The US-Soviet Chronology and FAQ:
¨ 1943, spring. The Soviet Union launched its Atomic Project under the direction of Igor Kurchatov.
¨ 1945, August 20. Special Committee is formed, headed by Beria. The start of full-scale work on the A-bomb project in the USSR.
¨ 1945, Fall. The first bits of intelligence on the US H-bomb research came to the U.S.S.R. as part of the A-bomb espionage.
¨ 1946 Zeldovich’s group at the Institute of Chemical Physics launched research on the thermonuclear bomb based on the intelligence from the US about Classical Super design of H-bomb. The Soviet design was dubbed Truba (Tube).
¨ 1946, April. Los Alamos conference on H-bomb
28. Klaus Fuchs and John von Neumann applied
for a patent that included the idea to
use radiation for compression, i.e. radiation
implosion (within the framework of the Classical
March. Fuchs passes information
on the US H-bomb (Classical Super) to the
¨ 1948, June. An additional theoretical group under Igor Tamm in FIAN was established to assist Zeldovich’s group in research on Truba design. Tamm’s group included his students Andrei Sakharov and Vitaly Ginzburg.
¨ 1948, Fall. Sakharov invented a brand-new design for a thermonuclear bomb that employed a special way of compressing a spherically layered configuration, dubbed Sloyka (aka Layercake, aka 1st Idea in Sakharov’s Memoirs). Ginzburg then added the 2nd idea to use a specific thermonuclear explosive, LiD, dubbed LiDdochka. Since then Tamm’s group developed Layercake, while Zeldovich’s continued to research the Truba design.
¨ 1949, January. Sakharov, in his first report on Sloyka, suggested “to use of an additional plutonium charge for a preliminary compression of Sloyka.” Later this general idea was named “atomic compression”.
¨ 1949, August 29. The first Soviet test of the A-bomb.
¨ 1950, January 31. Truman’s directive to create the H-bomb.
¨ 1950, February 3. Klaus Fuchs is arrested.
¨ 1950, February 26. Soviet directive to boost work on the H-bomb in two designs: Sloyka and Truba.
¨ 1950, March. Tamm and Sakharov moves to the Installation.
¨ 1950, Spring-Summer. Stanislaw Ulam suspected the infeasibility of the Classical Super design, confirmed by calculations together with Cornelius J. Everett and Enrico Fermi.
¨ 1951, March. Teller and Ulam published the joint two-part report “Hydrodynamic Lenses and Radiation Mirrors”. Ulam’s part was based on an idea of hydrodynamic compression by A-bomb , Teller’s part was based on an idea of radiation-implosion design. It happened during preparations for the test George (May 1951) that employed the idea of Fuchs-von Neumann.
¨ 1952, November 1. American thermonuclear test "Mike" based on radiation implosion, with the yield 10 megaton that stayed unknown to the Soviets for two years.
November 16. Gordon Dean, chairman of the
Atomic Energy Commission announced short statement
of AEC including the only reference to H-bomb:
¨ 1952, December 2. Beria mentioned this test in his letter directing that creation of Sloyka "is of the first priority. Judging from certain information that has reached us, there have been tests related to this type of device."
¨ 1953, January 7. On that day a prominent participant in the H-bomb project John Wheeler, on his way to Washington by train, lost a top-secret document on the H-bomb. For a long time it seemed obvious that the document had gone into the Soviet hands. Now it is quite clear that it was not the case. Most likely this incident happened to trigger the Oppenheimer affair of 1953-54.
¨ 1953, August 12. The first Soviet test of the thermonuclear bomb Sloyka (Joe-4), with the yield 0.4 megaton.
¨ 1954, January 14. Sakharov-Zeldovich's joint memo (16 pp., handwritten ) on “atomic compression of the super-device” as a turn in the research, but the key idea of radiation implosion was not still in sight. Apparently by then Sakharov and Zeldovich realized that the Sloyka design had no potential for significant improvement, and that Truba (i.e. Classical Super) was a dead end. Since the latter was acknowledged in the US in 1950, it is a straightforward proof that there was no Soviet H-bomb espionage in 1950-1953.
¨ 1954, March 1. American thermonuclear test "Bravo", 15 megatons.
¨ 1954, Spring. Birth of the “3rd idea” (“principle of surrounding”, the Soviet version of radiation implosion). According to Sakharov's closest associate, “the 3rd idea emerged in the spring of 1954. It began when Sakharov brought the theorists together and set forth his idea about the high coefficient of reflection of impulse radiation from the walls made of heavy material.”
¨ 1955, November 22. The first atmospheric test of the thermonuclear bomb (based on the 3rd idea).