By Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris
In our latest FAS Nuclear Notebook we estimate that Pakistan now has 110-130 warheads in its nuclear arsenal. This is an increase of about 20 warheads from the 90-110-warhead level we estimated in our previous Pakistani Notebook in 2011.
The Notebook is published as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is arriving in Washington D.C. for a state visit and foreign minister Aizaz Chaudhry acknowledged for the record what everybody already knew: that Pakistan has developed “low-yield, tactical” nuclear weapons.
The warhead increase is due to several developments in the past four years: Deployment (or near-deployment) of two new short-range ballistic missiles (including the one Chaudhry was probably thinking about: the NASR) and a new medium-range ballistic missile. Moreover, development is underway of two extended-range ballistic missiles and two cruise missiles that will require production of additional warheads.
If the current trend continues, we estimate that Pakistan a decade from now could potentially have a stockpile of 220-250 warheads, which would make Pakistan the world’s fifth largest nuclear power. We do not believe that Pakistan has the capacity to increase its stockpile to 350 warheads, as has been suggested by some.
Pakistan’s archenemy, India, is also modernizing and increasing its nuclear arsenal. For an overview of India’s nuclear arsenal, see here.
With both Pakistan and India engaged in rapid and broad buildup of their nuclear arsenals, it is essential that their governments, as well as other state leaders, increase efforts to limit the nuclear arms competition that is in full swing in South Asian.
Note: The Notebook version on the Bulletin web site has two typos that are being fixed. Until that happens, a corrected version can be downloaded from here.
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This publication was made possible by a grant from the New Land Foundation and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.