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Blue Peacock

From Academic Kids

Blue Peacock was the codename of a British project in the 1950s with the goal to place a number of 10 kiloton nuclear mines in the Rhine area in Germany. The mines would have been detonated by wire or an eight-day timer. If they were disturbed they were set to explode within 10 seconds. The project was developed at the Armament Research and Development Establishment at Fort Halstead in Kent in 1954.

The Blue Peacock consisted of a huge steel sphere casing containing a plutonium core surrounded by high explosives. The design was based on the free falling Blue Danube, but the Blue Peacock weighed over seven tonnes. In July 1957 the army ordered ten Blue Peacocks for use in Germany, but in the end the risks of the nuclear fallout and the questionable idea of hiding nuclear weapons in an allied country determined that the project was cancelled by the Ministry of Defence in February 1958.

One technical problem was that buried objects - especially during winter - can get very cold, and it was possible the mine would not have worked after some days underground. Various methods to get around this were studied, such as wrapping the bombs in insulating blankets. However, one proposal was sufficiently outlandish that it was taken as an April Fool joke when declassified in 2004 - the suggestion to include live chickens in the mechanism. The chickens would be sealed inside the casing, with a supply of food and water; they would remain alive for a week or so, which was the expected maximum lifetime of the bomb in any case. The body heat given off would, it seems, be enough to keep all the relevant components at a working temperature.

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