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Operation Chrome Dome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1964 Operation Chrome Dome Map from Sheppard Air Force Base, TX
1964 Operation Chrome Dome Map from Sheppard Air Force Base, TX
1966 overview of Operation Chrome Dome related or derivative flights
1966 overview of Operation Chrome Dome related or derivative flights

Operation Chrome Dome was a United States Air Force Cold-War era mission from 1960 to 1968 in which B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber aircraft armed with thermonuclear weapons remained on continuous airborne alert, flying routes to points on the Soviet Union border.[1]

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  • ✪ How The US Accidentally Dropped Nukes On Itself And Its Allies
  • ✪ Operation Sky Watch: Nuclear Armed B-52s on High Alert (1962-Restored Color)
  • ✪ Operation Chrome Dome and the Palomares Incident


This video was made possible by Dashlane. Stay safe online, download Dashlane for free using the link in the description. On a cold morning in January, 1961 Goldsboro, North Carolina woke up to this; a thermonuclear bomb sticking out of the ground. A second unexploded bomb was buried in a crater not far away. Both nukes had literally fallen out of a crashing B-52 bomber in the middle of the night. Had either bomb gone off, they would have unleashed an explosion with two hundred and fifty times the destructive power of Hiroshima. The fireball alone would’ve been more than a kilometer and a half wide, vaporizing everything in its path. Nuclear fallout could have blanketed much of the East Coast, reaching as far as Washington, Baltimore, or even New York. This incident, according to recently declassified documents, was a close call. Because at least one of the bombs had armed itself as it fell back to earth, and its widely believed that only a single safety switch prevented disaster. But as harrowing as it sounds, what happened in Goldsboro would repeat itself. Throughout the 1960s, B-52 bombers accidentally dropped a total 14 thermonuclear bombs, and sometimes with serious consequences. During the height of the Cold War, America kept bombers, loaded up with thermonuclear weapons airborne at all times, twenty four hours a day, every day of the year. At any given moment, there were at least a dozen nuclear bombers in the air, flying one of several routes approaching the Soviet Union. It was called Operation Chrome Dome. A program to keep nuclear bombers on continuous airborne alert, so that if the Soviets launched a surprise nuclear attack, America would be ready to respond. And keeping the bombers airborne was critical. Because in 1957, the Soviets launched the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile. Sticking a nuke on top of a rocket was a game changer. Unlike a bomber which needed hours to deliver a nuclear bomb, a missile could hit its target in under half an hour. And there’d be little warning of one coming, nor any way to stop it. Gentlemen this Air Intelligence Briefing is secret. We’ve analyzed the Soviet guided missile test program in great depth. The Soviet missile development program reveals that it introduces a new dimension to surprise and forces us to reassess our own strategic position and reevaluate the Soviet’s ability to deal a crippling blow. By the late 1950s, American intelligence was convinced that the West had fallen behind in nuclear missile technology. And the Soviet’s weren't exactly shy about it either. Khrushchev bragged openly that Soviet factories were cranking missiles out like sausages. If true, it meant the Soviets would soon gain an enormous strategic advantage, one that could even knock out America’s ability to respond to a Soviet nuclear attack. Because faced with a barrage of incoming missiles, America’s bombers might not even make it off the ground in time. And that’s where Operation Chrome Dome came in. By keeping some of America's nuclear bombers airborne at all times, they would be well out of harm’s way and ready to head towards the Soviet Union. Knowing this, the Soviets might reconsider. But the program would push B-52s and their flight crews to their limits. Bombers would be in the air for as long as 24 hours. It was risky, and the obvious question at least someone had to be asking was, what happens when one of these bombers loaded up with nukes crashes? The answer came just three months into the program. But Goldsboro would be just the first in a string of early accidents in which a total of six nuclear bombs crashed back to earth, only to be recovered without much in the way of consequences. The bombs simply hit the ground without any of their conventional or nuclear explosives detonating. It might have even created a false sense of confidence. Because Chrome Dome missions continued for years, even as it became clear that the Soviets never had missile superiority to begin with. The bombers were kept flying because unlike buried missiles silos, and stealthy nuclear submarines, B-52’s patrolling Soviet borders were a constant reminder that America was ready. But the program would soon be seen in an entirely different light. An accident over Palomares, Spain in 1966 sent four nukes crashing back to earth. And this time, two of them detonated their conventional explosives. There was no nuclear blast. But five square kilometers of Spanish countryside were contaminated with radioactive plutonium. It was the worst nuclear accident of its time, and 17,000 tonnes of radioactive soil had to be shipped back to the United States in an enormous cleanup effort. Decades later, there were still traces of the contamination at site. After the Spain incident, Operation Chrome Dome was scaled back. But it that wouldn't prevent a final accident in Thule Greenland, when another four thermonuclear bombs came crashing back to earth. All of them detonated their conventional explosives, spreading contamination over a large area. One of the nuclear bombs was never recovered. And that put an immediate end to Operation Chrome Dome. The Cold War, especially during the 1960s, was an insane time, and the legacy of Operation Chrome Dome is hard to pin down. America accidently dropped 14 Nuclear Bombs. But keeping bombers airborne for eight straight years also helped maintain the delicate balance of power between America and the Soviet Union, and it might’ve prevented nuclear war. The other day I was re-watching and hitting like on all my old videos when this popped up. Someone in Fuzhou, China had figured out my Apple ID password. But it wasn't that my password wasnt strong enough. It was fact that I had been using the same one across multiple sites. And all it took is one breach for my email and password combo to be compromised Which was then used to try to log in and likely access a dozen of my other accounts. If you want to keep your data and financial information safe, you need a unique password for each account. And Dashlane makes it easy by seamlessly generating and autofilling complex passwords each time you login, on any of your devices. And it’s completely free. But you might want to check out Dashlane Premium which adds a VPN to keep your online activity private, dark web monitoring to scan and alert you instantly if your personal information is leaked or stolen. Don’t wait for your close call. Start your 30 day free trial of Dashlane Premium. And if you’re one of the first 200 people to sign-up using promo code “Mustard” you’ll get 10% off an already great price.



