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Nuclear test
AN602 / Tsar bomb
Scale model of the Tsar bomb in the Sarov Atomic Bomb Museum
Scale model of the Tsar bomb in the Sarov Atomic Bomb Museum
nation Soviet Union 1955Soviet Union Soviet Union
Test location Novaya Zemlya Island
date October 30, 1961
11:32 a.m. Moscow time
Test type Above-ground test
Test height 4000 m
Weapon type Hydrogen bomb
Explosive power 50-100 MT
Place of explosion
The Tu-95 bomber that dropped the Tsar bomb is in the Air Force Museum

The AN602 was the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever detonated and produced the largest man-made explosion ever .

The code name was Vanya . It is often mistakenly referred to as RDS-220 or RN202 (РДС-220, РН202). In the German press at the time, it was referred to as the “super bomb”. After the collapse of the Soviet Union , the name Tsar bomb ( Russian Царь-бомба / Tsar-Bomba ), derived from the ruler title Tsar, spread .


The bomb constructed by a team led by the later dissident Andrei Sakharov weighed 27 tons, was eight meters long and two meters in diameter. It was constructed in three stages and designed for an explosive force of 100  MT . For the test, half of the explosive power was waived in order to reduce radioactive pollution by 97 percent by replacing the 238 uranium in the mantle of the third and possibly also the second stage with lead. Uranium in the mantle would have been split by the fast neutrons of the hydrogen stages , which would have at least doubled the explosive power. Lithium deuteride was used as a fusion fuel . In relation to its explosive power, this bomb became the “cleanest” nuclear weapon ever used .

The manufacture of the parachute that carried the bomb after it was dropped was also a technical challenge.

Explosive power

Destructive effects of the Tsar bomb over a map of Paris : the red circle covers the zone of total destruction (radius: 35 km), the yellow circle the fireball (radius: 3.5 km).

The explosive power of the Tsar bomb was - depending on the source - 50 to 60 MT, making it around 4,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima Little Boy bomb and about three to four times as powerful as Castle Bravo , the most powerful nuclear weapon test in the United States . Shortly after the test, the United States estimated the bomb's explosive power to be 57 MT. This information was later adopted from Western and Soviet sources. The difference of 14 percent between estimated, expected and actually occurring explosive power was not an extraordinary deviation. For example, Little Boy's strength estimates varied from 12 to 16 kT, a difference of 33 percent. The difference between the prediction and the actual explosive power in the explosion of the solid H bomb Castle Bravo was even greater. At around 15 MT, this was around two and a half times as high as originally assumed.

In his memoirs (1970), Khrushchev wrote : “Our scientists calculated in advance that the force of the bomb would be equivalent to 50 million tons of TNT . At least in theory. In fact, it turned out that the explosion was equivalent to 57 million tons. ”Nevertheless, the number 50 MT can be found in all Russian sources that have appeared since 1991.

The amount of the chemical explosive TNT that would release an energy comparable to the Tsar bomb would have a diameter of 400 meters as a sphere.

Carrying out the test

The bomb was detonated on October 30, 1961 at 11:32 am Moscow time over the test site "Sukhoy Nos Zone C" at about 73.8 ° north latitude and 54.6 ° east longitude in Mityushika Bay on the island of Novaya Zemlya . It was dropped from a modified Tupolev Tu 95W bomber at an altitude of over 10,000 meters and slowed down by a parachute to give the aircraft sufficient time to leave the test area. In order to be able to transport them, the flaps of the bomb bay had been removed.

The explosion took place at an altitude of around 4000 m. The fireball from the explosion hit the ground, the mushroom cloud briefly reached a height of about 40 miles. The stable final height should have been between 40 and 50 km. The pressure wave triggered by the explosion circled the globe about two and a half times. The third return to the place of origin, however, could only be measured with highly sensitive barographs . Since the density also fluctuated with the pressure, the atmospheric wave was registered as a slow vertical component by seismographs , the inertial mass of which experienced variable buoyancy.

Although the bomb was detonated at a relatively high altitude, the explosion also generated several types of seismic waves with a magnitude of 5.8. P waves were even measurable on the opposite side of the earth to the test area.


  • Johannes Paulmann , Daniel Leese, Philippa Söldenwagner (eds.): Ritual - Power - Nature. European-Oceanic Relationship Worlds in Modern Times . Überseemuseum, Bremen 2005, ISBN 3-89946-040-5 , ( TenDenZen special volume).

Web links

Commons : Tsar Bomb  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. The brackets for a specially made aerodynamic fairing, instead of the original flaps, are still there
  2. ^ SJ Zaloga : The Kremlin's Nuclear Sword . Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London 2002, pp. 51-52 .
  3. Strategy of Terror . In: The time . November 3, 1961, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed October 15, 2017]).
  4. SUPERBOMBE: Errors excepted . In: Der Spiegel . tape 46 , November 8, 1961 ( [accessed October 15, 2017]).
  5. Tu-95 BEAR - Russian and Soviet nuclear forces. Federation of American Scientists, accessed January 20, 2016 .
  6. Rainer Göpfert: “Maria” and “Tatjana” - The testing of nuclear weapons by the air forces of the USSR. In: Flieger Revue Extra No. 36. PPVMedien, Bergkirchen 2012, ISSN  2194-2641 . P. 18.
  7. M5.8 - Novaya Zemlya Russia. United States Geological Survey's, accessed January 20, 2016 .

Coordinates: 73 ° 32 ′ 40.7 "  N , 54 ° 42 ′ 15.1"  E