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Nuclear Weapons History Page

Use the time line below to discover key events in the history of nuclear weapons from 1940 to the present day.

Use your mouse to point the cursor over a particular year. 
Key events which took place in that year will be shown.


1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1952 1954>
<area href= 1958 1951 1953 1955 1959 1957 1960 1963 1967 1968 1961 1962 1965 1966 1964" 2002 2004 1972 1974 1970 1973 1975 1977 1971 1976 1984 1979 1978 1988 1986 1982 1980 2009 1999 1985 1997 1995 2007 2003 2005 2008 2006 2001 1991 2000 1993 1994 1998 1992 1990 1996 1989 1981 1983 1969

A nuclear history time line



1896  Radiation discovered by Henri Becquerd ?

1897 Electro discovered by J.J.Thompson.

1905 Einstein publishes E= MC 2 . this would prove that a small amount of matter could produce a lot of energy.

1939 The fear of Germany developing an A . bomb troubled Lao Szilend? And Edward Teller. They drove to New York and asked Einstein to sign a letter to President Roosevelt 
  outlining the problem.



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1941 A committee established by Roosevelt concludes an 
atom bomb could be produced in 4 years.



1942 The A-bomb project was set up at us army's Manhattan project. The Project was lead by Brigadier General Lesley Groves.
 His first aim was to ascertain whether a self sustained 
  chain reaction could be initiated. 

1942   Enrico Fermi (?) creates the first atomic pile. 
It cost 1 million dollars .

            When the control rods were removed the detectors
 went off the scale....



  Oppenheimer is appointed to develop the nuclear 
reaction into a usable bomb

             The project was assisted by many 
scientists who had fled the Nazis.

3 secret sites were built ,by the end of the project
 these sites employed over 100,000 people.

The final cost of  Manhattan project was over $2 billion.

The site at Hanford , Washington , Oak Ridge, Tennessee 
and Los Damos, New Mexico continue to conduct 
nuclear research even today.

To make a bomb plutonium is needed. Hanford in Washington
 had 3 large scale reactors. The plutonium used in the 
Trinity Test and Fat Man bomb was produced here.

Today this location is one of the most contaminated
 sites in the world.

Site X was used to separate uranium 235 from uranium 238.

Site Y 1,000 scientists + families. 2 types of bombs developed here, gun type + implosion type.





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1944   Allied army entered Strasburg documents recovered showed Germans were 2 years behind the USA.

After the battle of the Bulge it became clear A bombs would not be used against Germany, but Japan.




In January of this year the first batch of Uranium 235 was separated at Oak Ridge.

The “Franck Report” proposed a demonstration of the A bomb to show enemies what it could do. The war committee replied that it should be used ASAP and without prior warning.


July -Trinity gadget at 5.29 AM . Oppenheimer quoted from the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita “ Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

The nuclear age had begun.

Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki was same yield as gadget. The explosion left a crater 10 ft deep and half a mile wide. The trinity site is still occupied by military .It is only open to the public on the first Saturday in October each year.


  August 6th B-29 “Enola Gay” left Titian for Hiroshima. It was piloted by Col Paul Tibbets.

Hiroshima chosen as it was mainly untouched by conventional bomb so the impact could be better analysed. The uranium 235 gun-type bomb (LITTLE BOY) exploded at 8.16 am . In an instant 
80,000 - 140,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 were seriously injured. All the wooden buildings within 1¼ miles were destroyed. Glass is windows was shattered for a radius of 10 miles. The shock was felt up to 37 miles away. The yield was equivalent to 12.5 kilotons of TNT. The co-pilot, Robert Lemis, commented,” My God, what have I done ?” 2 square miles of city had been reduced to ashes . Intense heat started fires 2 miles away.

  little boy2a.jpg (141398 bytes)

 August 9th B-29 bocks car left Trinity carrying Fat Man ( a plutonium implosion type bomb). The target of Kokura arsenal was covered in cloud. The pilot choose the Mitsubishi Torpedo at Nagasaki . The blast killed 74,000 and 75,000. Less damage was caused as the bomb missed it’s target by 2 miles. It had a yield of 22 kilotons. By 1950 140,000 people had died as a result of the A bombing.


 August 15th  Japan surrenders.


For a  short time the US had a monopoly on A bombs. The late 1940’s saw the start of the cold war and an increase in tension between the superpowers.

In 1946  2 tests named operation Crossroads were conducted at Bikini Atoll . The first test “Able” took place on July 1st . The test was an air drop similar to N + H. The plane Dave,s Dream ?, piloted by Major Swancott. 73 ships were anchored round the test site to observe what would happen. The mushroom cloud rose 7 miles into the sky.

  The second test “Baker” was conducted under water 24 days later. It sent a column of water 1 mile high.