During the Cold War, General Thomas S. Power initiated a program whereby B-52s performed airborne alert duty under code names such as Head Start, Chrome Dome, Hard Head, Round Robin,[2] and Operation Giant Lance. Bombers loitered near points outside the Soviet Union to provide rapid first strike or retaliation capability in case of nuclear war.[3][4]

Primary mission

The missions in 1964 involved a B-52D that left Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas and flew across the United States to New England and headed out to the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft refueled over the Atlantic heading north to and around Newfoundland. The bomber changed course and flew northwesterly over Baffin Bay towards Thule Air Base, Greenland. At this point it flew west across Queen Elizabeth Islands of Canada. Continuing to Alaska, it refueled over the Pacific Ocean again heading south-east and returned to Sheppard AFB.[5]

By 1966, three separate missions were being flown - one East over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, another north to Baffin Bay, and a third over Alaska.

Military units

The following military units were involved:


B-52 Airborne Nuclear Alert route from Homestead AFB, FL to Italy
B-52 Airborne Nuclear Alert route from Homestead AFB, FL to Italy

The program was involved in the following nuclear-weapons accidents:


  1. ^ Accident happened while the aircraft was returning to its home base, having already completed its alert mission.


  1. ^ Croddy, Eric; Wirtz, James J. (2005). Weapons of Mass Destruction. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-490-3. The U.S. alert operation, code-named Chrome Dome, was a realistic training mission
  2. ^ USAF: Lakenheath AFB Libery Wing
  3. ^ "SAC AIRBORNE ALERT". National Museum of the United States Air Force. 14 January 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-01-14. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  4. ^ US Nuclear Weapons Deployments Disclosed Archived 2007-12-31 at the Wayback Machine, Nautilus Institute
    History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons: July 1945 to September 1977 Archived 2009-03-26 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Chrome Dome Route Map
  6. ^ The Goldsboro Broken Arrow, 2011, ISBN 978-1-257-86952-7

External links

This page was last edited on 30 May 2019, at 18:13
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