Nuclear Darkness

Status of World Nuclear Forces

Courtesy of Hans Kristensen and the Federation of American Scientists.

19 years after fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the world's combined stockpile of nuclear weapons remains at a very high level: approximately 22,300. 95% of these weapons are possessed by the U.S. and Russia.

7,900 nuclear warheads are now considered deployed and operational (ready for immediate use). 7275 of these warheads reside in the nuclear arsenals of the U.S and Russia.

A total of approximately 2,000 U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads are kept on high alert, quick-launch status. They are mounted on long-range land and sea-based ballistic missiles, and kept ready to launch with only a few minutes warning. They can reach their targets anywhere on Earth in 30 minutes or less.

The exact number of nuclear weapons in each country's possession is a closely held national secret. Despite this limitation, however, publicly available information and occasional leaks make it possible to make best estimates about the size and composition of the national nuclear weapon stockpiles:

Status of World Nuclear Forces 2010 *

Country Strategic Non-Strategic Operational Stockpile
 Russia  2,600 2,050a  4,650  12,000b
 United States  2,126 500c  2,626d 9,400e
 France  300 n.a. ~300 300f
 China  180 ? ~180 240g
 United Kingdom 160 n.a. <160 185h
 Israel  80 n.a. n.a. 80i
 Pakistan  70-90 n.a. n.a. 70-90i
 India  60-80 n.a. n.a. 60-80i
 North Korea  <10 n.a. n.a. <10j


 ~5,600k ~2,550k ~7,900k  ~22,300k

* All numbers are estimates and further described in the Nuclear Notebook in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and the nuclear appendix in the SIPRI Yearbook. Additional reports are published on the FAS Strategic Security Blog. Unlike those publications, this table is updated continuously as new information becomes available. Current update: April 6, 2010.

Russia's estimated total inventory of non-strategic warheads is approximately 5,390 warheads, down from 15,000 in 1991.
b The estimate for the size and composition of the total Russian inventory comes with considerable uncertainty but is based on Cold War levels, subsequent dismantlement rates, and official Russian statements. Perhaps as many as a quarter (~3,000) of the weapons listed may be awaiting dismantlement. An estimated average of 1,000 retired warheads are dismantled per year.
 c Approximately 200, probably including some inactive warheads, are
deployed in Europe.
 d An additional 2,500 warheads are spares and in central storage and not counted as operational.
In addition to the 5,200 warheads in the DOD stockpile, approximately 4,200 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement. In addition, more than 12,000 plutonium cores (pits) and some 5,000 Canned Assemblies (secondaries) are in storage. See here for breakdown of U.S. warhead inventory.
 f France is thought to have a small inventory of spare warheads but no reserve like the United States and Russia. An additional reduction announced by President Sarkozy in March 2008 will reduced the inventory to slightly less than 300 warheads in 2009.
 g Many "strategic" warheads are for regional use. The status of a Chinese non-strategic nuclear arsenal is uncertain. Some deployed warheads may not be fully operational. Additional warheads are in storage, for a total stockpile of approximately 240 warheads.
 h Only 50 missiles are left, for a maximum of 150 warheads. “Less than 160” warheads are said to be "operationally available," but a small number of spares probably exist too. Forty-eight missiles are needed to arm three SSBNs with a maximum of 144 warheads. One submarine with “up to 48 warheads” is on patrol at any given time. In addition to the operationally available warheads, Britain probably has a small inactive reserve.
 i All warheads of the four lesser nuclear powers are considered strategic. Only some of these may be operational. India and Pakistan are increasing their inventories, with Pakistan thought to have a slight lead.
 j Despite two North Korean nuclear tests, t
here is no publicly available evidence that North Korea has operationalized its nuclear weapons capability. A 2009 world survey by the U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) does not credit any of North Korea's ballistic missiles with nuclear capability.
 k Numbers may not add up due to rounding and uncertainty about the operational status of the four lesser nuclear weapons states and the uncertainty about the size of the total inventories of three of the five initial nuclear powers.