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A B61 nuclear bomb in various stages of assembly; the nuclear warhead is the bullet-shaped silver canister in the middle-left of the photograph.
A B61 nuclear bomb in various stages of assembly; the nuclear warhead is the bullet-shaped silver canister in the middle-left of the photograph.

A warhead is the explosive or toxic material that is delivered by a missile, rocket, or torpedo. It is a type of bomb.

Classification

Types of warheads include:

Often, a biological or chemical warhead will use an explosive charge for rapid dispersal.

Detonators

Type of detonators include:

Type Definition
Contact When the warhead makes physical contact with the target, the explosive is detonated. Sometimes combined with a delay, to detonate a specific amount of time after contact.
Proximity Using radar, sound waves, a magnetic sensor, or a laser the warhead is detonated when the target is within a specified distance. It is often coupled with directional explosion control system that ensures that the explosion sends the fragmentation primarily towards the target that triggered it.
Remote Remotely detonated via signal from operator (Not normally used for warheads except for self-destruction).
Timed Warhead is detonated after a specific amount of time.
Altitude Warhead is detonated once it falls to a specified altitude.
Combined Any combination of the above.

See also

References

  1. The Nuclear Weapon Archive. The B61 (Mk-61) Bomb - Intermediate yield strategic and tactical thermonuclear bomb. [1]
  2. GlobalSecurity.org The B61 thermonuclear bomb. [2]
  3. The Brookings Institution. B61 Nuclear Gravity Bomb. [3]
  4. Stephen I. Schwartz. Atomic Audit - The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940. Brookings Institution Press 1998 c. 700pp. [4]
  5. Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah. B61 THERMONUCLEAR BOMB. [5]
  6. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA Achieves Significant Milestone for B61 Bomb. June 30, 2006. [6]
  7. Chuck Hansen, U.S. Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History, (New York: Orion Books, 1988), pp. 162–164.