U.S. Biological Weapons - Agents Studied and Weaponized

Agents Studied and Weaponized

When the U.S. biological warfare program ended in 1969 it had developed seven mass-produced, battle-ready biological weapons in the form of agents that cause: anthrax, tularemia, brucellosis, Q-fever, VEE, and botulism. In addition staphylococcal enterotoxin B was produced as an incapacitating agent. In addition to the agents that were ready to be used, the U.S. program conducted research into the weaponization of more than 20 other agents. They included: smallpox, EEE and WEE, AHF, Hantavirus, BHF, Lassa fever, glanders, melioidosis, plague, yellow fever, psittacosis, typhus, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever (RVF), CHIKV, late blight of potato, rinderpest, Newcastle disease, bird flu, and the toxin ricin.

Besides the numerous pathogens that afflict human beings, the U.S. had developed an arsenal of anti-agriculture biological agents. These included rye stem rust spores (stored at Edgewood Arsenal, 1951–1957), wheat stem rust spores (stored at the same facility 1962–1969), and the causative agent of rice blast (stored at Fort Detrick 1965–1966).

A U.S. facility at Fort Terry focused primarily on anti-animal biological agents. The first agent that was a candidate for development was foot and mouth disease (FMD). Besides FMD, five other top-secret biological weapons projects were commissioned on Plum Island. The other four programs researched included RVF, rinderpest, African swine fever, plus eleven miscellaneous exotic animal diseases. The eleven miscellaneous pathogens were: Blue tongue virus, bovine influenza, bovine virus diarrhea (BVD), fowl plague, goat pneumonitis, mycobacteria, "N" virus, Newcastle disease, sheep pox, Teschers disease, and vesicular stomatitis.

Work on delivery systems for the U.S. bioweapons arsenal led to the first mass-produced biological weapon in 1952, the M33 cluster bomb. The M33's sub-munition, the pipe-bomb-like cylindrical M114 bomb, was also completed and battle-ready by 1952. Other delivery systems researched and at least partially developed during the 1950s included the E77 balloon bomb and the E86 cluster bomb. The peak of U.S. biological weapons delivery system development came during the 1960s. Production of cluster bomb submunitions began to shift from cylindrical to spherical bomblets, which had a larger coverage area. Development of the spherical E120 bomblet took place in the early 1960s as did development of the M143 bomblet, similar to the chemical M139 bomblet. The experimental Flettner rotor bomblet was also developed during this time period. The Flettner rotor was called, "probably one of the better devices for disseminating microorganisms", by William C. Patrick III.

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