Sandia National Laboratories revealed this month that it strapped rockets to a semi-truck and slammed it into the lab’s new nuclear weapons transporter.
The experiment was conducted this summer and was designed to test the reliability of the new Mobile Guardian Transporter, a third-generation truck built to safely move nuclear weapons and materials.
“The transportation mission is a critical component of an effective nuclear deterrent,” Jim Redmond, a Sandia senior program manager, said in a statement.
Sandia National Laboratories rocketed a semi-truck into a new tractor trailer built to safely transport nuclear weapons this summer, the lab announced earlier this month.
In its largest crash test in about two decades, Sandia used rockets to propel a semi down a track into a prototype of the new Mobile Guardian Transporter, expected to eventually replace the Safeguards Transporter fielded in the 1990s as a replacement for the earlier Safe Secure Transport. The latest vehicle is an all-new design, although specifics are limited.
Once it is fielded, the third-generation Mobile Guardian Transporter will be used by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Secure Transportation to move nuclear weapons.
The purpose of the kinetic test was to ensure that the new transporter could survive a crash.
“The transportation mission is a critical component of an effective nuclear deterrent,” Jim Redmond, a Sandia senior program manager, said in a statement. “It provides needed assurance to the American public and our allies of the safety and security of our stockpile. You’ve got to be able to ship nuclear assets safely and securely or you don’t have a deterrence program.”
As The War Zone, which reported the testing Tuesday, notes, modern nuclear weapons are hard to set off accidentally, but were a less secure vehicle to get in an accident, there is the possibility that the weapons could be damaged or that potentially hazardous materials could be released.
Redmond said that the last time Sandia conducted a test like this was about 20 years ago and involved slamming a truck into a fixed barrier.
It took the team at Sandia six months to prepare for the crash test, which was over in a matter of seconds. “I was glad to see the rockets fired; I was glad to see it was successful,” Redmond said. “It was tense.”
Sandia has not revealed many details about the capabilities of its all-new Mobile Guardian Transporter, but there is a good chance it features special security measures similar to those that its predecessors had to not only protect nuclear weapons and materials from accidents but also prevent theft.
For example, the walls of the Safeguards Transporter release a sticky foam that can immobilize intruders. The vehicles can also electrocute someone trying to gain access without authorization. And the Safe Secure Transport could release tear gas, The War Zone reported.
The nuke transport vehicles are also protected by armed guards, and National Nuclear Security Administration maintains a Special Response Force that could be called up in an emergency.
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