I profiled this amazing little piece of Cold War history recently, as those who have already listened to our Guns & Ammo meeting know, but I wanted to go ahead and put up some pics of it as well. After the jump is the full text of that profile as well as some additional pictures of this bad idea just waiting to happen.
It also occurred to us after the podcast that this portable nuke launcher (which was quite capable of killing its own operators) was named after Davy Crockett. A man who died in a hopeless last stand at the Alamo… Whether this name was intended to draw parallels between that moment and the use of this weapon is unknown, but frightening nonetheless.
“As regular listeners of the podcast know, I am the dedicated “videogame adventurer” of the League. And as such, I’ve looked down the sights of virtual guns ranging from the real, AK-47’s and even the “Raging Bull” that we fired on our shooting adventure, to the fictional, Gravity Guns and the BFG 9000. However, there’s one gun that I’ve just recently discovered was much less make believe than I’d imagined. The “Fat Man” hand-held portable nuke launcher from the game Fallout 3 was sadly based on a terrible idea from the Cold War called the “Davy Crockett”.
The Davy Crockett was basically a recoiless rifle with a low yield nuclear projectile that could be used on the field by small three man teams from the Atomic Battle Group. They were produced and deployed in part as a back up plan to use against the Soviets in case they invaded Europe. While test fires of this weapon proved it to be fairly inaccurate, each shot would still have been useful in irradiating everything in the area, preventing troop movements and giving NATO forces time to respond. Even at its lowest setting (which could range between 10 and 250 tons), the Davy Crockett would still have been quite capable of producing lethal radiation over roughly a quarter mile. In the case of it’s minimum range setting, this would have included its operators.
Some of the roughly two-thousand that were produced saw deployment with the US Army between 1961 and 1971. The W54 warhead that was used was the smallest and lightest fission bomb (at 51 pounds) ever deployed by the US. The M388 Projectile that the warhead was attached to was time-fused, meaning crews had to manually compute the time of flight from the launcher to the target zone. It also had no recall feature, meaning that once it had been fired there was no way for it to self destruct and it would detonate. No official reason is given for pulling the Davy Crockett from field use, however, given the drawbacks listed here (as well as some of its “benefits”) it’s not very hard to see why this weapon was pulled.
I fully expect Gentleman Hunter to send me an email someday suggesting that we fire one of these off in the desert. So here’s to 540 million dollars of taxpayer money and government ingenuity. Cheers Gentlemen!”