Six Soviet Su-7B fighter bombers are ready for take-off on an unidentified airfield strip.
The Sukhoi Su-7 (NATO designation name: Fitter-A) was a swept wing, supersonic fighter aircraft developed by the Soviet Union in 1955.
Originally, it was designed as tactical, low-level dogfighter, but was not successful in this role. On the other hand, soon-introduced Su-7B series became the main Soviet fighter-bomber and ground-attack aircraft of the 1960s.
The Su-7 was rugged in its simplicity but its shortcomings included short range and low weapon load.
For @aveanexalea , since he requested it and it was on my vote list.
Back in the early portion of the cold war, US air planners and air defence controllers had a major problem. In the day and age of a single modern bomber being able to take out an entire city, or multiple in a single mission, the US had to guarantee that to the best of their ability to be able to take down as many soviet bombers as possible, preferably all of them, in the event of an atomic conflict.
From past experience, they knew that the “bomber would always get through”, especially when used in mass bomber swarms, or combat boxes, as was the US term. (More of a specific bomber formation doctrine, but eh). Conventional Anti-aircraft measures could and would down some of the bombers, but a large volume would get through. Any Soviet bombers escaping air defences would more than likely result in destroyed US cities and the millions of preventable
that would follow.
This was unacceptable. The USAF, taking a page from their Army comrades, decided to go nuclear. The US army’s doctrine was to use atomic munitions to vaporize soviet armoured divisions if they were able to roll through any conventional weapons, for the defence of Western Europe. The USAF decided that an atomic device air-burst in the middle of a soviet bomber formation would do just the trick.
New developments in US Atomics research had allowed for the development of sealed pit devices.
weapon “boosted” by tritium and deuterium gas would use much less fissile
material to produce a large explosion. Right before the moment of detonation,
these hydrogen gases would be released into the weapon’s core. When the core imploded,
the gases would fuse, release neutrons, multiply the number of fissions, and
greatly increase the yield. And because the fissile core would be hollow and
thin, a lesser amount of explosives would be needed to implode it. As a result,
boosted weapons could be light and small.“
Eric Schlosser, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. (New York: The Penguin Press, 2013), Pg. 103.
This new development allowed for more powerful weapons in smaller packages.
This allowed the Air-2 Genie to pack the punch it required.
The Air-2 Genie represented the first sealed-pit weapon to enter US stockpile. With conventional air-to air weapons proving inadequate, and the threat of a single Soviet aircraft wreaking havoc on the mainland US, the USAF deemed the safest option for the downing of US bombers was the detonation of small atomic devices over the skies of the mainland United States, Alaska, and Canada.
This “view was endorsed in March 1955 by James R. Killian, the president of MIT, who headed a top secret panel on the threat of surprise attack”. - “The Genie would be carried by Air Force fighter-interceptors. It had a small, 1.5-kiloton warhead and a solid-fueled rocket engine. Unlike conventional air defense weapons, it didn’t need a direct hit to eliminate a target. And it could prove equally useful against a single Soviet bomber or a large formation of them”.
The Genie was to be fired upon contact with a Soviet bomber. The sooner the better for the sake of the US, as will be explained in detail below.
The on board fire computer would calculate the distance to the bomber, or bombers, and set the on board timer for the Air-2 Genie. After launch, the US fighter would bank hard and roll out and away from the projected device initiation point. Initiation of the device would occur once the timer ran out. The rocket would speed towards the hostile aircraft at Mach 3.3 powered by a solid fueled
Thiokol SR49 rocket motor. Primary kill effects were caused surprisingly enough not by blast or heat, which, despite the low yield of 1.5 kilotons, were still effective out to a great distance. The Fireball would consume any aircraft within a hundred yards, yet the most effective killing agent of this device was the prompt radiation released. Even a bad miss could still kill, given that the lethal envelope of the prompt radiation had a radius of about a mile with “the “probability of kill” (PK) within that envelope [found] to be 92 percent”.
“The Soviet aircrew’s death from radiation might take as long as five minutes—a delay that made it even more important to fire the Genie as far as possible from urban areas. Detonated at a high altitude, the weapon produced little fallout and didn’t lift any debris from the ground to form a mushroom cloud. After the bright white flash, a circular cloud drifted from the point of detonation, forming an immense smoke ring in the sky”.
The discussion of permission to fire these devices was brought up, and how a request to fire the devices may be delayed to the point where several US cities may well have gone up in smoke. In response to these concerns, the use of these devices were pre-delegated to the USAF, by Eisenhower in April 1956, with the actual order coming into effect in December.
