by Lauren Harper
In 1947, the National Bureau of Standards was developing the KINGFISHER weapons series. Initially conceptualized by the Department of the Navy, these were radar-controlled, subsonic, self-housing, airborne-guided missiles designed to combat floating targets that became a major research and development project after World War II.
In 1954, the Bureau was studying the electromagnetic measurements conducted by the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory during Operation Upshot-Knothole, a series of eleven nuclear test shots conducted in 1953 at the Nevada Test Site. The objective of the Bureau’s research was to obtain information for the development of an automatic, continuously-operating electromagnetic surveillance system capable of detecting pulses from atomic weapons detonated in “suspect areas,” which, if successful, would provide the earliest and most accurate detonation times. The Bureau conducted a similar series of studies that same year during Operation Castle.
For our third installment of FOIAsourcing, we are making available National Bureau of Standards reports recently provided to the Archive that originate between 1946 and 1960 and detail the development and testing of the above weapons-related innovations. Known today as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the non-regulatory sub-agency of the Department of Commerce is designed to “equip U.S. industry with the standards-related tools and information necessary to effectively compete in the global marketplace.” As these reports were issued in the immediate aftermath of World War II and at the height of the Cold War, do they provide any new information on the role of the emerging military-industrial complex, in the global marketplace or otherwise?