The Soviet-made Big Ivan, more commonly known as the Tsar Bomba, holds the record for the biggest bomb in history and here’s why.
Big Ivan showcased 50 megatons of the USSR’s might. The Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombings would have to be multiplied 1,570 times to get close to that. Its power was equal to all the firepower expended during the Second World War, multiplied ten times.
So imagine all that destructive power in one bomb . . . in just one explosion.
Big Ivan: The Story
July 1961: Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party and the USSR’s leader at that time, decided that he was finished with the unspoken nuclear testing freeze which his country, as well as the US and the UK, had been abiding by since 1958.
He wanted to show off USSR’s military might, and the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party in October 1961 was the ideal venue to do just that. With all the world’s eyes focused on his nation, Khrushchev wanted to set off the biggest man-made explosive of all time in a “spectacular test.”
But there was just one huge problem – the country did not possess a bomb big enough to suit the USSR’s leader’s tastes.
Until that point, the biggest hydrogen bomb the Soviet had ever detonated was the three megaton RDS-37, which also was the first hydrogen bomb they built. However, Khrushchev wanted something bigger than that, something that would surpass and make the US’s 15 megaton Castle Bravo test look weak. And, he wanted that kind of explosive ready in time for the Congress.
A four-man team was established for the project’s development comprising of Victor Adamski, Yuri Babaev, Yuri Smirnov, and Yuri Trutnev. The fruit of their labors – which they had to design and build in just a matter of 15 weeks – was the Big Ivan, the three-stage thermonuclear device that was 24 feet in length. It was officially designated as an AN602 hydrogen bomb.
Because of the time constraint, only such bomb was ever made and then, just barely.
Weighing 27 tons, the Big Ivan was as heavy as the Tu-95 that carried it. Additionally, it was so huge that the crew members had to cut the bomb-bay doors of the plane carrying it just to fit it in.
And on October 30, 1961, at exactly 11:32 AM, just as Khrushchev demanded. Big Ivan was dropped down from Andrei Durnovtsev’s plane at a height of 6.5 miles and steadily parachuted its way to the Mityushikha Bay test range in Novaya Zemlya. The world’s biggest bomb exploded at an altitude of 2.5 miles giving the plane merely 188 seconds to escape.