Atomic Awesome

The Cold War That Wasn’t – Why call it a SLAM when its a slow kill?

Not an actual image but you knew that

Image from Bisbos.dom

The Supersonic Low Altitude Missile has been featured on this site before back in 2010. It’s just time to dredge it up for the Cold War that wasn’t for a darned good reason.


Funny it doesn't look like a Disney character

Project Pluto. Named that way so that a certain scientist would ignore it.


Let’s start with a bit of backstory. Project Pluto was the US’s attempt to create an air breathing nuclear jet engine. There were two designs. One was direct and one was indirect.  The difference between these two will become very important. You can read about this in the previous story by Engineered here .

To catch you up a bit let me go into what the indirect one means since it plays important part. Instead of heating air in a jet combustion chamber with kerosene instead you inject the heat created from nuclear fusion into the chamber. This is a huge simplification of the process. The same expansion of the air happens as it does with a jet. Heck the engine that they are using is based on a basic aircraft jet engine.  When this works there is the benefit of having a jet motor that runs for months except for needing maintenance. Really this is genius isn’t it?    So if your shielding isn’t perfect you are running an engine with unfettered nuclear power. Do you smell what the fifties is cooking?


There has to be a Rocky movie in his future. We all know it.

Dwayne The Cold War Johnson


So this is where the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile comes into being. This is a design that just begs the question of who brought this into existence. This is also where it plays its role in the Cold War That Wasn’t because we can only guess how the Russians would have reacted. The SLAM’s flight path was to fly fast and low while seeding the ground with radiation thanks to its dirty nuclear motor. See where most thought they had a failure with the direct motor at Project Pluto other thought they had an opportunity. The advantage to direct nuclear power for that type of power is that you don’t have to worry about the weight of shielding. Heck when you turn it into a cruise missile there is even less worry about shielding. Now we are moving into area deniability.  Something that I bring up with the Davy Crocket on July 4th and with several of my older posts. This was a policy the US military had at the time.


It's not really dangerous if the picture looks cute

image from


This is the type of warfare that the US should never stepped its foot into but we were already there. It’s one we had done during WWII with the Japanese firebombing campaign.  The denial of land and workers for the military machine wasn’t new to us. It’s as if we looked what the Brits had done during the Second World War with the night bombing and just fell in love with it. It wouldn’t be until the early sixties that we would walk away from this finally.

As I mentioned in the Davy Crockett post Douglas Macarthur asked for eight to sixteen nukes to be dropped on the North Korea/China border to act in the land denial role. The thought was that this wouldn’t do permanent damage just a temporary slowdown.  Now put that up against the idea of the SLAM where civilians are outright going to get injured on the way to the target.  Hindsight is 20/20 but they had a lot of data on what they were doing when this was in development. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt but it isn’t easy.


  • Victor

    That is the most horrid idea I have ever heard.

    • brightlight

      Horrid yes but I want one….

    • ‘Tomic Boogaloo

      You and me both mate !
      I can handle it in Sci Fi, and just maybe a dirty messy form of propulsion when WAY out of Earths Orbit, but like, blecchh !

  • Rover 1

    To be fair to the British, they didn’t start it.

    The Blitz didn’t just strike London either, all of Englands major cities were bombed. There wouldn’t have been a Dresden without a Coventry first. Coventry was first bombed in 1940. After a long five years of conflict Dresden was bombed in 1945.

    What would you have done after your cities had been bombed?
    Coventry Cathedral, 1940.

    • Wayne Moyer

      An eye for an eye and all that.If the truth about that first bombing is to be believed it really changed the war. That the pilot went off course and missed his target. Considering the tech of the time there is easily a lot of truth to be pulled from that. The reaction to it makes total sense and none of us would have done any differently. Churchill having been a WW1 veteran would have remembered what the Germans did and still held that grudge.
      On a side topic the Brits lost a lot of their best and brightest during the phony war. Yet would go on to save many of their men because of the night time bombing campaign. Where the US would use precision bombing that wouldn’t become very precious until much later in the war. If you look at our losses versus what the Brits lost it’s astounding. Two very different approaches to the same thing. Just a different way to look at the meat grinder.

      • Rover 1

        Most people are fairly sure that the Germans would have done more but they never got any sort of air superiority over the UK and they had the wrong sort of bombers.
        When one looks at the methods Hitler chose to wage his war in Europe, it’s hard to equate the allies bombing even with an ‘eye for an eye’.

