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An Intelligence Estimative Record: The Swallow and Caspian Sea Monster vs. the Princess and the Camel—The Cold War Contest for a Nuclear-Powered Aircraft

An Intelligence Estimative Record: The Swallow and Caspian Sea Monster vs. the Princess and the Camel—The Cold War Contest for a Nuclear-Powered Aircraft

By Raymond L. Garthoff

Little noted publicly—though it was the subject of continuous intelligence interest—was a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union from the mid-1950s into the early 1960s to develop a nuclear-propulsion system for very long-range and long-endurance strategic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Nuclear scientists involved in the competing American and Soviet nuclear weapons development programs recognized the possibility that nuclear power could be harnessed not only for generating electric power but also for propulsion of surface ships and submarines—and even for powering aircraft. The competition, in turn, generated a challenge for intelligence estimators, who had to determine the pace at which the Soviet Union was working to develop such an aircraft.

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Posted: Jul 25, 2016 01:31 PM
Last Updated: Jul 25, 2016 01:31 PM