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01st Jun 2021

Declassified Russian footage of the largest nuclear bomb ever tested goes viral

Danny Jones

If you ever need a reminder of just how much damage humans are capable of doing.

Military technology is always scary. Our capacity as humans for sheer destruction and violence is staggering and what’s even more terrifying is not knowing how huge those capabilities are when given the means to do so.

Russia has released previously classified footage of what still goes down as the largest nuclear bomb ever in 1961. The ‘Tsar Bomba’ is estimated to have packed the equivalent of 50 million tonnes of TNT into one single explosion. It’s a truly terrifying thought to think that this was even tested.

You can see the full video down below, which starts with a long piece of Soviet propaganda celebrating the state’s own success of this technological achievement. However, you need to jump to 29:30 to see the bomb, with the footage capturing the massive mushroom cloud and gradually dispersing plumes of smoke running until around 36:06.

The video was actually released in August 2020 by the Kremlin’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (i.e. its nuclear division) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Russia’s nuclear industry.

It shows how the approximately 26-foot long, 7-foot tall Tsar Bomba was so large that a Tu-95V Soviet bomber had to be specially modified, as its fuel tanks and bomb bay doors were removed to accommodate the other-worldly projectile. The bomb itself was deemed too big to even use in war – the blast radius was simply too large.

The bomb was ultimately dropped off the coast of Severny Island near the Arctic Ocean, exploded 4,000 meters above the ground and no doubt disturbing natural habitats and wildlife immeasurably. The shockwave was so big in fact that it even hit the bomber itself, despite being more than 75 miles away.

The blast was so powerful that it actually prevented the subsequent five-mile wide fireball from even touching the ground, with the mushroom cloud reaching 42 miles into the air – seven times higher than Everest – and visible from 620 miles away. People in Norway and Finland even reported feeling a blast that shattered windows.

Tsar Bomba explosion and mushroom cloud
Credit: Flickr – Andy Zeigert

Given the sheer devastation it potentially posed, the Tsar Bomba became the last above-ground nuclear tests, with the US, UK, and the Soviet Union signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which required tests to move underground and became comprehensive three years later.

Furthermore, not only does this footage remind us of how truly catastrophic the Cold War both was and could have been, but that was almost 60 years ago; you are fooling yourself if you don’t think countries like Russia and America haven’t developed bigger and more devastating devices than that. Just think of not only the power but the precision of atomic technology today.

Even more worryingly, New START – an Obama-era treaty that sets limits on the number of deployed nuclear weapons between Russia and the United States – is set to expire soon and, at present, doesn’t look like it’ll be renewed.

According to Vice, America themselves have deployed small scale “tactical” nuclear weapons on their submarines and Russia is working on a suite of new nuclear weapons. The nuclear ‘Arms Race’ may be behind us but the constant competition to put on the biggest display of military might never ends and with people like Vladimir Putin at the helm, who knows what will happen next?

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