400,000 tonnes of water was thrown into the air. After 1 second it was 41,000 ft high. By 76 seconds after the explosion it was 76,000 feet (???).

The “Baker” test unleashed the greatest amount of radiation known at that time.


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NATO is established in April.

August  USSR explodes it’s first bomb. USA decided to build a hydrogen bomb. In this type of bomb isotopes of hydrogen are fused into helium . There is no limit to the yield of this type of weapon.

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1950 The scientific community in US split over the development of the H. bomb. President Truman the announced work will continue.

Fuchs admits to passing many nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.


1951 Eniwetok(?) Atoll selected to test nuclear fusion device.


October 3rd - Great Britain explodes its first nuclear device on the Montebello Islands, Austrailia.

October 31st  US detonated a 10.4 mt thermo nuclear bomb in a test code named “Mike” . The island of Elugelob (?) Atoll is completely vaporised . The bomb was 500 times more powerful than H. The radioactive mushroom cloud produced reached 25 miles into the air, and left a creator a mile wide.

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1953 August 12th

 GB- 2 more tests in Great Victoria dessert.




1954 The largest test ever carried out by the US  took place on 1st March at Bikini Atoll. Code name “Bravo” . A device with a 14.8mt yield left a creator half a mile (?) wide and several hundred feet deep.

Nearby islands had to be evacuated as several million tonnes of radioactive debris were sent into the air.

The first nulcear powered submairine, USS Nautilus, takes to the seas.




The Soviet Union test their first fusion device. It's yield is 1.6 Mt.

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May 15th sees the British detonate their first thermonuclear device at Christmas Island.




Click here to return to timelineA voluntary moretoroum on nuclear testing begins. It is to last until September 1961 and is approved by the Soviret Union, America and Great Britain.



Antartic Treaty signed. This treaty prevents the siting of militray establishments, nulcear weapons or radioactive waste dumping  in the Antartic Circle.



On the 13th February, France tests its first atomic device in the Sahara Desert.

The first Polaris missile is sucessfully launched from a submarine.



The Soviet union resumes nulcear tesing on the 1st September.

A fortnight later America reactives their nuclear tesat programme.

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The electomagnetic pulse (EMP) from high altitude America nuclear detonations turns off the street lights in Hawaii.



The Hot Line Agreement 

Signed between America and Soviet Union. This provided a direct communications link to be used by the Presidents of both Superpowers in times of emergency.


Limited Test Ban Treaty

A treaty signed by Soviet Union, USA and United Kingdom which prevents any nuclear testing except that which occurs below ground. In total 116 counties have now signed up to this agreement.



Click here to return to timelineOctober 16th sees China conduct its first nuclear weapon test.





The French successfully test their first thermonuclear device.



Click here to return to timelineChina tests its first thermonuclear bomb. 
The yield is around 3 Mt.



1st July - The nuclear non-proliferation treaty is re-opened to allow other countires to sign up to it.



Talks begin in Helsinki leading to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT)



Click here to return to timelineThe Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty comes into effect. Within ten years over 100 countries have signed up to it.






Soviet Union & USA sign up to SALT on 26th May. 
Almost immeidately negtiations begin for SALT II.



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India conducts a test of a small (10 kt) nuclear device underground.






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Click here to return to timelineAmerica and Soviet Union sign SALT II treaty in Vienna.









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Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) talks begin in Geneva.


President Ronald Regan announces, on the 23rd March, the  Stragetic Defence Inititive (SDI).
 The so called "Star Wars" programme.


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America breaks the rules of the SALT II by deploying the 131st bomber to carry a nuclear payload.



Presidents Regan and Gorbachev sign the 
INF treaty on 8th December.

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Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). A bilaterial agreement (signed by the USA and Soviet Union). It sets a limit of 1600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles for both sides.

The Gulf War begins.






In 1993 the UK Government decided that the threat of a nuclear exchange had receded sufficiently to allow the closure of all regional government and county bunkers. Over the next six years around 200 of these sites were sold off. Today the only remaining operation bunkers are the UK Combined HQ, the RAF Air Defence and Strike Command HQ’s and the Navy and Army communications and radar early warning establishments, used for national defence.

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Nuclear material begin smuggles from the former Soviet Union
 is intercepted.

North Korea is suspected of constructing nulcear weapons.

The SDI "Star Wars" programme is scaled back due to spiralling costs and only limited success.






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Islamic terrorists though to be contemplating use of a "dirty" bomb. This is bomb which, although has no nuclear reaction, scatters much radiation into the surrounding areas.

North Korea defies World opinion and restarts its nuclear reactors.Click here to return to timeline



Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain, warns that the UK will face many difficult and often dangerous challenges this year.






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We shall see....



Click here to return to timelineWe shall see....



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