Python (nuclear primary)

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According to researcher Chuck Hansen, the W34 Python was a gas-boosted fission primary used in several designs of American thermonuclear weapons.

Hansen's research indicates that the

W28, W40, and W49, and as a boosted fission warhead without a thermonuclear second stage in several other weapons. These were the Mark 45 ASTOR wire-guided 19-inch (48 cm), submarine-launched heavyweight torpedo; the Mk 101 Lulu nuclear depth bomb; the Mk 105 Hotpoint
laydown bomb.

Additionally, an anglicised

nuclear land mine
for the British Army in Germany.

The W34 used the melt-cast

high explosive Octol, a variant of HMX and TNT as the material for its implosion lenses, and this relatively unsophisticated explosive that pre-dated PBX
was perhaps a reason why the British adopted this warhead, since they were attempting to deploy a thermonuclear warhead for their strategic bombers quickly, and the British were well-versed in the manufacture, storage and use of these melt-cast explosives.

Declassified British military documents also refer to a 'Low-Yield-Python' and the AIR-2 Genie air-to-air rocket being considered by the UK for their interceptors, suggesting that there was a design linkage with the W25 low-yield warhead of the Genie. There is no hard evidence as yet, but the 11 kt yield of the W34 Python would degrade to a figure comparable with the W25 without the gas-boosting.

Historical evidence indicates that these weapons shared a reliability problem, which Hansen attributes to miscalculation of the reaction cross section of

Tsetse primary

Characteristics of these weapons are:

Python primary based nuclear weapons
Model Max yield (kt) Diameter Length Weight
B28 1,450 22 in (56 cm) 170 in (4.3 m) 2,300 lb (1,000 kg)
W-28 1,450 20 in (51 cm) 60 in (1.5 m) 1,725 lb (782 kg)
W-40 10 18 in (46 cm) 32 in (0.81 m) 385 lb (175 kg)
W-49 1,440 20 in (51 cm) 58 in (1.5 m) 1,610 lb (730 kg)
W-34 11 17 in (43 cm) 32 in (0.81 m) 320 lb (150 kg)
Possible family members
W25 1.7 17.4 in (44 cm) 26.6 in (0.68 m) 221 lb (100 kg)

See also

External links