Conductor of an atomic explosion: the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge

(ORDO NEWS) — Detonating a nuclear weapon is very difficult. Guaranteed safety before the command to detonate is replaced by the reliability of an immediate explosion at the target point. These two opposites are created and live in one block, in the most closed part of the nuclear charge.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 1Nuclear explosion on Bikini Atoll

A nuclear charge always attracts attention as a device unsurpassed in terms of power. Over the decades, the veil of secrecy fell from the first nuclear explosive structures, and the device of the nuclear part of the atomic bombs “Fat Man” and “Kid” became widely known and discussed.

The uranium and plutonium elements of these bombs and other components of the nuclear assembly are considered in detail. In particular, a focusing system of special prisms of explosives with different detonation velocities, giving implosion – an explosion with an inwardly directed shock wave. As well as the number of detonators, the device and material of the tamper, pusher, neutron source.

From thermonuclear devices, the “Sakharov puff”, and the scheme of the Teller Ulam hydrogen stage, and more modern designs that are in service are known. For example, the features of the American thermonuclear warhead W-88 (with a hollow plutonium ellipsoid and a two-point detonation system) are described in detail, including the structure of the entire warhead.

There are also known implementations of boosting – amplification of the power of nuclear charges by a mild thermonuclear reaction. It releases a large number of neutrons, which give a more complete fission of nuclear material with an increase in the released energy of the explosion.

To do this, several grams of a mixture of deuterium and tritium are placed inside the charge, with the possibility of replacing it with a fresh mixture during routine maintenance. In exotic schemes, like South African nuclear charges, spongy fissile material was impregnated with deuterium-tritium gas.

In a word, nuclear and thermonuclear assembly designs (in their main features) and their work are very popular. But the charge, in addition to the nuclear part, has another, always remaining in the shadows. The most secret part of the charge, more unknown and closed than the nuclear assembly.

The brain of a nuclear charge, its nervous system and control center. Everything depends on its work – whether there will be an explosion or not, when and where, how much power will be released. With a key role in the explosion, this part is no less important than the nuclear one. It is she who undermines the nuclear assembly.

And if the designs of the nuclear part and the first atomic bombs, and modern charges are known in some detail, then the structure and operation of their second, most secret part remains closed. Her name is the automation unit.

Features of a chain reaction

A nuclear explosion, for all its enormous power, is paradoxically a very “fragile” phenomenon that occurs only with the highest level of coordination of all parts of a nuclear device. The chain of events when triggering an explosion needs very precise control.

Even small deviations in time in any direction, negligible in conventional technology, will lead to a sharp decrease in energy release, up to the failure of a nuclear explosion.

The difficulty lies in the properties of a nuclear chain reaction: under certain conditions, it accelerates incredibly quickly and with a large energy release.

Let us recall its essence. The nucleus of an atom of fissile material, uranium-235 or plutonium-239, decays (splits) into pieces after the capture of a neutron. In doing so, it emits several new neutrons, an average of 2.4 neutrons per decay.

Some of them fall into other nuclei, causing their decay and the emission of further neutrons. Such a chain of successive decays is called a chain reaction. The “fragments” (nuclei of other chemical elements) that have arisen after fission fly apart at high speed, releasing the thermal energy of decay in it.

With each fission, the number of neutrons in a chain reaction can increase. The growth rate depends on the efficiency of their capture by the nuclei of the fissile material. If only one of the neutrons formed is captured, the chain reaction will not accelerate: one neutron is captured by the nucleus and caused decay, one new neutron of this decay will give a new decay.

How many more or fewer fissions will give new neutrons, will show the effective neutron multiplication factor K. The number of each new generation of neurons in the chain reaction is multiplied by K. In the example above, K is exactly 1.

This unit is maintained in a nuclear power reactor: the number of fissions remains unchanged in a stable reactor operating mode. Its divisions give exactly as much heat as is removed from the hot zone of the reactor: no more, otherwise the reactor will melt.