        • Wayne Moyer

          The Germans were set up for a six month war with medium bombers. I only mean an eye for an eye with the the very start with London for Berlin. it being the start of the change over for both sides switching bombing only military targets to being willing to bomb civilian ones as well. Up to that point I don’t think there was a point that that the Germans had anything civilian only from the Spanish Civil War up to the bombing of London and then the British response.

    • Rob Connolly

      “Britain’s major cities” – the Luftwaffe spread their love over the whole country. They had a dry run in 1917 and 1918 as well, with Gothas and Zeppelins. Oh, and the Luftwaffe had a noun they created after Coventry – an effectively bombed target was said to be “Coventrated”.

      • Rover 1

        Not’ Britain’s major cities’ but ‘England’s major cities. I can’t find any record that cities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were hit. Not for any political reason, they were just too far for an overstretched Luftwaffe. My grandfather was head of chemicals research at I.C.I., a company that thanks to British mismanagement, no longer exists, but Imperial Chemical Industries was then larger than DuPont is today. As their research involved explosives and their manufacture, the entire operation was moved to secret factories in Cornwall, in the UK south, away from the Manchester/Cheshire/North Midlands nexus where some industry still exists today,(notably Rolls Royce.)The Coventry bombing was a wake up for the UK as well. He had to take his family so my mother spent the war in Cornwall.

        I do find it ludicrous that revisionists would criticize the allied response to the German attacks and somehow equate that to a war crime. The war crimes were the Concentration camps.

        As you correctly point out, the Germans had a record.

    • ‘Tomic Boogaloo

      well .. yeah but ol ‘Bomber’ Harris WAS a bit crazy, and incinerating Dresden probably WASN’T a total tactical necessity ..

      Yes, we WERE in a war for survival, yet Churchill had advance knowledge of the Coventry Raid – but darent put countermeasures/precautions in place, for fear of ‘showing his hand’ that we had the ENIGMA/MAGIC intercepts, and could ‘read their email’ (sic)

      ‘Truth is the first casualty of war’

      • Rover 1

        The whole point is that it wasn’t a ‘tactical necessity’ but a political one.

        At the time, how could you tell the British public that you weren’t going to strike back as hard as you could because ?. Why would the British put up with being bombed and not bomb back?

        As I put in the very first sentence in this thread,

        “To be fair to the British, they didn’t start it.”

        And while one can quote Aeschylus(456-524 BC) with his often mis-attributed,

        ”Truth is the first casualty of war’

        I prefer another quote from this ancient Greek, (or the translation thereof)

        “Ignorance is a disease that can never truly be cured”

        Harris wasn’t a ‘bit crazy’ . He was a sane man, at war, under considerable pressure, fighting what is perhaps the most evil and destructive force in world history, the Hitler/Nazi ruled Germany of the Thirties and Forties.

        As Harris himself put it,

        “The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.”

        He wasn’t the only person with this outlook, as he himself said,

        ” Here I will only say that the attack on Dresden was at the time considered a military necessity by much more important people than myself.”

        It is true that there has been much discussion on this in the years since but at the time it was seen as part of war, a war the allies hadn’t started. I note that much the same discussion goes on about the US fire bombing of Tokyo, and the first and only use of tactical nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        War is terrible.

        Which is why you shouldn’t start one.

        • ‘Tomic Boogaloo

          well theres a couple of ways of defining “as hard as you could” – against military targets, sure, but i figure bombers are assets which should be used efficiently to reduce the enemies military-industrial capacity to wage war – I don;t think Dresden was that

          Interesting that Harrris claims “I was following orders” – maybe it was Churchill’s idea, rather than Harris’ boffins – or on being advised of the possibility Churchill embraced it ?

          Sadly, though todays leaders don’t have a funny logo, a silly mustache, and actual centralised death camps, such forces are far from unique in recent years 🙁

          “which is why you shouldn’t start one”
          In the light of todays news (Trump bombing Syria) I wholeheartedly agree !

  • Rob Connolly

    I used to think I was pretty well-up on my thermonuclear weapons, but I’d never heard of the SLAM or Pluto until last year. It is the most terrifying weapon I have ever encountered. You mention the dirty nuclear emission via exhaust, but what about the reactor? As a cruise missile it has no crew, thus no need for reactor shielding – hello Ivan below, meet a fatal dose of radiation! And would supersonic low-level transit have also caused damage to buildings and their fleshy contents?

  • P161911

    So basically, one long nuclear fart that ends in dropping a big bomb.