The Nuclear Charts – Who has the most nuclear weapons?

TOPOL-M ICBM (Src - Wikipedia)TOPOL-M ICBM (Src - Wikipedia)

With North Korea once again destabilising world peace with the test of a missile-ready hydrogen bomb we look at Nuclear Weapons stockpiles to see who has what.

Russia – 7000 Warheads, 1,950 Strategically operational.

Russia is no surprise at No1 with the most warheads. Most of Russia’s weapons are designed for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) with a small number of freefall weapons in existence. Russia does, however, appear to have designed a Nuclear Torpedo codenamed Status 6. Known as a “salted bomb” its 100 megaton warhead is designed to create tsunamis up to 500 metres tall and spread deadly Cobalt-60 over a wide area making it uninhabitable for around 100 years.

United States of America – 6,800 Warheads, 1411 Strategically operational.

As with first place, The USA in 2nd is no shock. The only country that has ever used a nuclear weapon in anger falls just behind Russia in terms of warhead but with its ICBM’s and SLBM’s, it still packs an equally hard punch. The similarity in numbers between the USA and Russia is a result of the parity found in MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) which means any nuclear attack by either country would be met with a full retaliatory response and ensure the destruction of both countries.

France – 3000 Warheads, 290 Strategically operational.

France is in 3rd place at the nuclear table with 3000 warheads. Having decommissioned their land-based ICBM’s, France’s nuclear arsenal is exclusively submarine and air launched. Like the UK, one of their SLBM equipped submarines must be on patrol in the Atlantic at all times. Its doctrine dictates that France would use Nuclear Weapons against any state that attacked France.

China – 260 Warheads, 140 Strategically operational (est).

China is a relative newcomer to the nuclear club having conducted its first Nuclear test in 1964. China published a defence white paper in 2011 which set its nuclear policies as maintaining a minimum deterrent with a no-first-use pledge. China has not defined what it means by a “minimum deterrent posture” which together with the fact that it is deploying four new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, invites concern as to the scale and intention of China’s nuclear upgrade.

UK – 215 Warheads, 120 Strategically operational.

The UK has shrunk its nuclear weapons arsenal significantly from its peak of 520 warheads in the 70’s. It;s arsenal is now exclusively submarine (SLBM) launched using the Trident II missile system. UK Defence policy dictates that a missile equipped submarine is on constant patrol in the Atlantic. The UK was one of the pioneers of Nuclear Weapons with British scientists working in Los Alamos alongside their American colleagues in the Manhattan Project.

Other Countries that have nuclear arsenals include:

  • Pakistan – 130 Warheads
  • India – 120 Warheads
  • Israel – 60 Warheads
  • North Korea – Less than 15 Warheads

About the Author

Britains Cold War
Consisting of historians, nuclear weapons and government planning experts Britain's Cold War provides news and information about The Cold War, Britain's Cold War and the new emerging Cold War often dubbed Cold War II. With more documents becoming declassified every day we learn a little bit more about what really went on between the end of World War II and the late 1990's.

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