“The Last of the Big Dogs” has been dismantled, and now sits in the Freedom Museum in Pampa, Texas. Disassembly workers at Pantex dubbed the B53 uranium bomb. It’s a megaton-class, weighed about 10,000 pounds and is about the size of a minivan according to a recent article from the Amarillo Globe-News.
It was designed to be air-dropped from a B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber.
Most B53s were disassembled in the 1980s, but a significant number remained in the U.S. arsenal until 1997.
They were the largest and the most destructive weapon in the U.S. nuclear arsenal with 600 times the power of “Little Boy,” the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan.
Roger Jacobs is a Pantex process engineer. He says Pantex hadn’t dismantled a B53 for more than two decades when the plant began to scrap bombs that had been in service across the globe. To dismantle the massive weapon, new processes and specialized tooling had to be designed under the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Seamless Safety program, Jacobs says.
“We designed and fabricated all the tooling,” he says, “We’d separate the nonnuclear components off. The tail would come off with its parachute assemblies, send it to another facility for dismantlement, then it would go into the actual dismantlement of the electronic parts of the weapon as well as the nuclear explosive package.”
Tons of aluminum and steel from the program were recovered and sold to local scrap metal dealers after being demilitarized.
Jacobs went on to say, “Nothing is wasted. We keep track of everything. Anything that is a precious metal or anything that is a Pantex asset, when it is destroyed a Pantex person from our disposition group is there to watch it as it is being crushed, melted whatever.”
The B53 is on loan to the Freedom Museum for two years.