July 19, 1957 – First Genie Nuclear Rocket Test at Yucca Flat

John Operation Plumbbob

On July 19, 1957, the Nevada Testing Site (NTS) hosted the first test-firing of the AIR-2 Genie air-to-air rocket.  Part of Operation Plumbbob, the “John” test over Yucca Flat involved the successful launch and detonation of the nuclear-warhead-tipped rocket from a Northrup F-89J fighter without demolishing the aircraft itself.  The AIR-2 Genie was designed to destroy incoming enemy bombers with its 1.7-kiloton, plutonium core Genie W-25 warhead.  The rocket traveled 4240 meters in 4.2 seconds, achieving about Mach 3, before detonating approximately three miles over five volunteers and a photographer at ground zero in Yucca Flat’s Area 10.  Their presence at the test site was intended to show the apparent safety of battlefield nuclear weapons to personnel on the ground.

Image Credit: U.S. Air Force

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