The State of the World's Nuclear Forces - Federation of American Scientists (2023)

The State of the World's Nuclear Forces - Federation of American Scientists (1)

nuclear weapons

31 March 23 | 4 min of reading | text fromAs Hansa Christensenifood codeiEliana JohnsiKate Cohen

Who owns the world's nuclear weapons?

Despite progress in reducing nuclear arsenals since the Cold War, the total global stockpile of nuclear warheads remains very high: as of early 2023, nine countries possessed about 12,500 warheads.

Currently, the US and Russia together hold about 89 percent of the world's total nuclear arsenal and more than 86 percent of the military stockpile of usable nuclear warheads. No other nuclear-weapon state currently believes it needs more than a few hundred nuclear weapons for national security, although many are increasing their stockpiles.

The global stockpile of nuclear weapons is shrinking, but more slowly than it has been in the last 30 years. Furthermore, these reductions are only because the US and Russia are still in the process of dismantling previously dismantled warheads.

The number of warheads in the global military stockpile, that is, the number of warheads deployed in operational forces, has again increased relative to the total stockpile of nuclear weapons.The United States is still slowly reducing its nuclear stockpile. Inventories in France and Israel are relatively stable. However, China, India, North Korea, Pakistan and the UK, and possibly Russia, are believed to be stockpiling (see map):

The State of the World's Nuclear Forces - Federation of American Scientists (2)

Of the approximately 12,500 nuclear warheads in the world, about 9,576 are in military stockpiles for use on missiles, aircraft, ships and submarines. The remaining warheads have been decommissioned but are still relatively intact and awaiting removal. Of the 9,576 warheads in the military stockpile, about 3,804 are manned by combat units (in missile or bomber bases). Of these, approximately 2,000 American, Russian, British and French warheads are in servicehigh alert, ready for use in a short time (see table):

Estimated global inventory of nuclear warheads in 2023

Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda and Eliana Reynolds, Federation of American Scientists, 2023.

The exact number of nuclear weapons each country possesses is a closely guarded state secret, so the estimates presented here are subject to considerable uncertainty. Most nuclear-weapon states provide little information about the size of their nuclear stockpiles. However, the level of confidentiality varies from country to country. Between 2010 and 2018, the US disclosed its total stockpile, but in 2019, the Trump administration disclosedstop this practiceBiden Administration 2020restore nuclear transparency— a short-lived victory for democratic nuclear responsibility — but then refused to release US inventory figures for 2021 or 2022. Also in the UK in 2021AnnounceIt will no longer release public data on its operational inventory, deployed warheads, or number of missiles deployed. In addition, both the United States and Russia have decided to stop sharing public information about their deployed strategic warheads and launchers starting in 2023, as required by the New START treaty.

However, despite these limitations, publicly available information, careful analysis of historical records, and occasional leaks provide the best estimates of the size and composition of countries' nuclear arsenals. See the table below for a breakdown of each nuclear-weapon state's warhead categories, as well as links to more detailed overviews of each state's arsenal:

The state of the world's nuclear forces in 2023

landuse strategicallynot used strategicallywithhold/not providewar ambushTotal stock (b)
NAS.1,670 (g)100 sati1.938(i)3.708(j)5.244(k)
France280 (L)Not applicable.10 (L)290290
Depth0 (m)Not applicable.410410410 (m)
Great Britain120(n)Not applicable.105225225(n)
Israel0Not applicable.Post-90-ePost-90-e90(o)
Pakistan0Not applicable.170170170 (page)
I0Not applicable.164164164(q)
North Korea0Not applicable.303030 (right)

The state of the world's nuclear forces in 2023

How to read this form:"Deployed strategic warheads" refers to warheads deployed on ICBM and heavy bomber bases. "Deployed non-strategic warheads" are those deployed at bases with operational short-range delivery systems. "Retained/non-deployed" warheads are those not deployed on launchers but in storage (weapons in bomber bases are considered deployed). "Military supplies" include active and inactive warheads in military custody for ordered delivery vehicles. "Total inventory" includes warheads in military storage as well as decommissioned but still intact warheads awaiting dismantling. See note below (NOTE: As estimates are updated, they may differ from the material printed below).


