M65 Atomic Cannon

Upshot-Knothole Grable was a nuclear weapons test conducted by the United States as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole. Detonation of the associated nuclear weapon occurred shortly after its deployment at 8:30am PDT (1530 UTC) on May 25, 1953, in Area 5 of the Nevada Test Site. The codename Grable was chosen because the letter Grable is phonetic for, G, stands for “gun”, since the warhead was a gun-type fission weapon. It was in the form of a shell, or artillery-fired atomic projectile (AFAP), the first of its kind.

Grable was only the second gun-type warhead ever detonated (the first was Little Boy, the weapon used against Hiroshima; all other atomic weapons were and are implosion-type weapons). The shell, designated a Mark 9 nuclear weapon, had a diameter of 280 mm (11.02 in), was 54.4 in. (138 cm) long and weighed 803 lb. (364 kg) The gun it was fired from had a muzzle velocity of 2,060 ft/s. (625 m/s), for a nominal range of 20 miles, and weighed 85 t (77 metric tons).

The detonation of Grable occurred 19 seconds after its firing. It detonated over 11,000 yards (over 6.25 miles, 10 km) away from the gun it was fired from, over a part of NTS known as Frenchman Flat. The explosion was an air burst of 524 ft. (160 m) above the ground (24 ft./7 m above its designated burst altitude), 87 ft. (26 m) west and 136 ft. (41 m) south of its target (slightly uprange). Its yield was estimated at 15 kilotons, around the same level as Little Boy. An anomalous feature of the blast was the formation of a precursor, a second shock front ahead of the incident wave. This precursor was formed when the shock wave reflected off the ground and surpassed the incident wave and Mach stem due to a heated ground air layer and the low burst height. It resulted in a lower overpressure, but higher overall dynamic pressure, which inflicted much more damage on drag sensitive targets such as jeeps and personnel carriers. This led strategists to rethink the importance of low air bursts in tactical nuclear warfare.

The M65 was never fired in combat operations.

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