The Idiot’s Loop – Dropping A Nuke Upside Down Was A Real US Airforce Tactic (Watch)

The US Air Force tactic known as ‘toss bombing’ or the ‘over-the-shoulder maneuver,’ is accomplished by flying towards the target at a lower altitude, pulling up to a sharp vertical plane and releasing the bomb just past vertical while executing a loop, essentially ‘throwing’ the bomb back toward the target compensating for the gravity effect on the bomb(s). This frightening tactic allowed the pilot time to put sufficient distance between his bomber and the target before the bombs exploded.

The first public demonstration of this maneuver was accomplished by a B-47 bomber at Eglin Air Force Base on May 7, 1957. The pilot released his payload into the air at a pre-determined point as the bomber executed a sharp half-loop.

As the bomb was released it continued on an upward path for some time before falling and hitting its target, which was a substantial distance from the bomb’s established release point.

Over-the-shoulder bombing.

Richard Bach, who is a retired USAF pilot, describes performing this feat vividly in his book, Stranger to the Ground:

A village that has red-roofed houses streaks by below me, and the target, white barrels shaped as a pyramid, is just visible at the end of my approach run. Five hundred knots per hour. Flipped the switch down, depressed the button.

Timers have started, circuits are warning the drop zone is near. Reduce altitude to treetop level. I don’t regularly fly at 500 knots on the flight deck, and it is quite obvious that I am progressing very fast. The white barrels are inflated. I can actually see the flaking white paint on the barrels.

The pyramid flashes beneath me. Center the needles of the indicator that is only used in a nuclear weapons drop. Pull back on the stick smoothly, firmly to read the g-force at four on the accelerometer and hold it.

I’ll bet those little computer hearts are really pounding and all I can see is the sky in the windshield. Hold the Gs, center the needles; there’s the sun, only it’s going under me and ‘WHAM’.

The bomber turns hard to the right, tucks tighter into the loop, and plods ahead even though we are upside down. The Shape has released me more than I have released it. The little white barrels, even smaller now, are six thousand feet directly beneath my canopy.

I have no way to tell if the drop was a good hit or not. That was decided by the diagrams and graphs, the math professionals, and the angles. I did my job, centering the needles, the computers completed their programming task automatically, and the nuke flew on its own the rest of the way.

This is how it looks!

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.