At K<1, the chain reaction decays to spontaneous (spontaneous) divisions: this is how the reactor is shut down or its power is reduced. And if K>1, there are K times more decays of the new generation. The number of nuclear fissions in this acceleration grows very rapidly, turning into an avalanche. As fast as K is greater than one.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 2Scheme of the chain reaction of fission of uranium-235 by neutrons with an effective neutron multiplication factor greater than one. Modified scheme

The neutrons produced during nuclear fission travel at a speed of about 10,000 kilometers per second. The distance to the next capture by the nucleus is small, so a new division will follow very quickly. In a pure, fissile-nucleus material of metallic density, the fission cycle time will be about one hundred millionth of a second; in real material more.

The closer the nuclei, the sooner the neutron will pass from nucleus to nucleus, giving a new fission and accelerating the chain reaction. Thus, the tightness of fissile nuclei in space, or the density of nuclear material, increases the rate of the chain reaction and the effective neutron multiplication factor.

Critical mass and supercritical conditions

Level K=1 is called critical. Because unity separates the rapid decay of the chain reaction at K < 1 from its avalanche-like acceleration at K> 1 – two critically different states of both the chain reaction and the device conducting this reaction.

Hence, at K<1, the conditions for a nuclear reaction and the state of the nuclear assembly are called subcritical or subcritical. And when K>1, the state of the nuclear assembly and the conditions for an avalanche-like chain reaction are called supercritical, or supercritical.

These conditions determine the smallest mass of fissile material (critical mass) sufficient for an avalanche-like chain reaction in this design of a nuclear assembly. And the geometry of fissile matter in subcritical and supercritical states.

The task of the explosion is to transfer the nuclear assembly from the subcritical to the supercritical state with a given value of K, and the development of an avalanche-like chain fission reaction with the release of high energy.

But the two properties of the chain reaction that we noted above – the speed of its development and the large energy release – greatly complicate the solution of the problem. As complicate it and spontaneous, spontaneous fission in nuclear material, giving rise to neutrons.

As long as the nuclear charge assembly is in a subcritical state, these resulting neutrons (uranium has few, plutonium has more) cannot cause a chain reaction. They either leave the fissile material across its vast surface, or are absorbed by other substances and do not create problems.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 3Night thermonuclear explosion Hood, yield 74 kilotons, height 450 meters, Nevada, USA, July 5, 1957

But the transfer of a nuclear assembly to a supercritical state is not instantaneous; it takes time, albeit a very small one. The tremendous speed of the chain reaction and its large energy release begin to compete with the transition of the nuclear assembly to supercriticality.

Spontaneous neutrons that arise begin to multiply without waiting for the assembly to reach the planned value of K. Fission from them gives a huge heat wave, destroying both supercritical conditions (thermal expansion of nuclear material) and the device itself. The chain reaction ends at the earliest levels, without releasing even several tons of TNT equivalent of power.

The solution to this problem lies in two key points. First, the achievement of a supercritical state with a given value of K>1 by a nuclear assembly at a rate that outpaces the reproduction of spontaneous neutrons. This will allow the nuclear assembly to live in a supercritical state for some time.

Secondly, when the given K is reached, one cannot wait until the number of neutrons in the assembly increases from the initial background of spontaneous fissions. This will only repeat the destruction of the device by early levels of power release.

It is necessary to inject a lot of neutrons into the supercritical assembly at once: so that the multiplication of neutrons starts from a large initial amount. And do it at a strictly defined moment: neither earlier nor later. Then the risen tsunami of neutrons will have time to flood the nuclear material and cause a deep degree of fission in it with an energy release of tens of kilotons.

To solve the first problem (transferring the assembly to the supercritical state), the rapidity of the chemical explosion was used. HMX, with its detonation speed of over 9 kilometers per second, compresses the decimeter-sized nuclear part from all sides.

Its edges converge at a mutual speed of 18 kilometers per second, compression takes less than ten millionths of a second. The fissile nuclei approach each other, shortening the neutron cycle time and increasing K. For smooth compression by the explosion (at the slightest distortion of the shock wave, it will crush the assembly), a high accuracy of detonation triggering is required. The initiating current pulses must arrive at all fuses synchronously.

