W50 (nuclear warhead)

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The W50 was an American thermonuclear warhead used on the MGM-31 Pershing intermediate range nuclear missile. It was also used on the LIM-49 Nike Zeus anti-ballistic missile, but this program was cancelled before deployment. The W50 was developed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory.[1]

There were two major variants produced (Mod 1, Mod 2), in three yield options (the Y1 with 60 kiloton yield, Y2 with 200 kiloton yield, and Y3 with 400 kiloton yield). All variants were 15.4 inches (0.39 m) in diameter and 44 inches (1.1 m) long, weighing 410 pounds (190 kg).

The W50 used the Tsetse primary design for its first fission stage, along with several mid and late 1950s designs. The W50 is thought to have been the source of the W78 warhead's fusion second stage design.

The W50 was manufactured from 1963 through 1965, with a total of 280 being produced. They were retired from service starting in 1973 with the last units retired in 1991.


  1. ^ "Safety and Reliability of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent" (PDF). U.S. Government Publishing Office. p. 137.
  • Allbombs.html list of all US nuclear weapons at nuclearweaponarchive.org
  • Beware the old story by Chuck Hansen, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 2001 pp. 52-55.
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