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Nuclear powers are strengthening their arsenals - SIPRI report

Jun 17, 2024

Nine nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, the DPRK, and Israel - continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals in 2023. At the same time, several of these countries deployed new nuclear weapons.

This is stated in the annual report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).


It is noted that in January 2024, out of the total global stockpile of approximately 12,121 nuclear warheads, about 9,585 were in military stockpiles for potential use. SIPRI estimates that 3,904 of these warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft, 60 more than in January 2023, and the rest were in central storage. About 2,100 deployed warheads were on high alert on ballistic missiles.

"Almost all of these warheads belonged to Russia or the United States, but for the first time, some Chinese nuclear warheads are believed to be on high alert," the report said.

According to SIPRI Director Dan Smith, despite the fact that the total number of nuclear warheads in the world continues to decline as Cold War weapons are gradually dismantled, the Institute's experts continue to observe an annual increase in the number of active nuclear weapons. He emphasized that this trend will continue and is likely to accelerate in the coming years.

India, Pakistan, and North Korea are trying to deploy multiple warheads on ballistic missiles, which Russia, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and China have already acquired, and recently China has.

"This would allow for a rapid potential increase in deployed warheads, as well as the ability for nuclear-armed states to threaten to destroy many more targets," the report said.

Russia and the United States

At the same time, Russia and the United States together possess almost 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world. The institute's analysts point out that the size of their respective military nuclear stockpiles (i.e., usable warheads) appears to have remained relatively stable in 2023, although Russia is estimated to have deployed about 36 more warheads in operational forces than in January 2023.

It is also noted that transparency about nuclear forces has decreased in both of these states since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and the debate over nuclear sharing arrangements has become even more relevant.


Regarding China's nuclear arsenal, SIPRI's estimate of its size increased from 410 warheads in January 2023 to 500 in January 2024, and is expected to continue growing.

"For the first time, China can also deploy a small number of warheads on missiles in peacetime. Depending on how the state decides to structure its forces, it could potentially have at least as many intercontinental ballistic missiles as Russia or the United States at the turn of the decade, although its stockpile of nuclear warheads is expected to remain much smaller than either of those two countries.

United Kingdom.

Although the United Kingdom is not believed to have increased its nuclear weapons arsenal in 2023, its stockpile of nuclear warheads is expected to increase in the future as a result of the British government's announcement in 2021 that it would raise the limit from 225 to 260 warheads. At the time, the government also said it would no longer "publicly disclose" the number of its nuclear weapons, deployed warheads, or deployed missiles.


In 2023, France continued its programs to develop a third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and a new air-launched cruise missile, as well as to reconstruct and modernize existing systems.

India and Pakistan

In 2023, India slightly expanded its nuclear arsenal. In 2023, both India and Pakistan continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery systems. While Pakistan remains the main center of India's nuclear deterrent, India appears to be increasingly focusing on longer-range weapons, including those capable of reaching targets across China.

North Korea

The DPRK continues to prioritize its military nuclear program as the centerpiece of its national security strategy.

SIPRI estimates that the country has now assembled about 50 warheads and has enough fissile material to reach a total of up to 90 warheads, a significant increase from the January 2023 estimate. Although North Korea did not conduct a nuclear test in 2023, it appears to have conducted its first test of a short-range ballistic missile from a rudimentary silo. The DPRK has also completed the development of at least two types of long-range cruise missiles (LACMs) designed to deliver nuclear weapons.


Israel, which does not publicly recognize its possession of nuclear weapons, is also believed to be modernizing its nuclear arsenal and is likely to upgrade its plutonium production reactor at Dimona.

What is known about Russia's nuclear exercises

On May 6, the Russian authorities announced that they would hold military exercises that would include practicing the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the exercise was intended to cool down "hot heads" in the West, which Moscow accused of pushing for a direct military clash between NATO and Russia.

For its part, the Pentagon said it saw no changes in the position of Russia's strategic nuclear forces, despite Moscow's statements that it plans to conduct exercises involving tactical nuclear weapons.

The first stage of the exercise

On May 21, the first stage of nuclear exercises began in the Southern Military District of Russia, during which the personnel of missile units practiced combat training tasks of obtaining special ammunition for the Iskander tactical missile system.

The personnel of the Russian Aerospace Forces aviation units involved in the exercise also practiced equipping special warheads with aviation weapons, including Kinzhal hypersonic aeroballistic missiles, and flying to designated patrol areas.

The second stage of the exercise

On June 11, the Russian Federation launched the second stage of the exercise, which involves joint training of units of the Armed Forces of Russia and Belarus for the combat use of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

Author - Ihor Lontkivskyi 17.06.24

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