The bomb too big to use

On the morning of 30 October 1961, a Soviet Tu-95 bomber took off from Olenya airfield in the Kola Peninsula in the far north of Russia.

The Tu-95 was a specially modified version of a type that had come into service a few years earlier; a huge, swept-wing, four-engined monster tasked with carrying Russia’s arsenal of nuclear bombs.

The last decade had seen enormous strides in Soviet nuclear research. World War Two had placed the US and USSR in the same camp, but the post-war period had seen relations chill and then freeze. And the Soviets, presented with a rivalry against the world’s only nuclear superpower, had only one option – to catch up. Fast.