Man-Portable Nukes

The SEALs demonstrated feasibility to deploy nuclear weapons {designated ‘Special Atomic Demolition Munitions‘ (SADM) -} designed to attack a harbor or other strategic location that could be accessed from the sea. (see below)

The Navy version would be delivered into water by parachute along with a two-man team, then floated to the target, set in place and armed by hand. They were viewed as suicide missions.

A US Army Green Light Team members were also trained to parachute with with a man-portable nuclear weapon. The smallest of these devices was the W54, which was about 11 in. wide,16 in. tall and weighed approximately 51 lb. SADM yield ranged from 10 tons to 1 kiloton. The same device was used on the Davy Crockett and the GAR-11/AIM-26A. The fusing was not precise and there was a “window of detonation” involved.

The Green Light Team missions were not publicly disclosed until 1984.


Davy Crockett Nuclear Weapon

M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon mounted to a recoilless rifle on a tripod, shown in the photo at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in March 1961. It used the smallest nuclear warhead ever developed by the United States.


Lunar Excursion Module Test Platform

Identify the aircraft on the apron in background. It looks to me like Edwards AFB.

Identify the Helicopter

Identify the jet aircraft and manufacturer.

It’s an experimental aircraft, produced by a major defense contractor. I know that it’s a hard ID, but you guys are sharp and tough to stump.



Young Pioneers in Soviet Russia wear gas masks during a civil defense drill in Leningrad, 1937. The Democrat Party would like to keep children in the US masked up like that  – possibly forever – if they can get away with it. Some of the leadership (Pelosi) must have seen this photo and said, “That’s it!”


I just like the picture.


The old and the new: French cavalrymen observe a biplane in 1917



  1. “Identify the aircraft on the apron in background. It looks to me like Edwards AFB.”
    The one in the foreground is a B-47, I don’t know if the far one is a B-58 or an F-106.

    Thanks for the posts.
    Paul L. Quandt

  2. Lunar Module trainer? B-47 in the foreground (dead giveaway, swept wings with single engine on the outboard, twin engine on the inboard of each wing.) B-58 Hustler in the background (if it looks like an F106 but has engines mounted on the wings, it’s a Hustler.)

    Sikorsky H-5. That one was easy.

    The X-fighter? I know it, but I’ll let someone else have the fun. That was a good stumper.

    Tactical nukes… They’re useful but… I mean, I understand the concept, but to actually use one? Nuclear torpedoes, maybe, but man-carried? Yikes. Though when you could lose a launch team or lose a division, the solution works, for values of ‘works.’

    • The timers were notoriously unreliable. I worked with a Naval officer, who had been an Army Green Light Team guy before he took a Navy commission. Not the best mission for a long and prosperous life. It’s the sort of mission you never get a posthumous medal for because you died conducting a secret mission. There have been lots of those that I’ve seen from a distance in my life.

  3. As a Combat Engineer, Germany, 1964-66, I helped build many man portable ADM sites along the “Fulda Gap” border. The idea was with many prepared sites available, the Russians wouldn’t know which one was to be used. The ADMs were dirty bombs, lots of radiation, so as deny an area for days. Every site was near an all weather road. We were never briefed on the tactics. Preparing the sites was almost always ax, pick, and shovel work.

    • Better to dig the emplacements and walk away than to be the guy with his hand on the trigger.

  4. Got the two jets on the ramp and the helo, although the H-5 lacks something without CPO Forney at the controls (The Bridges at Toko Ri).

    Had to look up the X-plane. Interesting. On one of my dad’s missions over Germany, his group took a head-on attack from an Me-163.

    • The Me-163 had one gun and was on a glide. I’m not saying that they had no effect, but as a wonder weapon, you really wonder why they tried it.

  5. Oh, Lord…..a “Davey Crockett”.

    They only thing dumber would have been a nuclear hand grenade!