The second problem is solved by a special device that gives a large impulse of neutrons to start a chain reaction immediately on a large scale. It is called so – a pulsed neutron source, or a pulsed neutron initiator. For a nuclear charge, these are synonyms, because a neutron pulse initiates an explosion.

The first neutron sources were imperfect, although they triggered a nuclear explosion. Later they became accelerators, creating a nuclear fusion reaction of deuterium and tritium nuclei with the release of a large number of neutrons. Yes, we are used to the fact that a “nuclear fuse” is used to explode a hydrogen bomb. And, paradoxically, for the “fuse” of the nuclear charge using the reaction of hydrogen fusion.

Automation unit – conductor and performer of the explosion

Without very accurately measured and quickly carried out actions, it is impossible to achieve an energy release of the level of tens of kilotons. The single conductor and performer of the cascade of events is the charge automation unit. And the above is only part of his great work.

The automation unit is a separate structure, densely saturated with mechanical, electrical and electronic devices interconnected. Devices are combined into modules, which simplifies the assembly and control of individual subsystems.

The automation unit is always located close to the nuclear assembly, connected to it by a cable network and combined into a nuclear explosive device. This is not always a nuclear weapon, for example, in the USSR many nuclear explosive devices were used in the interests of the national economy.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 4The first block of automation BA4 with pulsed neutron initiation, mass production in 1955. Used in the first generation of nuclear aerial bombs

Externally, the automation unit looked like a small barrel in early designs, later like a large saucepan or box, and can have a different look, size and weight. The first automation units weighed almost a centner; later, the weight dropped to 30 kilograms and continued to decrease along with the dimensions. Both unified automation units and those specially created for a specific charge are used.

The operation of any automation unit is based on two basic principles: the reliability of movement to the explosion and control over the process.

These two principles are implemented in the form of actions, stages and algorithms performed by subsystems of the automation unit. They maintain many levels of protection, transfer the charge into states of increasing readiness for explosion, develop the main command to detonate and produce a complex explosion of the charge.

Detonation and neutron initiation system

As we said, the detonation of a charge begins with the transfer of a nuclear assembly to a supercritical state. It is achieved by increasing the compactness of the nuclear material: by combining the separated parts of the fissile material into one block, or by transferring a thin hollow ellipsoid of variable thickness into a compact body, as in the W-88 warhead.

Or by the approach of atoms of nuclear material with an increase in its density, through compression by an explosion (implosion), with the detonation of external blocks of explosives.

Their detonation is triggered in several places at once (from 2 to 32 in different schemes) by fuses that work to a high degree synchronously. To start the detonators, a high-voltage current pulse is applied through a cable system. Why high voltage?

Detonators should not react to static electricity and pickups in cables. Therefore, special detonators of the implosion system do not have a sensitive initiating explosive (lead azide) that triggers the detonation of the secondary explosive, for its front to exit the fuse into the main explosive unit.

The absence of an initiating substance makes the special detonator much safer, but it requires an order of magnitude more energy to operate. It is delivered by a powerful high-voltage current pulse, evenly distributed between the detonators.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 5Small-sized automation unit BA40 weighing 12.6 kg. Designed in 1961

It is produced by a subversive current pulse generator – a complex device of many elements. These are special high-voltage capacitors with a very large capacity, switching surge arresters, a powerful transistor and a high-voltage rectifier pole, complemented by high-voltage connecting elements.

In addition to compactness, due to the speed and high power of the pulse, there is a requirement for low inductance to the generator and its elements, which is carried out by special design and technical solutions.

After the issuance of a disruptive current pulse, the electrical delay line is turned on. It postpones the output of a neutron pulse until the required moment of time, when the nuclear material in the course of implosion passes into a supercritical state with a given value of the effective neutron multiplication factor.

The very first pulsed neutron sources were unguided and consisted of a small ball in the center of a nuclear assembly. It contained polonium and beryllium separated by a barrier. Their nuclear reaction for the release of neutrons was triggered by mechanical mixing during implosion, without choosing the moment of operation.

