Fact Sheet: Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories in 2013
Prepared by Lesley McNiesh
Updated by Justin Bresolin and Sam Kane
CHART: Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 2013
Nuclear weapons programs are generally shrouded in secrecy and all of the totals listed above should be considered estimates. The numbers in the chart above are based on the most recent available estimates from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Nuclear Notebook series by Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen. The specific sources include 2013 data on “Non-P5 Nuclear-Armed States” and “US Nuclear Forces,” 2012 data on "Indian Nuclear Forces," and 2011 data on "British Nuclear Forces".
Implementing New START treaty: According to State Department figures from the latest New START data exchange, as of March 1, 2013, the United States had 1,654 deployed strategic warheads and Russia had 1,480 deployed strategic warheads. This is a respective drop of 68 and 19 warheads since the data exchange six months previously. U.S. totals are lower than the estimates in the chart primarily because New START counts bombers as having one warhead each, even though up to 20 warheads can be assigned to each bomber. In Russia’s case, the number of warheads assigned to delivery systems in the chart also includes warheads assigned to submarines in overhaul, which are also not counted as deployed by the treaty. Under New START, both the United States and Russia must reduce their stockpiles of deployed strategic warheads to less than 1,550 warheads by 2018. According to the December 2012 State Department report, operations to reduce U.S. missile launchers will begin in 2015.
Warheads held in reserve: Some states, including the United States, keep non-deployed warheads in reserve as a hedge against unexpected changes in the security environment or technological failures in the deployed stockpile. Warheads held in reserve are different than warheads awaiting dismantlement, although in the chart above both are included in the “total inventory” category.
Different types of nuclear weapons: The United States and Russia have both (1) strategic nuclear weapons, which are delivered by long-range delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMS, long range bombers) and targeted against strategic assets such as an enemy’s nuclear forces and war-supporting infrastructure, and (2) non-strategic nuclear weapons, which typically have lower yields, shorter ranges, and are not limited by any arms control treaties. While this chart captures approximate numbers, it does not reflect differences in the specific yields of a state’s warheads or the accuracy of its delivery systems. Although the U.S. military has yet to make a formal announcement, it is estimated by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that all remaining W80-0 “tomahawk” cruise missiles and their warheads have been retired, leaving only B61 gravity bombs. Approximately 200 of these bombs are deployed in 5 NATO countries across 6 bases.
Different approaches to storage and posture: The United States and Russia keep many of their weapons on launch-ready alert, capable of being launched within minutes of a decision to do so, whereas China and Pakistan reportedly store all of their nuclear warheads separate from their delivery vehicles. Some of these differences are captured in the chart by including the two distinguishable “deployed” and “non-deployed” nuclear weapons categories.
US 2010 release of total stockpile number: The US government disclosed in April 2010 that as of September 30, 2009, the total US stockpile had 5,113 warheads. On March 1st, 2013, Drs. Hans Kristensen and Robert S. Norris revised that total to an estimated 4,650 warheads. This number excludes approximately 3,000 thousand warheads awaiting dismantlement, whereas the totals in the chart above include weapons awaiting dismantlement.
Russia: Much like the U.S. stockpile, estimates of Russia’s non-deployed warheads do not include the several thousand warheads awaiting dismantlement. However, these are included in the total inventory. Listed estimates are provided by the Federation of American Scientists as of early 2013.
Israel: Israel’s policy of opacity regarding its nuclear program means that it has never revealed any details of its nuclear program, or even acknowledged that it possesses nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence believes that Israel possesses an estimated stockpile of 80 nuclear warheads. However, they are believed to possess sufficient fissile material to increase that total to 200, should they desire.
1. Non-deployed nuclear weapons are weapons held in reserve that are not assigned to a deployed delivery system or have been retired and are awaiting dismantlement.
2. According to the Russian government, these non-strategic nuclear weapons are assigned to armed forces but held in central storage.
3. The United Kingdom has stated that it plans to reduce its inventory of nuclear weapons to less than 180 warheads within 15 years.
4. The Chinese have kept a relatively small, steady arsenal at roughly its current size since the 1980’s, although Chinese concerns that growing US and Russian offensive and defensive capabilities could undermine its deterrent may lead the country to consider increases in the future.
5. North Korea is not believed to be capable of fixing its warheads to delivery systems, though in the aftermath of its 3rd nuclear test in February 12th, 2013 many experts believe that it is making progress toward this goal.