A"Military Stockpile" warheads are warheads held by the military and intended for use by the armed forces.
Other"Total inventory" includes warheads in military stockpiles as well as decommissioned but still intact warheads awaiting dismantling.
CThis number is higher than the aggregated data belowNew contract STARTBecause this table also counts bomber weapons deployed in bomber bases.A detailed overview of the Russian Armed Forces from 2022 can be found here.These figures are updated for future changes.
ManAll are declared as centralized storage, although some storage sites may be close to bases with combat troops. Many scrapped non-strategic warheads are believed to be awaiting dismantling.
electronicIt is estimated to contain 999 strategic warheads and all 1,816 non-strategic warheads.
FAlong with 4,489 warheads in the military stockpile, an estimated 1,400 scrapped warheads await dismantling. Public data is scarce, but we estimate that Russia dismantles 200 to 300 decommissioned warheads every year. Debating the Future of Russian Stockpiles: Part of the US Strategic Command and Intelligence Communityclaim"Russia's total nuclear stockpile is likely to increase significantly over the next decade — an increase largely driven by a projected increase in Russia's non-strategic nuclear arsenal." Others privately disagree. There is great uncertainty as to how many tactical weapons will be replaced by new nuclear versions compared to conventional weapons.You can find an overview of the Russian Armed Forces in 2022 here.
GThis figure is higher than the published aggregate figuresnew start dateBecause this table also counts bomber weapons deployed in bomber bases.A detailed overview of the US Armed Forces in 2023 can be found here.
HAbout 100 B61 bombs are stationed in six bases in five European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey).
andThe unassigned stockpile includes an estimated 1,670 strategic warheads and 100 non-strategic warheads in central storage.
JayUS governmentexplainAs of March 2018, their September 2017 inventory was 3,822 warheads. after that,The Trump administration has made a decisionNo more numbers. In 2021, the Biden administrationofficially recognizedThe number of warheads in the inventory and the number of dismantled warheads, noting that there were 3,750 warheads in the September 2020 inventory. Since then, more warheads have been decommissioned, bringing the stockpile to an estimated 3,700.
kWith approximately 3,700 warheads in the military inventory and approximately 1,500 dismantled warheads awaiting dismantling, approximately 20,000 plutonium cores (nuclear) and approximately 4,000 preserved components from dismantled warheads (secondary) are stored at the Texas Pantex facility and the Y-12 plant in Tennessee . For a detailed overview of the US Armed Forces in 2023.Look here.
LiftWeapons for France's only aircraft carrier are not usually on board, but may be available at short notice. Reduced warhead loading of some submarine missiles to increase targeting flexibility. For more information on the French nuclear forces,Look here).
riceIncreased Chinese offer, Ministry of Defense 2022claimBy 2030, China's nuclear arsenal will "contain approximately 1,000 active nuclear warheads." Some of these jumps are already underway, and our estimates explain some of them; however, those claims depend on a number of uncertainties, including the number of missile silos to be built, the number of warheads each missile will carry, and expectations for China's future fissile material production assumptions. It is understood that none of the warheads were fully deployed, but were stored under central control. China considers all of its nuclear weapons strategic, but the US military describes its intermediate- and intermediate-range missiles as non-strategic. Our detailed overview of China's nuclear forces in 2023 is herehere.
YesThe number of British warheads per submarine has been reduced from 48 to 40. This reduces the number of "combat" warheads from 160 to 120. The plan calls for the stockpile to be reduced to "no more than 180" by the mid-2020s. But Johnson's governmentAnnounced in 2021This would increase the stockpile to "not to exceed 260 warheads".A detailed overview of the UK's nuclear forces can be found here.
disasterAlthough Israel has produced enough plutonium for 100-200 warheads, the number of delivery platforms and US intelligence estimates suggest that the stockpile could contain about 90 warheads.Here is a detailed overview of 2021.
PThe estimate of the number of Pakistani warheads involves a great deal of uncertainty because neither the Pakistani nor the Western governments provide public information. None of Pakistan's warheads are believed to be armed with missiles, but are stored centrally, most of them in the southern region of the country. Additional warheads are in production.Here is a detailed overview of 2021.
askThe estimate of the number of Indian warheads involves a large amount of uncertainty since neither the Indian nor Western governments have provided any public information. Despite efforts to increase readiness, as far as we understand, India's nuclear warheads are not linked to missiles but are stored centrally. Bomber weapons are likely to be used for a relatively short time. Additional warheads are in production.Here is a detailed overview of 2022.
RAfter six nuclear tests, including two of 10 to 20 kilotons and one of more than 150 kilotons, we estimate that North Korea has produced enough fissile material for approximately 50 to 70 warheads. The number of assembled warheads is unknown, but smaller. We estimate that North Korea probably has about 30 short- and medium-range missile warheads assembled, although that number is sure to increase.Here is a detailed overview of 2022.
maliThe numbers may not add up due to rounding and uncertainty about the health of the smaller nuclear powers, as well as uncertainty about the total stockpiles of three of the original five nuclear powers.

For historical context, the number of nuclear weapons worldwide has declined significantly since the Cold War, from a peak of about 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 12,500 in early 2023. Administration officials often attribute this success to current or recent arms control agreements, but in in reality, most of the reduction occurred in the 1990s. Some also compare today's numbers to those of the 1950s, but that's like comparing apples and oranges; today's armed forces are far more capable.

Compared to the 1990s, the rate of reduction has slowed considerably and seems to be continuing only because of the dismantling of scrapped weapons, the trend is to increase the military stockpile (usable nuclear weapons) again.

Estimated world stockpile of nuclear warheads

Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda and Eliana Reynolds, Federation of American Scientists, 2023.

Instead of nuclear disarmament, the nuclear powers seem to plan to retain large arsenals indefinitely. This is contrary to the purpose and spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

all countries continue to modernize their remaining nuclear forces at an incredible rate, some have added new types and/or increased their role in national strategies and public statements, and all appear committed to maintaining nuclear weapons indefinitely.

You can find an overview of the global modernization program in our articleyearbookiMonitoring the prohibition of nuclear weapons.Individual country profiles are available atFAS Core Notebook.

The information available for each country varies widely, from the most transparent nuclear-weapon state (the United States) to the least transparent (Israel). While stockpile estimates for the United States are based on "real" numbers, estimates for several other nuclear powers are highly uncertain.

These nuclear weapons assessments were prepared by Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda, and Eliana Reynolds of the Federation of American Scientists. Their work builds on the pioneering work of analysts Thomas Cochran, Robert Norris and William Arkin, without whom this public service would not have been possible.

This work was supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Future of Life Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Longview Charitable Foundation, the New Land Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Stewart R. Mott Foundation Society, the Plowshares Fund, and individual donors. The authors are solely responsible for the statements and opinions expressed.

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