The use of external pulsed neutron sources simplified the nuclear part of the charge, but most importantly, it significantly increased the efficiency of fission of nuclear material. Already the first external pulsed neutron sources were controllable and created a pulse of the desired intensity and duration at the optimal time.

This increased the release of explosion energy by more than one and a half times, which clearly characterizes the role of the automation unit and its capabilities.

The first generations of external pulsed neutron sources were single-stage linear accelerators. He accelerated deuterium ions (nuclei) by an electromagnetic field to an energy of 120 kiloelectronvolts, with a margin providing overcoming the Coulomb repulsion and the energy of the beginning of the reaction (100 kiloelectronvolts).

Deuterium nuclei hit a target with tritium nuclei, causing a nuclear reaction deuterium + tritium with the fusion of helium and the release of neutrons. This creates a powerful neutron flux – a neutron pulse of tens of trillions of neutrons and more entering the supercritical nuclear assembly in a short time.

Technically, this is a vacuum tube, where the source of deuterium nuclei is a wire containing deuterium that explodes from heating. Therefore, the device was called a neutron tube. It is the most complex and important part of the automation unit.

For the operation of a pulsed neutron source, high-voltage devices are needed: a pulse transformer, high-capacity capacitors, and high-voltage switching devices. It is possible to increase the energy release of the explosion by forming a neutron pulse of a special shape.

It is set by special elements in the block of the neutron tube. Later generations of neutron sources have their own design features, but their work is based on the same principles: the output of a neutron flux of the desired intensity, duration and shape, with an accurate time reference.

Safety and cocking system

Even an ordinary projectile (for example, an automatic aircraft gun) is not ready for an explosion either in the warehouse, or in the tape on board, or in the gun barrel, or immediately after exiting the barrel.

In the process of firing and flying, a number of protections are removed in the projectile fuse, the last one after a couple of hundred meters from the muzzle. This is called long-range cocking, and excludes the explosion of the projectile on board, in the barrel and near the aircraft.

For a nuclear weapon, this is all the more important. It is not ready for an explosion either during operation or immediately after separation from the carrier.

A nuclear charge will not give an atomic explosion in any emergency situation. Even if it is dropped from a height on the rocks, put into a blast furnace, fired from any weapon, overlaid with explosives and blown up, or another nuclear charge will work close.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 6Nuclear warhead of a 533 mm torpedo

The explosion safety of the charge is provided by the safety and cocking system. It excludes accidental or premature detonation of the charge, explosion due to false data, unauthorized actions and any abnormal causes.

It also transfers the charge to the stage of increasing readiness for an explosion before it is triggered. And this system is also part of the automation unit.

A nuclear charge is fully ready to explode just before the explosion

For the protection and cocking of the charge in the automation unit, complexes of various switching devices are used. These are electromagnetic relays of various types and electromagnetic switches.

They form complex electrical circuits with the ability to turn them on and off. In addition to switching, there are other devices included in a wide range of electromechanical automation devices. Not all of them are located in the automation unit itself.

In humans, the eyes and touch receptors are located on the surface of the body. And the taste and auditory receptors, being inside the body, are connected to the external environment by channels: the oral cavity or the auditory canal. Muscle receptors are not in contact with the medium. Data from all receptors enter the brain, where they are processed with decision-making based on them.

The cocking system works very similarly. The automation unit, the brain of a nuclear charge, receives data from many instruments and sensors. By processing them, the cocking system implements algorithms for increasing the readiness of the charge for an explosion.

So, check or limit switches are located on the surface of the nuclear charge carrier. Contacts open, checks are pulled out, and a signal is sent to the automation unit about the separation of the carrier from the launch facility, carrier aircraft, self-propelled unit or submarine.

Other devices are connected with the medium in which the carrier moves and measure its parameters. If it is a cruise or ballistic missile, gauge, barometric or aerodynamic sensors are used. The former give a signal when a given difference between the external static pressure and the pressure in a special container in the device is reached, reporting the achievement of a given height difference.

