Operation Argus - South Atlantic
USS Neosho AO-143
as part of Task Force 88
and 8 other ships on this Top Secret Mission
provided its provisions as required.

Operation Argus was a series of three high-altitude nuclear tests conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission in the South Atlantic Ocean in August and September 1958. The results of Operation Argus proved the validity of the Christofilos theory.

This theory proposed that a radiation belt is created in the upper regions of the Earth’s atmosphere by high-altitude detonations. The radiation belt affects radio and radar transmissions, damages or destroys the arming and fuzing mechanisms of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile warheads, and endangers crews of orbiting space vehicles that might enter the belt.

The tests, conducted in complete secrecy, were not announced until the following year. Low-yield devices were carried to an altitude of approximately 300 miles by rockets before being detonated.

More than 4,500 military personnel and civilian scientists participated in the test operation.


The tests comprising 1958 Operation Argus were as follows:


X-17a Ready For Launch
  • ARGUS I, August 27, South 38.5 degrees, West 11.5 degrees, South Atlantic, rocket, weapons effects, 1-2 kt
  • ARGUS II, August 30, South 49.5 degrees, West 8.2 degrees, South Atlantic, rocket, weapons effects, 1-2 kt
  • ARGUS III, September 6, South 48.5 degrees, West 9.7 degrees, South Atlantic, rocket, weapons effects, 1-2 kt
All three shots were launched by a specially modified Lockheed X-17A three-stage missile fired from the USS Norton Sound (AVM 1)  The W-25 warhead produced yields of 1.7 kt, as in previous tests. The plutonium implosion W-25 warhead was developed for the unguided air-to-air rocket Genie, and was exceptionally light for the time 218 lb (98.9 kg), dimensions were 17.4 inches (width) and 25.8 inches (length). It had previously been fired three times, so its yield and reliability was well established. The X-17A was 42 feet 10 inches long with the Argus payload, and had a diameter of 91.12 Inches
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