The Tsar Bomba was flown to its test site by a specially modified Tu-95V release plane, flown by Major Andrei Durnovtsev, which took off from an airfield in the Kola peninsula. The release plane was accompanied by a Tu-16 observer plane that took air samples and filmed the test. Both aircraft were painted with a special reflective white paint to limit heat damage.
The bomb, weighing 27 tons, was so large (8 metres (26 ft) long by 2 metres (6.6 ft) in diameter) that the Tu-95V had to have its bomb bay doors and fuselage fuel tanks removed. The bomb was attached to an 800 kilogram fall-retardation parachute, which gave the release and observer planes time to fly about 45 kilometres (28 mi) from ground zero.
The Tsar Bomba detonated at 11:32 on October 30, 1961 over the Mityushikha Bay nuclear testing range (Sukhoy Nos Zone C), north of the Arctic Circle on Novaya Zemlya Island in the Arctic Sea. The bomb was dropped from an altitude of 10.5 kilometres (6.5 mi); it was designed to detonate at a height of 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) over the land surface (4.2 kilometres (2.6 mi) over sea level) by barometric sensors.
The original U.S. estimate of the yield was 57 Mt, but since 1991 all Russian sources have stated its yield as 50 Mt. Khrushchev warned in a filmed speech to the Communist parliament of the existence of a 100 Mt bomb (technically the design was capable of this yield). The fireball touched the ground, reached nearly as high as the altitude of the release plane, and was seen and felt almost 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from ground zero. The heat from the explosion could have caused third degree burns 100 km (62 miles) away from ground zero. The subsequent mushroom cloud was about 64 kilometres (40 mi) high (nearly seven times higher than Mount Everest) and 40 kilometres (25 mi) wide. The explosion could be seen and felt in Finland, breaking windows there and in Sweden. Atmospheric focusing caused blast damage up to 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) away. The seismic shock created by the detonation was measurable even on its third passage around the Earth. Its seismic body wave magnitude was about 5 to 5.25.The energy yield was around 7.1 on the Richter scale,but since the bomb was detonated in air rather than underground, most of the energy was not converted to seismic waves.
Since 50 Mt is 2.1×1017 joules, the average power produced during the entire fission-fusion process, lasting around 39 nanoseconds, was about 5.4×1024 watts or 5.4 yottawatts (5.4 septillion watts). This is equivalent to approximately 1.4% of the power output of the Sun.
The Tsar Bomba is the single most physically powerful device ever utilized by man. Its size and weight excluded a successful delivery in case of a real war.By contrast, the largest weapon ever produced by the United States, the now-decommissioned B41, had a predicted maximum yield of 25 Mt, and the largest nuclear device ever tested by the US (Castle Bravo) yielded 15 Mt (this was due to a runaway reaction; the design yield was approximately 5 Mt).
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