The latter respond to the value of the external static air pressure. Still others are triggered at a given difference in static and total pressure created by the pressure of oncoming air at a given carrier speed. Sensor signals cause the electrical circuits in the automation unit to be turned on or off.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 7Nuclear warhead of a cruise anti-ship missile. View from the automation unit. The elements of the starting system are visible – the inputs of the channels of static and dynamic (total) air pressure to the automation unit

If the missile has left the launcher, the limit switch signal will release one of the locks. But if the rocket has not reached the control height or has not developed a control speed, then the automation unit will not turn off this protection stage. And the charge will not explode, no matter how the story of the abnormal flight and the fall of the rocket develops.

It looks like hydraulic devices work if the carrier of a nuclear charge is a torpedo. Hydrostatic devices respond to a given static pressure of sea water, hydrodynamic sensors measure the difference between the total and static water pressures during the movement of the torpedo.

There are also groups of devices that are not connected with the environment, like muscle receptors hidden in the human body. These are linear acceleration sensors and inertial switches that turn on or off the electrical circuits of the automation unit at control overload values ​​along three axes. There are temporary devices that switch electrical circuits after a predetermined time.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 8Nuclear warhead of a cruise anti-ship missile. View from the automation unit. Elements of the launching system are visible

The work of these channels and lines creates a very detailed, dense and consistent grid of values ​​of various independent physical quantities, time intervals and events achieved and occurring during the normal operation of the charge carrier.

Only as these sequences are correctly passed through, the safety and cocking system gradually increases the explosive readiness of the charge. And immediately resets it in case of significant deviations of actual events from the planned scenario of the carrier operation.

Who will pull the trigger

But now all the stages of the movement of the carrier have been passed, it is already in close proximity to the target. All stages of protection are removed, and the charge is ready to explode at any moment. Who will make the decision and give the main command to undermine?

Launching system, or executive system of undermining. Its task is to develop the main command to detonate the charge, which will be performed by the automation unit and its charge detonation system.

The main team will start the process of undermining, so the system is called the launcher.

It is executive because if the main condition of the undermining – the achievement of the goal – is fulfilled, only the execution of the undermining follows, nothing more.

The launch system is partially located in the automation unit – its logical units that form the main command. Outside the automation unit, there are subsystems of actuating sensors – both on the surface of the carrier and inside it.

Subsystems of executive sensors have their own hierarchy and operate on different physical principles. In this they are similar to the sensors of the safety and cocking system. There are as many schemes and implementations of launch systems as there are designs carrying a nuclear charge.

Let’s take a ballistic missile warhead as a conventional example. Its target is usually a point in space at a height of 500-800 meters above the earth’s surface.

An explosion with a yield of hundreds of kilotons will create the greatest destruction on the Earth’s surface if it occurs at a height that depends on the power of the charge. Explosion on the ground is also possible when it is necessary to hit a fortified underground target.

The launching system of the warhead charge consists of segments, the main of which is a non-contact inertial one. The warhead has an inertial unit with acceleration sensors – accelerometers that continuously measure accelerations along three axes perpendicular in space.

By integrating the accelerations, the current velocities along these axes, or the space velocity of the warhead, are obtained. Velocity integration gives the warhead’s spatial coordinates, path, and position relative to the target. This is calculated by the warhead’s onboard inertial navigation system.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 9A 100 kiloton W76 thermonuclear warhead housed inside a Mk4 warhead. This warhead is equipped with intercontinental ballistic missiles of Trident II submarines

The warhead is unlikely to pass exactly through the target point – there is always a current error in the movement of the warhead, a deviation from the calculated trajectory. Therefore, the target is replaced by a part of the space around the target point, a sphere or a cylinder.

When the inertial system determines that the warhead has entered the target space, it will report this to the launch system, which will immediately issue the main command to detonate the charge.

In the event of a ground explosion, the contact segment of the launch system works – shock sensors operating on different physical principles. Acceleration sensors that detect shock growth of overload, and other devices. The launch system will have time to detonate the charge at any speed of contact with the surface. At any angle of encounter with an obstacle and any orientation of the warhead at that moment.

