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Operation HEXAGON, the largest nuclear weapons test

Updated: Feb 26, 2023


Operation HEXAGON, also known as Operation Hardtack II, was a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted by the United States in the Pacific Ocean in the late 1970s. The operation was the largest and most complex nuclear weapons test series ever conducted by the United States, and it involved a total of 31 nuclear explosions.



The operation was conducted by the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Department of Defense (DoD), and it was designed to test a wide range of nuclear weapons, including air-dropped bombs, missile warheads, and submarine-launched missiles. The tests were conducted at a number of different sites in the Pacific Ocean, including the Johnston Atoll, the Christmas Island, and the Kwajalein Atoll.


The first test of Operation HEXAGON took place on May 28, 1958, and the last test was conducted on May 5, 1962. Over the course of the operation, a total of 31 nuclear explosions were conducted, with a combined yield of approximately 37 megatons of TNT.



One of the main goals of Operation HEXAGON was to test new designs of nuclear weapons, including the development of new warhead designs for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The tests were also designed to improve the accuracy and reliability of these weapons, as well as to test new delivery systems, such as air-dropped bombs and cruise missiles.



In addition to the nuclear tests, Operation HEXAGON also involved a number of other activities, including the collection of scientific data on the effects of nuclear explosions and the testing of new equipment and technologies. A number of aircraft and ships were used to collect data during the tests, and a number of new sensors and measuring devices were developed and tested as part of the operation.



The operation was not without controversy, as it caused concern among the public and the international community about the potential dangers of nuclear weapons. The tests were conducted at a time when tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were high, and there were concerns that the operation could lead to an escalation of the arms race.


Despite the concerns, Operation HEXAGON was considered a success by the United States government. The tests provided valuable data on the performance of nuclear weapons and the effects of nuclear explosions, and they helped to improve the accuracy and reliability of these weapons. The operation also helped to pave the way for future nuclear weapons development and testing.


However, the operation also had a significant environmental impact, as the radioactive fallout from the tests contaminated large areas of the Pacific Ocean and affected the health of local populations. The operation also contributed to the growing public concern about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for arms control and disarmament.


In conclusion, Operation HEXAGON was a major nuclear weapons test series conducted by the United States in the Pacific Ocean in the late 1970s. The operation involved a total of 31 nuclear explosions and was designed to test a wide range of nuclear weapons, including air-dropped bombs, missile warheads, and submarine-launched missiles. The operation was considered a success by the United States government, but it also had a significant environmental impact and contributed to the growing public concern about the dangers of nuclear weapons.



  • Aaron - Not Top Secret


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