The M454 Nuclear Projectile: A Compact Artillery Marvel

by , under Cold War, Germany, Military, nuclear weapons, U.S. Army

The M454 nuclear projectile, also known as the Artillery Fired Atomic Projectile (AFAP), holds a unique place in military history. Developed by the United States, this small-yield tactical weapon was designed for use with standard 155-millimeter howitzers. Let’s explore the fascinating details of the M454.

Origins and Specifications

  1. Development and Deployment:
    • The M454 entered service in 1963 and remained operational until 1992.
    • It was primarily used with the M109 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer.
    • The M454 was a tactical nuclear weapon, providing divisional commanders with close nuclear fire support.
  2. Technical Details:
    • Length: Approximately 34 inches (86 cm)
    • Diameter155 millimeters (6.1 inches)
    • Weight120 pounds (54 kg)
    • Blast Yield: Equivalent to 0.072 kilotonnes of TNT (0.30 TJ)
  3. Versatility and Effectiveness:
    • The M454 had a range of 14,000 meters (8.7 miles).
    • It was five times more effective against infantry and light armored vehicles (LAV) compared to standard high-explosive (HE) projectiles.
    • The unified charge module (UCM) minimized logistical complexity by using a single type of modular charge.

Legacy and Impact

  1. Smallest Nuclear Weapon:
    • The M454’s yield was equivalent to 72 tonnes of TNT, making it one of the smallest nuclear weapons ever developed by the U.S.
    • Despite its compact size, it packed a significant punch.
  2. Historical Context:
    • The M454 emerged during the Cold War, reflecting the era’s emphasis on tactical nuclear capabilities.
    • It provided flexibility for commanders, allowing them to engage deep targets beyond the reach of other available nuclear weapons.
  3. Retirement and Successors:
    • The M454 was retired in 1992.
    • Its legacy lives on through successors like the MGM-140 ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System).