    The chopper is a Sikorsky HO3S-1, as piloted by Mickey Rooney in “The Bridges at Toko Ri”, one of my favorite movies.

    The little jet is the Northrop X-4 “Bantam”, a n early tailless design that failed (NACA called it “a lemon”) due to the primitive flight control systems available at the time.

    Northrop always had a thing for tailless aircraft, and flying wing aircraft. Just took the technology a while to catch up with the airframe designers.

    • You nailed them, DRJIM.

      Davy Crockett was king of the wild frontier… and they did use nuclear hand grenades in the novel and movie, “Starship Troopers”. The only good bug is a dead bug.

      • The movie, maybe, but not the book. Heinlein’s Mobile Infantry had shoulder-fired missiles with small nukes but their powered armor, which enabled them to jump over buildings, also offered good blast and radiation protection. That armor and the idea of dropping the infantry in individual capsules onto a planetary surface from orbit (i.e., Airborne in space) were two of the interesting future war ideas in the novel. Needless to say, neither appeared in the movie. I’ve heard that the idea of the powered suits was considered but rejected because the helmets would obscure the actors’ pretty faces. Also, director Paul Verhoeven is said to have boasted that he despised everything (he thought) Heinlein stood for and had not read the book.

        Incidentally, I remember some entertaining debates on science fiction discussion groups as to whether the capsule insertion idea would be more or less feasible and effective than armed assault craft.

        • I know that powered armor has spread through the sci-fi genre but I have no idea where it is on the drawing board. But I’m positive that DARPA has a project where it’s being explored. How that will end up is anyone’s guess at this point.

          I really like the idea that in order to be a citizen, you should serve. Heinlein is despised by the political Left.

  6. “Their mission profile and some of the signs our gear has picked up indicates [those Syndic commandos] may well be equipped with hupnums, sir.”
    “Hupnums?” It sounded like some whimsical creature in a fairy tale.
    “Human Portable Nuclear Munitions,” [Marine Colonel] Carabali elaborated.

    No wonder Carabali was unhappy. […] “they’ll have to set timers to give them time to get free of the blast zone. Why can’t we get out of there well before the timers set off the nukes?”
    Carabali shook her head. “Sir, I trained on Alliance hupnums, and everyone […] believed the timers were fake […] any target worth sneaking in a nuke would be too valuable to risk failing a strike. [If we thought that way, the Syndics certainly do.]”

    — scene break —

    “And who the hell named those things hupnums? It makes them sound cute. [… We] called them PNWs. Portable nuclear weapons. Nice and simple.”
    “But every nuclear weapon is portable,” Desjani objected. “Some may be carried by very large missiles or ships, but they’re still portable.”
    He glared at her. “Did you ever work as an editor at your uncle’s literary agency?”
    “A few times. What does that have to do with anything?”
    “Do you like the term hupnums, Captain Desjani?”
    “No! In the fleet we usually call them NAMs.”
    “NAMs?” […]
    “Yes.” Desjani made an apologetic gesture. “Nuclear-Armed Marines. It’s shorthand among the sailors for something that’s a bad idea.”
    Geary fought to keep a straight face. “I guess some things never change. Do you think there was every a time when Marines and sailors got along?”
    “We get along fine if [Army types] try to mess with us,” Desjani pointed out.

    The Lost Fleet: Relentless
    -Jack Campbell

    • You’re way too literate for me, Mike_C. I never read the book. Maybe I would have been better prepared for life if I had?

    • Came in here wondering about commenting on NAMs, and see someone has done so already.
      I enjoyed that series.

  7. The old “man portable nuke” gambit. Let’s pray the Jihad isn’t thinking along the same lines. Of course it won’t go well with them if they are, but still.

    • Do you think that the jihadis would find their place in paradise? Maybe we need to capture them, sew them up inside a pig carcass, and bury both captured jihadi and pig together. Would that solve the problem?

    • If the jihadis could get their hands on one or several, they’d use them. If not on us or on Israel, then on whatever weird version of their religion that’s at odds with with the bomb-jihadi’s weird version of their religion.

