Okay, so it's an atomic bomber? So what? Hang around a
rogue terrorist state and sooner or later
you'll see B-52s
galore. Only this time "atomic" bomber does not refer to the
payload, but to the power source. Back in the late '40s, the
American and Soviet military began to look into the ultimate in
long-range bombers. Never mind forward air bases or in-air
refuelling, they were thinking of atomic jet engines that would allow a
bomber to stay aloft for months at a time. Gentlemen, I give you Greenpeace's worst nightmare: a flying nuclear reactor.
this one did not stay on the drawing board. In the 1950s, the
Americans actually mounted a small reactor in a plane and test flew
it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it turned out that atomic
reactors aren't as efficient as people thought for small jobs like
powering jets. They also weigh a hell of a lot, so in order to
get the plane airborne it was necessary to cut down on the shielding.
There was protection between the reactor and the flight crew, but
none on the sides or aft of the plane, so the whole rear end was one
big hot zone. That made it reeeeal popular with the maintenance
crew, ground personnel, and anyone whose hat blew under the wing.
did, however, cast a strange fascination over flight controllers, who
were really, really interested in whether or not it was in the
vicinity. Preferably not.