The warhead is also equipped with radio fuses that give a signal at a given height. They work in cascade, with control heights subdivided into ranges. The radio fuses form the third segment of the warhead charge launcher system.

Since the 1980s, adaptive blasting systems have been operating. Their essence is in choosing the moment of the explosion, its adaptation to the actual trajectory. The inertial block measures the accelerations and plots the actual trajectory based on them.

On which the further future trajectory is calculated. It calculates the point of least miss closest to the target and predicts the time when the warhead will reach this point. Then the charge will be blown up, with a minimum miss for the current trajectory.

Near the target, the charge is completely ready to explode. And when the main command to undermine is received, the explosion will occur immediately and instantly.

A warhead flying faster than a sniper bullet will travel only a tenth of a millimeter, shifting in space to the thickness of a human hair, when the entire complex of nuclear reactions starts, develops and completes in its charge, highlighting the nominal power written on the charge label.

Element base is an important element of the story

The automation unit operates under stressful conditions. If it is in the warhead of an intercontinental missile, then when it descends in the atmosphere, it experiences overloads of up to many tens of g. Even more, the level of thousands of g, is tested by the automation of nuclear artillery shells.

Due to the characteristics of the supersonic flow around the warhead, it is subject to strong vibrations that vary in frequency and amplitude. They also operate during the operation of rocket stages, especially solid propellant ones.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 10Nuclear explosion of a Grable projectile launched by a 280 mm artillery mount on May 23, 1953 at a test site in Nevada, USA. Explosion power 15 kilotons. An example of the operation of the automation unit in conditions of high longitudinal linear overloads when fired at a level of several thousand

Under these conditions, all elements of the automation unit must work without parameter deviations, contact disturbances, delays and other negatives.

Therefore, the elements of the automation unit are developed taking into account the peculiarities of the working conditions. Their stability is tested on vibration stands with a wide range of vibrations, on reloading centrifuges, on shock stands.

For resistance to large overloads and vibrations, automation blocks and assemblies are filled with special compounds.

These are foam plastics for low-voltage assemblies, and polymerizing compounds for pouring high-voltage assemblies with large electric field gradients. Polymer fillings also play the role of power fasteners, dispersing the load from the attachment points to the power frame.

Particular attention is paid to the stability of the operation of automation under radiation from a nuclear explosion, neutron and gamma radiation fluxes, and strong external electromagnetic fields.

Such a flow creates irreversible changes in the semiconductor material of transistors and diodes. Powerful ionizing radiation changes the properties of the insulation of cables of the high-voltage blasting system, high-voltage capacitors and other elements.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 11The TOS71 unified automation unit, used in nuclear munitions with a wide range of carriers, from Kh-22 anti-ship cruise missiles and Vyuga and Vikhr anti-submarine missiles to T65 torpedoes and the Shkval complex. Early 1960s

To work out radiation-resistant elements of the automation unit, even during the creation of their first generations, their work was checked under the direct influence of a nuclear explosion.

Thus, in 1961-62, nuclear explosions were carried out at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site specifically in the interests of studying the effect of radiation on a nuclear charge and an automation unit.

These are tests FO-10 (physical experiment, the explosion was carried out in an underground adit), FO-12-1 and FO-12-2, as a result of which extremely important data were obtained on the radiation resistance of the elements of the automation unit, their work under conditions of radiation from real nuclear explosions.

Control of the controller, or What is special control

The charge automation unit has another “nervous system”. Everything that we talked about above works for the entrance to the automation unit with one exit from it – to the nuclear assembly. But the automation unit itself is a complex technical system and requires control. Does it work correctly, in what states do its blocks, subsystems, electrical circuits and elements sequentially pass?

During test launches of warheads, the operation of the automation unit is checked without a nuclear charge. It is being replaced by a mass-dimensional analogue with the same detonators, but without implosion explosives and fissile material.

The automation unit in flight tests operates in real conditions – overloads, vibrations, thermal conditions. Its work in flight must be accurately tracked and compared with the calculated one – are there any deviations, or has the unit clearly completed the entire huge load of its tasks.

