Nuclear forces

At the start of 2015, nine states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea)—possessed approximately 15 850 nuclear weapons, of which 4300 were deployed with operational forces. Roughly 1800 of these weapons are kept in a state of high operational alert.

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The total number of nuclear warheads in the world is declining, primarily due to Russia and the USA continuing to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Together, their arsenals account for more than 90 per cent of global inventories of nuclear weapons. The pace of reductions appears to be slowing compared with a decade ago, however, and neither country has made substantial cuts in its deployed strategic nuclear forces since bilaterally agreeing the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START). At the same time, both Russia and the USA have extensive and expensive modernization programmes under way for their nuclear delivery systems, warheads and production facilities.

The other legally recognized nuclear weapon states, as defined by the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT)—China, France, Russia, and the UK—are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so. In the case of China, this may involve a modest increase in the size of its nuclear weapon inventory. All five legally recognized nuclear weapon states appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely.

The nuclear arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states are considerably smaller. However, India and Pakistan are both expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles as well as their missile delivery capabilities, while Israel is testing a new long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile. A ninth state—North Korea—appears to be improving its military nuclear capability, but it is not known whether it has developed a nuclear warhead that can be carried by a ballistic missile.

World nuclear forces, January 2015

All estimates are approximate.

CountryYear of first nuclear testDeployed warheadsaOther warheadsTotal Inventory
United States 1945 2080 5180 7260
Russia 1949 1780 5720 7500
United Kingdom 1952 150 65 215
France 1960 290 10 300
China 1964 .. 260 260
India 1974 .. 90–110 90–110
Pakistan 1998 .. 100–120 100–120
Israel .. .. 80 80
North Korea 2006 .. .. 6-8
Total 4300 11 545 15 850

SIPRI Yearbook 2015 (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2015).


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