In effect, the USAF was able to fire atomic air-to-air rockets at any target that was deemed ‘hostile’. While the joint chief’s of staff demanded that these devices were to be locked up in storage igloos, and never to be flown over the United States except in war time. Presumably, the reality of this was that a large volume of air interceptors were on the deck ready to jet in the event of a conflict. At first warning of the DEW line, Mid-Canada line or the Pine-tree Line, the aircraft would be armed, with Genies extracted from their storage sheds, with the air interceptors, now armed with atomic rockets, sent to intercept the soviet waves of bombers.
To prove the device safe in use, the USAF conducted
Operation Plumbbob on 19 July 1957. This proved to be the only live firing of a Air-2 Genie missile, which initiated somewhere
between 18,500 and 20,000 ft (5,600 and 6,100 m) above mean sea level. (Sources vary).
A group of five USAF officers volunteered to stand hatless in their light summer uniforms underneath the blast to prove that the weapon was safe for use over populated areas. They were photographed by Department of Defense photographer George Yoshitake who stood there with them. Gamma and neutron doses received by observers on the ground were negligible. Doses received by aircrew were highest for the fliers assigned to penetrate the airburst cloud ten minutes after explosion.
As shown in the video above, with the description just above, “The officers wore summer uniforms and no protective gear. A photograph, taken at the moment of detonation, shows that two of the men instinctively ducked, two shielded their eyes, and one stared upward, looking straight at the blast. “It glowed for an instant like a newborn sun,” Time magazine reported, “then faded into a rosy, doughnut-shaped cloud.”
Eric Schlosser, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. (New York: The Penguin Press, 2013),Pg. 105.
Inevitably , problems began to arise. Given that sealed-pit weapons were quite new, with this model of weapon being the first in stockpiles, how safe were they? This was a bit of an unknown, one that needed to be found out when thousands of these devices would be put on airfields and storage facility’s across the country, many within city limits.
The U.S. government was quite public about the Genie missile.
“When atomic bombs were first transferred to SAC bases in French Morocco, the French government wasn’t told about the weapons. But the deployment of Genies at air bases throughout the United States was announced in an Air Force press release.”
“The possibility of any nuclear explosion occurring as a result of an accident involving either impact or fire is virtually nonexistent,” Secretary of Defense Wilson assured the public”. His press release reported “that someone standing on the ground directly beneath the high-altitude detonation of a Genie would be exposed to less radiation than “a hundredth of a dose received in a standard (medical) X-ray.”
However, it should be noted that “His press release about the Genie didn’t mention the risk of plutonium contamination”, not from an airburst anti-bomber detonation, but from an accidental surface burst.
“The risks of plutonium exposure were becoming more apparent in the mid-1950s. Although the alpha particles emitted by plutonium are too weak to penetrate human skin, they can destroy lung tissue when plutonium dust is inhaled. Anyone within a few hundred feet of a weapon accident spreading plutonium can inhale a swiftly lethal dose. Cancers of the lung, liver, lymph nodes, and bone can be caused by the inhalation of minute amounts. And the fallout from such an accident may contaminate a large area for a long time. Plutonium has a half-life of about twenty-four thousand years. It remains hazardous throughout that period, and plutonium dust is hard to clean up. “The problem of decontaminating the site of [an] accident may be insurmountable,” a classified Los Alamos report noted a month after the Genie’s onepoint safety test, “and it may have to be ‘written off’ permanently.” “.
Understandably, this would drive the civilian members in charge of safety quite quickly to protest, with the very thought of having to inform the public that a section, or perhaps all of a major US city would be uninhabitable for an extremely extended period being almost unthinkable.
There was heavy debate actually among those in the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), as to whether use a plutonium, or uranium-235 base for the fission products in the genie devices.
“In one respect, uranium-235 seemed to be safer. It has a half-life of about seven hundred million years—but emits radiation at a much lower rate than plutonium, greatly reducing the inhalation hazard. And yet a Genie with a uranium core had its own risks. Norris Bradbury, the director of Los Alamos, warned the AEC that such a core was “probably not safe against one-point detonation.” In effect, shrapnel, or a stray bullet, or what have you from an aircraft crash, or sabotage, or whatever incident may well cause the device to, quite frankly, initiate. Heck, even a fire could cause it.
In short, using uranium as the base fission product, the Genies would fail the one-point safety test, and could be set off very easily. Using Uranium as the base fission product, “Impact tests revealed that when the Genie was armed, it didn’t need a firing signal to detonate. The Genie could produce a nuclear explosion just by hitting the ground”.
Understandably, “given the choice between an accident that might cause a nuclear explosion and one that might send a cloud of plutonium over an American city, the Air Force preferred the latter. Handmade, emergency capability Genies were rushed into production, with cores that contained plutonium”.
