50 megatons is a lot of megatons. They are the ones who had the so-called Tsar Bomba (‘Bomba del Zar’), but it is difficult to get used to the idea until one does not put references. The atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima (‘Little Boy’), for example, did not exceed 20 kilotons: it was approximately 3,000 times less powerful.
The story and its details are well known, but it is good to remember them, especially since recently a never-before-seen 40-minute Russian documentary was released in which the development of this bomb is narrated and in which, above all, its detonation can be seen.
A monster bomb from start to finish
The initial project of the Russians was even more ambitious, and the Tsar bomb was supposed to have a destruction capacity of 100 megatons. Its enormous size made the ‘Tsar’s Bomb’ have no real practical application, and the idea was to develop it both as scientific research and to strengthen the Russian propaganda machine in the middle of the Cold War.
Finally the model developed, known as RDS-220, was a hydrogen bomb that was launched on October 30, 1961 and that exploded not on the surface, but at 4 km altitude over Novaya Zemlya, a Russian archipelago.
Although the official data of the detonation is according to Russia of a 50 megaton explosion, bhangometers located to measure this power recorded a power of 58 megatons. To achieve this power, Russian engineers added a third stage to the thermonuclear warhead, something unique considering that until then conventional hydrogen bombs had two stages.
A propaganda documentary shows the explosion of the ‘Bomb del Czar’
On August 20, 2020, the YouTube channel of the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation published an unknown 40-minute documentary in which the Russians, in a propaganda tone —It is enough to see the first seconds and the music that accompanies the images to understand it — they narrated the construction and detonation of the ‘Bomb del Czar’.
In that documentary you can see all the preparations: from his transport by train to the Olenya air base near Olenegorsk on the Kola Peninsula to his loading on a modified Tu-95 plane –with a paint that protected from heat and thermal radiation generated by the explosion – which crossed the Barents Sea to end up releasing it in the Matochkin Strait in Novaya Zemlya.
The bomb fell slowly in parachute, which gave the plane time to get away from the detonation, and in this video you can see how even at the enormous distance at which it was, the crew of that plane was able to record the gigantic mushroom that appeared above the clouds as a result of the explosion, which occurred 4 km high.
There was also a second plane that flew alongside the first. In this aircraft were all the measuring equipment, in addition to those that allowed the filming and monitoring of radiation samples.
The destruction of the bomb even in that inhospitable area of Russia was terrible. The ring in which the effect was absolutely devastating measured 35 km in radius, and after 40 seconds from the detonation the fire dome turned into a mushroom cloud that managed to ascend to a height of about 65 kilometers and which had a diameter of 90 km. According to the documentary, the light from the flash that was created after the explosion could be seen at a distance of 1,000 km.
Severny, the Russian military city built to evaluate the nuclear tests, most of the buildings were totally destroyed, and that data is curious when said city was 55 km from the zero point of the explosion. The explosion was of such caliber that it generated an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale.. In the documentary you can see that detonation and the formation of that gigantic mushroom both from the ground and from the air.
International condemnation for such a nuclear test was unanimous, but even so the United States would also embark on tests of large atomic bombs. Fortunately both powers realized that terrible nuclear race and signed a partial veto for nuclear tests in 1963, which only allowed underground tests. That veto would end up being total in 1990 thanks to the agreement promoted by the United Nations.