Misty Castle: High-Explosive Nuclear Effects Simulations at White Sands Missile Range

Misty Castle V: Misers Gold (1989)

Date: 01 June 1989
Location: Permanent High-Explosive Test Site (PHETS), White Sands Missile Range
Explosive Charge: 2,445 tons, ANFO


Primary Objective: Provide a testbed for airblast, ground shock, dust loading, and thermal radiation effects for DoD-sponsored experiments. These experiments were designed to determine the response of tactical and strategic weapon systems, communications equipment, vehicles, and a variety of structures to a simulated nuclear environment.

Secondary Objective: Provide a thermal environment (in addition to airblast) for several experiments.

By the Numbers
  1. 164 experiments
  2. 7 airborne vehicles
  3. 9 Viper rockets
  4. 149 experiment monitoring cameras
  5. 1697 data recording channels
  6. 77 truck cycles of ANFO
  1. 4,761 documentary still photos
  2. 250 miles of cable
  3. 200 mature coniferous trees planted
  4. 66 ground motion gauges
  5. 181 diagnostic airblast gauges
Event Summary

Misers Gold was a high-explosive test sponsored by the Defense Nuclear Agency. It was detonated at 0930 hours on 1 June 1989. The explosive charge consisted of 2,445 tons of ammonium nitrate-fuel oil (ANFO) pumped into a 35-foot radius fiberglass hemisphere. The detonation of this charge provided the approximate equivalent airblast of a 4 kilotons nuclear device. The airblast and ground motion environment was used by a variety of agencies to collect basic explosive environment data or to test systems against a simulated nuclear environment.

Misers Gold was initially conceived as an 8 KT event in 1987. However, the primary driver for this was the Hardened Mobile Launcher (HML), which dropped its participation in the event in mid-FY-1987. Budget and experimenter requirements dictated a reduction to 4 KT at that time. Initial technical support plans were submitted to DNA starting in December 1987. The first project officers’ meeting (POM) was held in March 1988, the second in June 1988. The third POM was held in September 1988 and the fourth in January 1989. Numerous additional project officer meetings were held at the Permanent High Explosive Test Site (PHETS) on WSMR, New Mexico.

Many different measurements were taken from the air and incorporated aircraft, missiles, and balloons. Aircraft and airborne vehicles used in the test included:

  • 1x WB57F aircraft out of El Paso International Airport
  • 1x Cessna 180 out of Socorro Municipal Airport
  • 1x SR-71 from Beale Air Force Base, California
  • 1x U-2 from Beale Air Force Base, California
  • 1x NKC-135 out of Edwards Air Force Base, California
  • 2x buoyancy balloon tracers

Misers Gold, similar to Misty Picture, incorporated a ballistic reentry vehicle fly-through. Once the dust cloud was at a sufficient size, experimenters planned to launch nine Multiple Launch Rocket System Viper rockets and six dust sampler rockets into the cloud. The Vipers were tracked by ground radar as they flew through the cloud and were recovered by helicopter after the test. Experimenters also planned to launch 48 smoke trail tracers to measure photogrammetric flow velocities.

For Misers Gold, 8 hardened bunkers were placed near the charge between the 3 and 10 psi overpressure levels to allow remote digital recording of the various sensor outputs. In addition to the hardened bunkers, there were four instrumentation parks generally aligned with the cardinal compass directions. At each of the parks is a bermed structure similar to a quonset hut which houses a Recording Oscilloscope Sealed Environment System (ROSES). The ROSES name comes from the use of this unit at the Nevada Test Site.

An approximate layout of the Misers Gold testbed. Included in the test were experiments from Canada, the UK, Sweden, and Norway.

At the West Instrumentation Park was also located a large trailer used to record analog data. Both of these units were placed inside the bermed structure. The recording facilities at both the bunkers and parks were configured to operate remotely. They were unmanned. The closest manned site was the Timing and Firing (T&F) Park. For Misers Gold, the Defense Nuclear Agency provided 1,684 channels for experimental data recording. All of the digital recordings were made at the bunkers. Some other manned instrumentation trailers, such as the Thermal Radiation Simulation (TRS) control and trailer, were also located at the T&F Park. This park was about 11,365 feet west of the GZ.

The Misers Gold charge was detonated at 0930 hours on 01 June 1989. Approximately 13 seconds prior to charge detonation, the first of eight thermal radiation sources was ignited. The remaining TRS units were incrementally fired depending on individual experimenter environment requirements for thermal pulse to shockwave arrival separation.

Approximately 4 milliseconds after detonation, a bright flash was observed, followed by rapid disassembly of the charge container. The resulting blast produced by the violent expansion of the fireball resulted in measured peak overpressures in excess of 5,000 psi in close proximity to the charge and a 1 psi peak overpressure 1.3 miles from ground zero.

Measurements indicated an average airblast-induced ground shock propagation velocity of 8,208.7 feet per second near the charge, which decreased to 1,617.5 feet per second beyond a distance of 1,211 feet. The direct-induced ground shock velocity was 9,711 feet per second. Theoretical modeling estimated that the 2,445 tons of ANFO would create a crater 220 to 260 feet in diameter and 45 to 65 feet deep. The blast-induced crater was 233 feet in diameter, 55.3 feet deep, and over 1.09 million cubic feet in volume.

2 thoughts on “Misty Castle: High-Explosive Nuclear Effects Simulations at White Sands Missile Range

  1. I enjoyed reading the information provided and researched for all the Misty Castle projects. I appreciate the Museum putting this together for all the men and women who worked on the Stallion side of the range on these projects.

  2. I was stationed at WSMR after basic training. I remember before my release in early December 1965 reading that there was an event scheduled that would cause a flash and that it was not radioactive. At exactly one hour before the event while walking home from my duty station I observed a light, perhaps the brightness of a planet. I took five seconds for it to travel where i could see it above the horizon to directly over head where it faded out. The thing had no tail and it did not burn out. I know meteors, this was not a meteor. I wonder if the thing could have come from one of the forementioned non-nuclear test.

    ..My duty station was at the Post Library under Mrs Akers and Miss collins.

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