<-- To the left: a photo of the "Minor Scale" explosive test, one of, if not the largest non nuclear explosion tests carried out by the US. Note the airplane in the foreground
I read this in the paper today. According to the AP,
A huge mushroom cloud of dust is expected to rise over Nevada’s desert in June when the Pentagon plans to detonate a gigantic, 700-ton explosive – the biggest open-air chemical blast ever at the Nevada Test Site – as part of research into developing weapons that can destroy deeply buried military targets, officials said Thursday.The test will detonate 700 tons of heavy ammonium nitrate fuel oil emulsion – creating a blast equivalent to 593 tons of TNT – in a 36-foot-deep hole near a tunnel in the center of the Nevada Test Site, according to official reports. It aims to allow scientists to model the type of ground shock that will be created, and to weigh the effectiveness of such a weapon against its collateral impact.
“To my knowledge, this will be the largest open-air chemical explosion that we’ve conducted,” said Darwin Morgan, spokesman for the Energy Department’s test site.
While 600 tons of TNT doesn't sound like small potatoes, it isn't that large. It's big for the Nevada Test Site, but small compared to what goes on in New Mexico. I think they're using NTS because there's already a tunnel there that can simulate a bunker.
Here's a list of recent explosive tests undertaken at the White Sands Missile Base
Test Name - Size of Test in Tons of TNT - Year of Test
Dice Throw 620 1979
Distant Runner 2250 1981
Direct Course - 609 1983
Minor Scale 4744 1985
Misty Picture - 4685 1987
Misers Gold 2445 1989
Distant Image - 2440 1991
So Divine Strake, the code name for this test, at 700 tons will the largest carried out in 15 years.