballistic missile and the ASROC anti-submarine rocket.
Conducted as part of Operation Dominic was a series of high altitude tests known as Operation Fishbowl. These tests were Thor missile launched warheads detonated at very high altitudes (30-248 miles) to evaluate the destructive mechanisms and effects of high yield explosions against ballistic missile RVs. Several test failures occurred with missiles being destroyed in flight by range safety officers when electronics failed (Bluegill), when rocket motors malfunctioned (Starfish and Bluegill Prime), or when the missile veered out of control (Bluegill Double Prime). The Bluegill Prime test was particularly disastrous since the missile was blown up while still on the launch pad, requiring complete reconstruction of the demolished and plutonium contaminated Thor launch facility.
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