In the Cold War arms race, the nuclear bomb was paramount. As it had been during World War II, the competition to develop ever greater bombs and aircraft swept many nations. During the Duck and Cover years of the 1950s and 60s, our obsession with having the greatest weapons on earth was matched only by the Soviet Union. And, in 1961 Nikita Khrushchev and Russian scientists endeavored to create a bomb to end all bombs: the Tsar Bomba.
Initially conceived to hold twice the payload, this enormous Soviet bomb was decreased in size from 100 to approximately 50 megatons. The largest bomb ever built, it was named “Tsar” for a reason. At more than double the normal weight of a bomb that would usually have been carried by a Tupolev Tu-95 carrier plane, the Tsar weighed a hefty 54,000 pounds. Had the bomb been any heavier it would not have been possible to safely test it. Had the bomb had any larger of a payload, and it would have contaminated inhabited areas of Russia. As it was, the Tsar almost killed the pilots who dispersed it.
The Tsar was the largest nuclear bomb ever tested and represents 10 times more explosives than all of those used in WWII. A mere 2 years later, bomb testing would become seriously limited by the Partial Test Ban Treaty. Find out more and watch the incredible footage of the largest nuclear explosion on Earth in the video below.