Even with the one-point safety test proven, there was still the potential for complications. “The one-point safety tests at Nevada Test Site had provided encouraging results, and yet the behavior of a nuclear weapon in an “abnormal environment”—like that of a fuel fire ignited by a plane crash—was still poorly understood. During a fire, the high explosives of a weapon might burn; they might detonate; or they might burn and then detonate. And different weapons might respond differently to the same fire, based on the type, weight, and configuration of their high explosives. For firefighting purposes, each weapon was assigned a “time factor”—the amount of time you had, once a weapon was engulfed in flames, either to put out the fire or to get at least a thousand feet away from it. The time factor for the Genie was three minutes”.
Ibid.- Pg 109
Heck, there was concern that the fire may even start the standard detonation process.
“The heat of a fire might start the thermal batteries, release high-voltage electricity into the X-unit, and then set off the bomb. To eliminate that risk, heat-sensitive fuses were added to every sealed-pit weapon. At a temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit, the fuses would blow, melting the connections between the batteries and the arming system. It was a straightforward, time-honored way to interrupt an electrical circuit, and it promised to ensure that a high temperature wouldn’t trigger the detonators”.
In 1977, a study was completed that reported that “despite being the oldest sealed-pit weapon in the stockpile, vulnerable to lightning, and fitted with an outdated accelerometer, the Genie was still being loaded onto fighter planes”.
Ibid. Pg. 223
In the end, over 3000 Genie’s were produced, being used by both the USAF from 1957 to 1985, and the R.C.A.F. from 1965 to 1984.
Anhotep I, Ancient Egyptian Warrior Princess, Hyksos War, “cleansed Egypt of the Hyksos”.
Queen Boudicca, led the Iceni Rebellion against Rome, 1st century.
Relief of two Roman gladiatrices found at Halicarnassus, Roman Empire
Hua Mulan, Tang Dynasty China, disguised herself as a man to fight in her father’s stead. Inspired the Disney movie “Mulan”.
The Trung Sisters, 1st Century Vietnam, rebelled against the Chinese Empire.
Joan of Arc, the Hundred Years War. Led the French to victory against the English.
Tomoe Gozen, 12th-13th century Samurai. The woodblock print below depicts her beheading the Samurai Moroshige of Musashi at the Battle of Awazu.
Matilda of Tuscany, Middle Ages, Investiture Conflict, personal bodyguard of the Pope.
The Isabella de Carazzi and Diambra de Pettinella Duel, circa 1552.
Julie d'Aubigny, 17th century swordsmen and opera singer. Considered one of the greatest duelists in history.
Mary Read and Anne Bonney, 17th/18th century pirates.
Elizabeth “Lady Bare Knuckles” Stokes, popular bareknuckle boxer in Britain, early 18th century. Fought both men and women, was also noted for her skill with the broadsword and cudgel.
Hannah Snell, Royal Marine, Seven Years War, disguised herself as a man.
Deborah Sampson, American Revolution, disguised herself as a man. Removed a musket ball from her thigh with a knife.
The “Petticoat Duel” between Almeria Braddock and Mrs. Elphinstone, circa 1792.
Nadezhda Andreyevna Durova, most heavily decorated soldier in the Russian Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars.
Pine Leaf, Crow Nation War Chief, 19th century
Harriet Tubman, American Civil War, spy, army scout, and co-commander of Union forces during the Combahee River Raid.
Loretta Valsaquez, American Civil War, Confederacy. Disguised herself as a man.
Frances Lousia Clayton, disguised herself as a man to fight with her husband, Union Army, American Civil War.
Cathay Williams, 38th Infantry (Buffalo Soldiers) during the late 19th century. Disguised herself as a man.
“Stagecoach” Mary Fields, Old West icon, once shot a man in the bum in a gunfight after he called her a nigger.
The Dahomey Amazon’s, West Africa 19th century. The most feared warriors of the Kingdom of Dahomey. Their favorite pastime was to decapitate their captured enemies.
Princess Pauline Metternich and Countess Kielmannsegg Duel of 1892
One of many “Soldateras” during the Mexican Revolution
Captain Flora Sandes, World War I, English woman who fought in the Serbian Army. Won the Serbia’s highest honor (the Order of the Karađorđe’s Star) after leading her company on a successful assault despite being wounded by a grenade and in a bout of hand to hand combat.
Edith Gerrud, the Jiu Jitsu Suffragist
Spanish Civil War.
Lydia Litvyak, Soviet Air Force, World War II: First female fighter ace, first kill scored by a woman, highest scoring female fighter pilot with 16 kills. Heroine of the Soviet Union.
