Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Charting a Parallel Course

Los Alamos has partnered with the U.S. Navy since the Manhattan Project to ensure U.S. national security.
March 22, 2016
Charting a Parallel Course

A Regulus nuclear-armed cruise missile sits aboard the USS Grayback submarine. The Regulus, designed by Los Alamos, was the first nuclear weapon to enter the Navy’s stockpile. (Photo: Open Source)

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  • Clay Dillingham
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The Navy-Los Alamos partner¬ship was forged during the dark days of history’s most deadly conflict.

At the end of World War II, the Laboratory faced an uncertain future: it had a product (nuclear weapons), but it lacked a customer. Fortunately, the Navy arrived on the scene in the closing months of 1945. Atomic weapons had revolutionized warfare, and naval leaders hoped to determine whether their ships could survive a nuclear blast.

The Navy collected a test fleet comprised of dozens of captured and surplus World War II ships of various types, and Los Alamos prepared nuclear weapons to use against them. The operation was code-named Crossroads and conducted at the Marshallese atoll of Bikini. These important weapons-effects tests confirmed naval vessels were vulnerable to atomic attack.

The Navy kept the Laboratory in business. In the decades that followed, Los Alamos designed a wide variety of nuclear weapons for the Navy. The first nuclear weapon to enter the Navy’s stockpile was the Regulus, a large cruise missile that could be fired from the deck of a submarine.

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