World Nuclear Arsenals 2009

A compilation depicting estimates of current nuclear arsenals worldwide.
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"Nonstrategic" Warheads [1]

Nondeployed Systems [2]

Total Nuclear Arsenal




8,800 [3]

~14,000 [a]

United States



+5,150 [4]

~10,500 [b]


>125 [c]


>125 [5]


300 [d]


United Kingdom

~160 [e]

~160 [6]


~80 [f]



~50 [f]



~60 [f]


North Korea

<10 [f]




1. The term "nonstrategic" traces back to the Cold War, when strategic weapons were considered to be capable of reaching the Soviet Union and United States; nonstrategic were considered to be more short-ranged. While these terms are applicable to disarmament discussions regarding the U.S.S.R. and U.S., they may not be relevant to other contexts (e.g., what may be strategic for India may be nonstrategic for the United States). 

2. For the purposes of this table, "nondeployed systems" refers to warheads held as spares, in an inactive reserve, or awaiting dismantlement.

3. This figure includes intact nuclear warheads both in reserve or awaiting dismantlement. Unlike the United States, in the case of Russia it is difficult to distinguish between warheads that are in reserve and those awaiting dismantlement.

4. The U.S. Department of Defense formally removed 5,150 reserve warheads by the end of 2007 as part of the administration's declaration to reduce the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile by nearly 50 percent. Now under control of the U.S. Department of Energy, these weapons currently sit at bases, waiting to be moved to central storage by 2012 and dismantled by 2023.

5. Estimates on China's nuclear forces have generally been derived from the U.S. Department of Defense's 2008 report on Chinese military power (see footnote c). For some land-based ballistic missiles, China may have more missiles than launchers and the DoD does not count the DH-10 land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) as being nuclear-armed. Due to secrecy surrounding its nuclear program, speculation about the size of China's nuclear stockpile vary. For example, in 2008 Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen estimated that China has approximately 176 warheads (and potentially an additional 65 warheads in storage), including about 15 nuclear-capable versions of the DH-10. They also estimated that a portion of the Hong-6 force (around 20 aircraft) are being modified to carry the DH-10 and could therefore have a nuclear role. See Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Chinese Nuclear Forces 2008," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2008, Vol. 64, No. 3, pp. 42-44, 45.

6. The U.K. may possess spares.


a. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Russian Nuclear Forces 2008," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2008, Vol. 64, No. 2, pp. 54-57, 62.

b. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "U.S. Nuclear Forces 2008," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 2008, Vol. 64, No. 1, pp. 50-53, 58.

c. U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Annual Report on Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2008." See also Norris and Kristensen, "Chinese Nuclear Forces 2008," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Muthiah Alagappa, The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), pp. 16, 170-71; Jeffrey Lewis, The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China's Search for Security in the Nuclear Age (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), pp. 25-52; and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2007: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 535-538.

d. Speech by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, "Presentation of Le Terrible in Cherbourg," March 21, 2008.

e. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2007: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

f. See Federation of American Scientists, "Status of World Nuclear Forces 2008"; also Mark Fischetti, "Special Report: The Nuclear Threat," Scientific American, November 2007, pp. 76-77.

End of document

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