Nancy Wake, World War II, commanded a 7,000 man resistance group in France. Was tortured by the Gestapo for 4 days and never talked. On the flip side she was known for interrogating enemy spies and getting them to talk, then executing them.
The 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Group, a Soviet all female bomber group during World War II. Nicknamed “The Night Witches” by the Germans because of their stealthy bombing tactics.
Partisan Fighter, World War II
Lyudmilla Pavlichenko, Soviet Sniper during World War II, deadliest female sniper with 309 kills. Heroine of the Soviet Union.
Mariya Oktyabrskaya, Soviet tank driver during World War II, Heroine of the Soviet Union.
Capt. Kim Campbell, US Air Force, A10 Warthog pilot during the Iraq War, the pictures speak for themselves.
Rukhsana Kausar, defended her family from a band of terrorists with an axe and a captured assault rifle.
Kuznetsov NK-12 soviet turboprop, the most powerful engine of its type ever build, having a power output of 11,033 Kw, which drives huge eight-bladed (four per propeller) contra-rotating propellers 5.6 m (18 ft 4.5in) in diameter.
It’s best known application it’s the Tu-95 bomber series and her derivatives.
Marina Raskova (1912-1943) was a Soviet pilot, navigator, and commander who founded 3 famous female air regiments during the Second World War.
Born to a middle-class Russian family, Raskova initially had aspirations of becoming a musician, but eventually abandoned the idea to study chemistry. While working in a dye factory as a chemist she met Sergei Raskov, an engineer, who she married and had a daughter with. She changed careers in 1931 when she joined the Aerodynamic Navigation Lab of the Soviet Air Force as a draftswoman. Aged 19 in 1933 she became the first female navigator in the Air Force and the following year became the first woman to teach at the Zhukovskii Air Academy.
In 1935 she divorced from her husband and focused on her flying career. She become a famous pilot as well as a navigator, setting a number of long distance records. This included the famous ‘Flight of the Rodina’ covering 6000km from Moscow to Komsomolsk, which she conducted with two other female pilots, Polina Osipenko and Valentina Grizodubova. However the flight ran into difficulties at the end of its 26 and a half hour journey when poor visibility hampered the landing. As the navigator’s pit was vulnerable in crash landings, Raskova bailed out with a parachute while the two pilots completed the landing. She survived with no water and almost no food for 10 days before she found her way to landing site and reunited with her team. All 3 women were decorated with the ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ award, the first women ever to receive it.
With the outbreak of World War 2 the Soviet Union was in need of pilots and many women volunteered. However while there were no formal restrictions on Soviet women in the military, many found their applications were denied or mysteriously delayed. Raskova proposed the creation of women’s aviation units and used her celebrity status to propose the idea directly to the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Following a speech by Raskova in September 1941 calling for women pilots to be welcomed into the war, Stalin ordered the creation of 3 new air regiments, the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, the 125th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment, and the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, dubbed The Night Witches. These regiments were entirely formed of women, from the pilots to the engineers to the support staff. Each regiment contained around 400 women, most of them in their early twenties, who completed 4 years’ worth of training in a matter of months.
Raskova personally took command of the 125th Bomber Regiment, for which she obtained the very best equipment available, including the state-of-the-art Petlyakov Pe-2 bombers, which caused some resentment from male units. The 125th regiment went on to fly 134 missions over the course of the war, dropping over 980 tons of bombs.
Raskova herself was killed on January 4th 1943, while attempting to lead two other Pe-2’s to a safe airfield. She was forced into making a forced landing on the Volga Bank, which resulted in the deaths of the entire bomber crew. Raskova received the first state funeral of the war and her ashes were buried in the Kremlin Wall beside those of fellow pilot, Polina Osipenko. She was posthumously awarded the Order of Patriotic War 1st Class and the regiments she created continued to serve for the duration of the war.
Nadezhda Popova (standing) with some of her fellow ‘Night Witches’
In late 1941 Stalin signed an order to establish three all-women Air
Force units to be grouped into separate fighter, dive bomber and night
bomber regiments. Over the next four years these regiments flew a
combined total of more than 30,000 combat sorties and dropped 23,000
tons of bombs. Nadezhda Popova, then aged 19, was one of the first to
join the best-known of the three units, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment
(later renamed the 46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment). Nadezhda Popova, who was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, was
one of the best of the 588th pilots — and one of the luckiest. She flew
852 missions, serving in Ukraine, Rostov-on-Don, the North Caucasus
near Grozny, Novorossiysk, Sevastopol, Minsk, Warsaw and Berlin. Though
shot down or forced to land several times, she always emerged unharmed.