Article: U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Today and Tomorrow

The latest FAS-NRDC estimate of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile currently contains an estimated 9,900 nuclear warheads of 15 different versions of nine basic types, according to the latest FAS-NRDC Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. By 2012, approximately 4,470 of the warheads will have been withdrawn, leaving a stockpile of roughly 5,500 warheads.

The administration insists that the size and breakdown of the stockpile must be kept secret in the interest of national security, but a growing number of lawmakers argue that some stockpile information is not necessary to classify.

The Nuclear Notebook is written by FAS’ Hans M. Kristensen and NRDC’s Robert Norris.

Background: Administration Increases Submarine Warhead Production Plan | Estimates of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile, 2007 and 2012 | U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2007

One thought on “Article: U.S. Nuclear Stockpile Today and Tomorrow

  1. Vijai: I note that the chart above excludes tactical nuclear weapons – now referred to as sub-strategic weapons. The Cold War differentiation between tactical and strategic weapons has no meaning in the present day nuclear environment and the evolution of nuclear strategies driven by the US. The total is nearer 12,000 warheads in 2012 as given in NPR 2001. [edited]

    Reply: Not so. The stockpile shown in the chart includes what is commonly referred to as non-strategic nuclear weapons. The are: B61-3, B61-4 and B61-10 gravity bombs, and the W80-0 for the Tomahawk cruise missile. A total of approximately 1,285, of which only 500 are active.

    The current stockpile is just below 10,000 warheads. But at the end of this month it will officially shrink to approximately 5,400 warheads as the Defense Department formally transfers ownership of some 4,500 warheads to the Energy Department. Another 15 percent cut over the next five years will reduce the stockpile to an estimated 4,600 warheads by 2012 of which no more than 2,200 can be “operationally deployed strategic warheads.” You can read my blog about the latest developments here

    As for the non-strategic, or sub-strategic as you call it, weapons, I agree that there is less of a distinction between strategic and non-strategic weapons today than during the Cold War. All nuclear weapons use is increasingly considered strategic in nature. However, U.S. declaratory policy still refers to non-strategic nuclear weapons and the non-strategic portion of the posture is deployed differently than the strategic. HK

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