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SIPRI Yearbook 2010

SIPRI Yearbook 2010

8. World nuclear forces

8. World nuclear forces
SIPRI Yearbook 2010
Shannon N. Kile, Vitaly Fedchenko, Bharath Gopalaswamy, Hans M. Kristensen

Shannon N. Kile

Vitaly Fedchenko

Bharath Gopalaswamy

Hans M. Kristensen

I. Introduction

At the start of 2010 eight nuclear weapon states possessed more than7500 operational nuclear weapons (see table 8.1). Almost 2000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert. If all nuclear warheads are counted—operational warheads, spares, those in both active and inactive storage, and intact warheads scheduled for dismantlement—the United States, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel together possess a total of more than 22 000 warheads.

All five 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, the UK and the USA—appear determined to remain nuclear powers and are either modernizing or about to modernize their nuclear forces.1 At the same time, Russia and the USA are in the process of reducing their operational nuclear forces from cold war levels as a result of two bilateral treaties—the 1991 Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START Treaty) and the 2002 Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT).2 Sections II and III of this chapter discuss the composition of the deployed nuclear forces of the USA and Russia, respectively. The nuclear arsenals of the other three nuclear weapon states are considerably smaller, but all three states are either deploying new weapons or have announced their intention to do so. Sections IV–VI present data on the delivery vehicles and warhead stockpiles of the UK, France and China, respectively.

Reliable information on the operational status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of the three states that have never been party to the NPT—India, Israel and Pakistan—is difficult to find. In the absence of official declarations, the available information is often contradictory or incorrect. India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear strike capabilities, while Israel appears to be waiting to see how the situation in Iran develops. Sections VII–IX provide information about the Indian, Pakistani and Israeli

Table 8.1. World nuclear forces, January 2010

All figures are approximate.


Year of first nuclear test

Deployed warheadsb

Other warheadsc


United States


2 468

∼7 100d

∼9 600



4 630

7 300e

∼12 000

United Kingdom











. .





. .





. .




. .

. .




∼7 560

∼14 900

∼22 600

(a) North Korea conducted nuclear test explosions in 2006 and 2009, but there is no public information to verify that it has operational nuclear weapons.

(b) ‘Deployed’ means on missiles or bases with operational forces.

(c) These are warheads in reserve, awaiting dismantlement or that require some preparation (e.g. assembly or loading on launchers) before they become fully operationally available.

(d) This figure includes 2600 in reserve in the US Department of Defense stockpile (for a total stockpile of c. 5100 warheads). A further 3500–4500 are scheduled to be dismantled by 2022.

(e) This figure includes warheads in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.

(f) China’s warheads are not thought to be deployed on launchers.

(g) The stockpiles of India, Pakistan and Israel are thought to be only partly deployed.

nuclear arsenals, respectively. The nuclear capabilities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) are discussed in section X. Brief conclusions are given in section XI.

Appendix 8A contains tables of global stocks of fissile materials—highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium, the raw material for nuclear weapons. Appendix 8B gives details of nuclear explosions since 1945, with details of the May 2009 explosion in North Korea, which took the total number of explosions to 2054.

The figures presented here are estimates based on public information and contain some uncertainties, as reflected in the notes to the tables.


(1) According to the NPT, only states that manufactured and exploded a nuclear device prior to 1 Jan. 1967 are recognized as nuclear weapon states. For a summary and other details of the NPT see annex A in this volume.

(2) For summaries and other details of the START and SORT treaties see annex A in this volume.

Citation (MLA):
Kile, Shannon N., Vitaly Fedchenko, Bharath Gopalaswamy, and Hans M. Kristensen. "8. World nuclear forces." SIPRI Yearbook. SIPRI. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2017. <http://www.sipriyearbook.org/view/9780199581122/sipri-9780199581122-chapter-9.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Kile, S., Fedchenko, V., Gopalaswamy, B., & Kristensen, H. (2016). 8. World nuclear forces. In SIPRI, SIPRI Yearbook 2010: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 Feb. 2017, from http://www.sipriyearbook.org/view/9780199581122/sipri-9780199581122-chapter-9.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Kile, Shannon N., Vitaly Fedchenko, Bharath Gopalaswamy, and Hans M. Kristensen. "8. World nuclear forces." In SIPRI Yearbook 2010: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, SIPRI. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Retrieved 24 Feb. 2017, from http://www.sipriyearbook.org/view/9780199581122/sipri-9780199581122-chapter-9.xml