Nuclear forces

At the start of 2014 nine states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—possessed approximately 4000 operational nuclear weapons. If all nuclear warheads are counted, these states together possessed a total of approximately 16 300 nuclear weapons (see table below) compared to 17270 in early 2013.

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Overall inventories are declining, primarily due to the United States and Russia continuing the drawdown of their nuclear arsenals as a result of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) and unilateral reductions. But the pace of reductions appears to be slowing compared with a decade ago. At the same time, all the nuclear-armed states are modernizing their remaining nuclear forces and appear determined to retain sizeable nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future.

The USA and Russia continue to reduce their arsenals but at a slower pace than a decade ago and have extensive modernization programs underway for their remaining nuclear delivery systems, warheads, and production facilities. The nuclear arsenals of the other smaller nuclear-armed states are considerably smaller, but all are either developing or deploying new weapons or have announced their intention to do so.

Reliable information on the status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of the nuclear-armed states varies considerably. The USA has disclosed substantial information about its stockpile and forces, and the UK and France have also declared some information. Russia refuses to disclose the detailed breakdown of its forces counted under the New START treaty (even though it shares the information with the USA), and the US Government has stopped releasing detailed information about Russian and Chinese nuclear forces.

China, India and Pakistan are the only nuclear weapon states that are expanding their nuclear arsenals, while Israel appears to be waiting to see how the situation in Iran develops. There is an emerging consensus in the expert community that North Korea has produced a small number of nuclear weapons, as distinct from rudimentary nuclear explosive devices.


World nuclear forces, January 2014

All estimates are approximate.

CountryYear of first nuclear testDeployed warheadsaOther warheadsTotal Inventory
United States 1945 1920 5380 7300
Russia 1949 1600 6400 8000
United Kingdom 1952 160 65 225
France 1960 290 10 300
China 1964 .. 250 250
India 1974 .. 90–110 90–110
Pakistan 1998 .. 100–120 100–120
Israel .. .. 80 80
North Korea 2006 .. 6–8 6–8
Total 3970 12 350 16 300

Source:
SIPRI Yearbook 2014 (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2014).

 

‘Deployed’ means warheads placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.

 

 

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