Lennart Berns describes how the Swedish Air Force repurposed its J 32B jet fighters to gather evidence about nuclear weapons tests during the Cold War

Six ‘collector’ capsules were fitted under the wings of a J 32B Lansen. These were opened for exactly 30 minutes at 46,000ft - the climb to that altitude took 12-15 minutes without an afterburner.

The US conducted the world’s first nuclear explosion in 1945 and the Soviet Union followed suit four years later. During the subsequent arms race in the 1950s, both countries conducted large numbers of nuclear weapons tests, with atomic and hydrogen bombs being exploded in the atmosphere, with some carried out near the tropopause at 33,000-46,000ft.

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