The Peacekeeper Missile, The Nuclear Weapon So Deadly It Had To Be Banned

Published March 22, 2016
Updated February 6, 2019

While this ultra powerful nuclear weapon was too deadly to stay in use, here's your one chance to see the peacekeeper missile in action.

Peacekeeper Missile

These eight lights are actually unarmed nuclear missiles shooting into the atmosphere. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Peacekeeper missile is anything but peaceful.

These eight lights beaming down on the Marshal Islands like a scene from War of the Worlds is not a sight you’d ever want to see in person. Thankfully, the above photo captured only a test of the eight re-entry vehicles from a single Peacekeeper missile — a missile so deadly the United States agreed to destroy all of them by 2003 as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II.

Peacekeeper missiles are more than 70 feet long and weigh more than 198,000 pounds. They can carry up to 11 nuclear warheads that each split and strike different targets, as seen in the image above.

When a Peacekeeper is launched, it is shot 50 feet into the air via pressurized gas, boosted into space on a rocket and guided toward the target with an internal navigation system. The top of the rocket (the re-entry section) detaches and the warheads go their separate ways as they re-enter the atmosphere. This all happens in a matter of seconds.

The first successful test flight (without attached nuclear warheads) was in 1983, launched from the Central Coast of California. The Peacekeeper traveled 4,190 miles and then dropped six re-entry vehicles on the Kwajalein Missile Test Range near the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The undated image above shows a similar launch, but with eight re-entry vehicles.

Had this not been a test, and had the re-entry vehicles been armed with warheads, they would have had the blast power of 25 Hiroshima-sized bombs.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines graduated with a Bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University, and his writing has appeared in Men's Journal, Inverse, and VinePair.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.