When U.S. Planned To Use ‘Manned’ Nuclear Missiles To Bomb Moscow

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The relations between Russia and the United States have hit a new low. After annexing Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin has won the Kremlin’s backing to launch airstrikes in Syria. Relations between the Cold War foes were much worse after the end of the second World War. In fact, in 1952, the United States considered using a manned Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) carrying nuclear weapons to bomb Moscow.

It was originally Germans’ idea

The idea of using manned rockets or missiles goes back to Nazi Germany, who wanted to conquer space. They proposed A9/A10, the world’s first trans-Atlantic ballistic missile design. According to Encyclopedia Astronautica, it would go 390 kilometers above the Earth, and then re-enter the atmosphere with a long glide to extend the range.

The pilot manning the missile was supposed to be guided by radio beacons on submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Upon approaching the target, the pilot would lock in the target and eject. Following the end of second World War, the U.S. brought in many top German scientists to work on its space program.

A manned rocket that could carry 4,000-pound nuclear bomb

The Bell Aircraft Corporation had proposed a two-stage rocket. It would ascend into space before gliding to a target at four times faster than the speed of sound. It was supposed to have a glide range of 4,000 miles. If that wasn’t enough, the two crew rocket would carry a 4,000-pound nuclear bomb. But the U.S. Air Force needed a higher glide range because the distance between Cape Canaveral and Moscow was close to 5,000 miles.

Michael Peck of the National Interest says the U.S. Air Force was so impressed by the whole idea that they proposed the MX-2276 reconnaissance rocket-glider with a glide range of 10,000 miles without bomb load. Eventually, America’s space glider project took shape into the X-20 Dyna-Soar. However, the project was cancelled in 1963 due to costs and technical issues with developing the right rocket booster. Later they found that unmanned ICBMs were more efficient than manned glider-bombers in delivering nuclear weapons.

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