Operation Redwing was one of the major series of atmospheric tests of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons conducted by the United States of America in the 1950s, before the first major atmospheric test ban treaty was signed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Thirteen different atmospheric test series were conducted before Redwing, including the 'Trinity' test at Alamogordo, NM in 1945. Redwing was carried out in the Marshall Islands, in the area around the Bikini and Enewetak atolls.

From May to July of 1956, there were seventeen seperate 'shots' (nuclear device tests) in Operation Redwing, the most numerous of any US tests at the time.

Operation Redwing was conducted under an 'energy budget'. A previous test series, Operation Castle had exceeded the expected energy release by almost 100% (26 megatons expected, 48.2 megatons actual). This massive amount of unexpected energy led to a number of immediate radiation related injuries and at least one death (note: The lingering effects of the radioactive fallout are possibly responsible for many more radiation injuries since the Castle tests). Of the 48.2 megatons released in Operation Castle, 30.5 megatons was fallout-producing fission energy, making Castle and extremely 'dirty' series. Redwing was conducted under the energy budget to prevent another nuclear incident.

Some highlights of Operation Redwing

  • Cherokee: The first 'air drop' (by way of B-52 Stratofortress), with a 4350 foot (error 150 feet) detonation. Was the first U.S. air drop of a thermonuclear H-bomb. Used for politics, to demonstrate U.S. ability to drop high yield nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union. Bomber crew dropped bomb 4 miles off target, and nearly all data was lost.
  • Dakota: The Dakota test was one of the most spectacular tests ever recorded (visually speaking). The Dakota fireball is famous, for the way it ominously creeps up out of the clouds, throwing a sick red light on them. The Dakota weapon was extremely successful (with a yield several hundred kilotons greater than expected), and was soon put into production as the W-28 nuclear weapon. The W-28 remained one of the most common U.S. nuclear weapons, and was in service up until 1990, with the last one being dismantled in September of 1991.
  • Navajo: The Navajo weapon was very successful. It had a very high yield, and had an extremely high percentage of fusion energy release (95%). Fusion energy does not produce radioactive fallout, making Navajo the cleanest nuclear test by the United States period (It's all relative, however. Navajo may have been the cleanest percentage wise, but the total fission energy of Navajo was 225 kilotons, approximately ten Hiroshima weapons).
  • Tewa: The Redwing tests may have had the cleanest thermonuclear device, but it also had the 'dirtiest'. The Tewa weapon produced 5 megatons of energy, 87% of which was fission, the highest fission percentage in a US thermonuclear device ever (however, the Bravo shot of Operation Castle produced more fallout than the entirety of Operation Redwing, so again, it's all relative). The Tewa device was developed into the Mk-41, the highest yield nuclear weapon ever fielded by the United States (25 megatons).

    Redwing Original Schedule (as of 25 January 1956)
    Shot Name	Date	Location		Test Method
    Lacrosse	May 1	Eniwetok (off Runit)	Barge
    Cherokee	May 1	Bikini (Namu)		Air Drop, 5000 Ft burst height
    Zuni		May 15	Bikini (Eninman)	Ground
    Erie		May 23	Eniwetok (Runit)	300 Ft tower burst
    Seminole	May 28	Eniwetok (Bogon)	Ground
    Yuma		June 1	Eniwetok (Aomon)	200 Ft tower
    Flathead	June 2	Bikini (Yurochi)	Barge
    Blackfoot	June 7	Eniwetok (Runit)	200 Ft tower
    Inca		June 8	Eniwetok (Rujoru)	200 Ft tower
    Huron		June 12	Bikini (Yurochi)	Barge
    Osage		June 14	Eniwetok (Runit)	Air drop, 700 Ft burst height
    Kickapoo	June 18	Eniwetok (Aomon)	300 Ft tower
    Navajo		June 18	Bikini (Yurochi)	Barge
    Mohawk		July 1	Eniwetok (Eberiru)	300 Ft tower
    Apache		July 1	Bikini (Yurochi)	Barge
    Tewa		July 7	Bikini (Yurochi)	Barge
    Redwing Actual Results
    Shot Name	Time* Date	Yield - Actual (Predicted)
    Lacrosse	18:25 4 May	40 kt (25-50 kt) 
    Cherokee	17:51 20 May	3.8 Mt 
    Zuni		17:56 27 May	3.5 Mt (2-3 Mt) 
    Yuma		19:56 27 May	0.19 kt 
    Erie		18:15 30 May	14.9 kt 
    Seminole	00:55 6 June	13.7 kt (10 kt) 
    Flathead	18:26 11 June	365 kt 
    Blackfoot	18:26 11 June	8 kt 
    Kickapoo	23:26 13 June	1.49 kt 
    Osage		01:14 16 June	1.7 kt 
    Inca		21:26 21 June	15.2 kt (10-15 kt) 
    Dakota		18:06 25 June	1.1 Mt (800 kt) 
    Mohawk		18:06 2 July	360 kt 
    Apache		18:06 8 July	1.85 Mt 
    Navajo		17:56 10 July	4.5 Mt 
    Tewa		17:46 20 July	5 Mt (6-8 Mt) 
    Huron		18:12 21 July	250 kt
    *Times are Greenwich Mean Time
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