W79 Artillery-Fired Atomic Projectile

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
An inert M754 training version of the warhead
TypeNuclear artillery
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1981 to 1992
Used byUnited States Army
Production history
DesignerLawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Designed1975 to 1981
Mass200 pounds (91 kg)
Length44 inches (1,100 mm)
Diameter8 inches (203 mm)

Maximum firing range24 kilometres (15 mi) or 30 kilometres (19 mi) with rocket assist[1]
Blast yield0.1 to 1.1 kilotonnes of TNT (0.42 to 4.60 TJ) (Mod 0), 0.8 kilotonnes of TNT (3.3 TJ) (Mod 1)

The W79 Artillery-Fired Atomic Projectile (AFAP),

linear-implosion nuclear weapons

Both models were 8 in (203 mm) in diameter, 44 in (1,100 mm) long and weighed 200 lb (91 kg). The W79 was developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, starting in 1975. Production of the different mods took place from July 1981 through August 1986. A total of 550 warheads (325 Mod 0s, 225 Mod 1s) were produced.[6] All units were retired from active service by the end of 1992 with the last shell dismantled at the Pantex Plant in Texas in August 2002.[7]


The weapon received Phase 3 authorisation in January 1975 and cleared a critical budget review before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy in April 1975.[8]

First production unit was in July 1981. Quantity production on the standard (non-ERW) W79-1 version of the weapon began in September 1981 and continued until the summer of 1984. Production of the ERW W79-0 version began in 1984 and continued until August 1986.[9]

During development, some part of the weapon was deemed too impractical to manufacture and a significant design revision was undertaken. This design changed the physics behaviour of the weapon and a new nuclear test was required to certify the new design.[10]

In early 1988, a new 3-dimensional computer simulation suggested that the weapon was not one-point safe under certain conditions. Nuclear testing carried out in December 1988 and February 1989 confirmed these findings.[11]


The weapon had a range of 24 kilometres (15 mi) or 30 kilometres (19 mi) with rocket assist.[1]

The weapon utilized the M735 proximity fuze. It contained a dual-channel fuze system, target sensor, electronic programmer and power supply.[12] Its design goals were to minimize overall weight, minimize structural volume, eliminate the use of potting materials for structural support, and to eliminate cable and wire harnesses.[13] The goal of not using potting materials was ultimately not met.[14]

The fuze was developed with an extensive test firing program and in service use would have experienced a 10,400 g0 (102,000 m/s2) setback acceleration and 11,400 revolutions per minute (190 Hz) spin.[15] Some test units experienced setbacks of 15,300 g0 (150,000 m/s2).[16]

During early development, the intermediate cost Nonviolent Explosive Destruct System (NEDS) was selected to secure the weapon against unauthorised use.[8] This system was tested at Tonopah Test Range.[17]


See also


  1. ^ a b Sandia Weapon Review: Nuclear Weapon Characteristics Handbook (PDF) (Report). Sandia National Labs. September 1990. p. 75. SAND90-1238. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-01-12.
  2. ^ "W79 Artillery-Fired Atomic Projectile (AFAP)". Archived from the original on 2021-02-01. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  3. ^ Henry E Hudgins (January 1977). Aerodynamics, Dimensions, Inertial Properties and Performance of Artillery Projectiles (PDF) (Report). Picatinny Arsenal. p. 4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 2021-12-24.
  4. ^ Thomas B Cochran; William M Arkin; Milton M Hoenig (1984). Nuclear Weapons Databook, Volume I: US Nuclear Forces and Capabilities (PDF) (Report). Natural Resources Defense Council. p. 77. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-09-01. Retrieved 2021-12-24.
  5. ^ LLNL achievements in the 1970s
  6. ^ Hansen, Chuck (2007). The Swords of Armageddon, version 2. Chukelea Publications. pp. VI-521, VI-522.
  7. ^ Workers Dismantle Final U.S. Nuclear Artillery Shell
  8. ^ a b Department 1210 (October 1975). Military Liaison Department (1210) Activities-- FY 1975 (Report). Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States). p. 19. Retrieved 2022-08-08.{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. .
  10. . Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  11. ^ Swords of Armageddon - Volume VI, p. 524.
  12. ^ Miller, John M.; Boring, Steven A. (1979-05-01). Structural Firing Tests of the M735 Proximity Fuze (Report). HARRY DIAMOND LABS ADELPHI MD. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2021-12-24. Retrieved 2021-12-24.
  13. ^ Structural Firing Tests of the M735 Proximity Fuze, p. 8.
  14. ^ Structural Firing Tests of the M735 Proximity Fuze, p. 37.
  15. ^ Structural Firing Tests of the M735 Proximity Fuze, p. 5.
  16. ^ Structural Firing Tests of the M735 Proximity Fuze, p. 25.
  17. ^ Environmental Assessment - Tonopah Test Range, Nevada (PDF) (Report). Energy Research and Development Administration (now Department of Energy). December 1975. p. 20. Retrieved 2023-12-23.

External links