      It’s what drives real security specialists crazy. So much ship traffic in and out, how can we stop a backpack or briefcase or city-buster warhead being smuggled into this nation when we can’t stop the flow of drugs or illegal aliens (a small but significant number of muslims have been slipping in through the southern and northern borders, dammit.)

      Which makes what TSA does just farking criminal. Feeling up kids and old ladies while letting jihadi-aged passengers stroll right through without any body checking or questioning. Sometimes I think we should have contracted out TSA to Israel.

      • Iran may go after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia instead. Intramural fights are more common, and Iran and KSA are fighting to be the Champion of Islam and leader of the Middle East.

        My concern has always been that Iran may have acquired one or two weapons from the collapse of the Soviet Union, but that they are not absolutely sure they work. The KSA has a launch site for IRBM missiles, and use the exact same IRBM model that Pakistan uses for its Nuclear Armed Missiles. The Kingdom may not have nuclear weapons, but Pakistan is a short jet flight away.

        • Mike_C – adopting Israeli security practices would be considered to be Islamophobic in the USA. However, an anecdotal story. Right after 9/11, I flew to Beijing on one of the China state airlines. I don’t recall which it was. Anyway, they were not letting Muslims or people from ethnic origins in Muslim nations on the airplanes. I saw a bunch of them turned away at the counter. Clearly a racist move, but who can blame the Commies? They have a lot of Muslim problems of their own in China anyway.

          rd – More likely the North Koreans would sell Iran nuclear weapons. Saudis would get them from Pakistan. And the Israelis have a lot of them.

          • FWIW, I’m on record as saying that if we really wanted to improve air travel security, we’d go the Israeli model which involves heavy use of profiling and in-depth interviews (my polite way of saying interrogations) as felt needed. My admittedly visceral response to Beans’ probably throw-away line is twofold. 1. Much as I object to the behavior of the TSA, at least they are my fellow Americans, and not agents of some foreign power, especially one that is no particular friend to the US but rather sees us as a source of cash, materiel, political cover, and the occasional bombing/strafing/napalming/torpedoing target. 2. We don’t need the Israelis to run our security. We have the ability (and maybe even the human capital) to go the Israeli model on airline security, but as you point out, we lack the political will. (And maybe the necessity is not there either.)

            Anecdote: I happened to be passing through TSA one morning, uncharacteristically with over 2h before my flight, and the guy next to me was even more obviously disgusted than I. So we got to talking. Apparently he was an MIT-trained engineer turned security consultant turned MD, and was a resident-in-training at my hospital. His security specialty was airlines, and he claimed to have been a consultant to El Al. He was quietly but intensely and bitterly rattling off a gigantic list of TSA inadequacies when we made it to the Rapeyscanners (or is it RAPIscan? I get so confused). He refused and demanded a hand search. (I used to do that on principle just to mess with them, but gave it up as a futile gesture that only served to waste my time.) Half an hour later my new companion met me at the gate. “I always have to budget extra time for that because they’re so inefficient.” Turned out he demanded the hand search to mess with them also, only he was more principled/stubborn than I, to have stuck to it.

            Not sure if there was a point to that story, but it was interesting to get the evaluation of someone who was (or claimed to be) very familiar with Israeli airline security policy and implementation.

  8. I just can’t think of a mission for those nuclear demolitions teams that shouldn’t be tasked to a missile, instead.

    I suppose you could try and go covert with them, from a “civilian” plane or something… but it seems like once nukes start detonating the balloon’s going up so covert is kinda moot?

    Maybe it was just some sort of super-double-secret-shitlist assignment for people the brass really, really hated.

    • When you consider that most missions required insertion by air, it would have to be a first strike weapon from a civilian airliner or something along that line. Or delivery to a harbor by freighter or commercial ship. Today, put it in a shipping container and drive it to the destination. Scary stuff.

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