Such a check of the operation of the charge automation unit is called special control, or special control. It is done through telemetry, the principles of which we have already spoken about . The telemetry of the automation unit is called special control telemetry, or special telemetry.

It receives and registers information about the last stage of the warhead’s flight, where the most intense work of the automation unit and the execution of the main command take place.

At the measuring points of the receiving range in Kamchatka, after thirty minutes of readiness for the start, the traffic usually subsides. All participants in combat work in their places: at the central post, in the control rooms, on the roof of the technical building at the phototheodolites, and at other objects.

The next readiness is twenty minutes. Shortly after its completion, the hum of turboprop engines is heard in the sky. Special telemetry planes taking off from Klyuchi pass into the loitering area.

When the celestial extravaganza of the fall is over, and the final heavy blows of ballistic waves from past warheads pass through the area, planes are heard leaving. The author has heard their sound many times during combat operations.

This is An-26 with special control telemetry equipment. The aircraft and equipment form an aircraft receiving and recording complex, PRK-S. Why perform special control from aircraft? It can be assumed that the special control telemetry signal is weak so that it cannot be heard from afar by the technical means of the country neighboring Kamchatka.

Whose well-equipped aircraft of the special modification RC-135S are also participating in our test work. Therefore, our aircraft need to be closer to the mosquito squeak of special telemetry in order to disassemble and record it.

The special control equipment is also located on the ground, located in the measuring points closest to the combat field of fall. And it is called the long phrase “receiving and recording complex ground-based relay telecontrol of systems of automation of the warhead”, abbreviated as PRK-NR.

The abbreviation warhead (warhead) has remained by virtue of tradition since the time when the warhead of the missile was monoblock and arrived at the test site as a whole, and not as separate warheads.

Conductor of an atomic explosion the body and life of the most secret part of a nuclear charge 12The fall of the warheads of the American intercontinental missile MX at the receiving site on the Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands

Special control is specific. Sometimes his equipment receives a special signal for a very short time, unusually short compared to conventional telemetry. Special telemetry is different in essence.

Since all events in the automation unit are designed in advance, its control no longer consists in measuring physical quantities (although they are present, for example, measuring voltage in a high-voltage blast network), but in registering the key steps of the algorithms being performed.

This is reminiscent of the packing of a parachute, divided into several, for example eight, stages. Having done the laying stage, the skydiver presents it to the instructor. If the stage is done correctly, the instructor will allow you to do the next stage of laying.

Nothing needs to be measured here – verification of the correct execution of the laying stage and permission to the next stage is required. This is what distinguishes control from measurements. Special control is similar to stacking: it registers events rather than measures physical quantities.

Instead of a conclusion

In one article, it is not possible to cover all the issues of the automation unit, the variety of its design schemes and operation. There are automation units without a pulsed neutron source; small-sized; and with other specifics.

The automation unit can perform other actions. It is able to regulate the power of the explosion in charges of variable power, for example, not to connect the thermonuclear stage of the charge.

Then the power of the explosion can be reduced from one and a half hundred kilotons to 10 or 5 kilotons of the nuclear part. And to do it right in the flight of a carrier aircraft or a direct carrier of a thermonuclear charge.

The automation units of non-combat charges have their own specifics – those that were used in the USSR in a multitude (almost a hundred explosions) for the needs of the national economy.

There will also be features in the automation of space thermonuclear charges sent to deflect dangerous asteroids from the Earth. Any specific use of a nuclear explosion will be reflected in the automation unit of the explosive device.

Current trends lead to a reduction in the mass and size of the automation unit, the introduction of new technical solutions and the element base.

Along with the development of nuclear charges, the algorithms for controlling them are also being improved, the capabilities of the automation unit and the effectiveness of the explosion controlled by them are growing.

In what ways the development of these complex devices will go, it is impossible to predict in detail. But the basic principles of operation of the automation unit will remain unchanged: reliability of control and reliability of operation. With any media, in any conditions of use, for all tasks.


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