Review of NASIC Report 2017: Nuclear Force Developments

Click on image to download copy of report. Note: NASIC later published a corrected version, available here

By Hans M. Kristensen

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson AFB has updated and published its periodic Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat report. The new report updates the previous version from 2013.

At a time when public government intelligence resources are being curtailed, the NASIC report provides a rare and invaluable official resource for monitoring and analyzing the status of ballistic and cruise missiles around the world.

Having said that, the report obviously comes with the caveat that it does not include descriptions of US, British, French, and most Israeli ballistic and cruise missile forces. As such, the report portrays the international “threat” situation as entirely one-sided as if the US and its allies were innocent bystanders, so it will undoubtedly provide welcoming fuel for those who argue for increasing US defense spending and buying new weapons.

Also, the NASIC report is not a top-level intelligence report that has been sanctioned by the Director of National Intelligence. As such, it represents the assessment of NASIC rather than necessarily the coordinated and combined conclusion of the US Intelligence Community.

Nonetheless, it’s a unique and useful report that everyone who follows international security and ballistic and cruise missile developments should consult.

Overall, the NASIC report concludes: “The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in ballistic missile capabilities to include accuracy, post-boost maneuverability, and combat effectiveness.” During the same period, “there has been a significant increase in worldwide ballistic missile testing.” The countries developing ballistic and cruise missile systems view them “as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power” that “present an asymmetric threat to US forces” and many of the missiles “are armed with weapons of mass destruction.” At the same time, “numerous types of ballistic and cruise missiles have achieved dramatic improvements in accuracy that allow them to be used effectively with conventional warheads.”

Some of the more noteworthy individual findings of the new report include:

  • Russia’s nuclear modernization is, despite claims by some, not a “buildup” but the size of the Russian ICBM force will continue to decline.
  • The Russian RS-26 “short” SS-27 ICBM is still categorized as an ICBM (as in the 2013 report) despite claims by some that it’s an INF weapon.
  • The report is the first US official document to publicly identify the ground-launched cruise missile that Russia has developed and deployed in violation of the INF treaty: 3M-14. The weapon is assessed to “possibly” have a nuclear option. [Note: A corrected version of the NASIC report published in June removed the reference to a “ground” version of the 3M-14.]
  • The Russian SS-N-26 (Oniks or Onix) anti-ship cruise missile that is currently replacing several Soviet-era cruise missiles “possibly” has a nuclear option.
  • The range of the dual-capable SS-26 (Islander) SRBM is listed as 350 km (217 miles) rather than the 500-700 km (310-435 miles) often claimed in the public debate.
  • The number of Chinese warheads capable of reaching the United States could increase to well over 100 in the next five years, six years sooner than predicted in the 2013 report. (The count includes warheads that can only reach Alaska and Hawaii, not necessarily all of continental United States.)
  • Deployment of the Chinese DF-31/DF-31A ICBMs appears to have stalled.
  • China’s long-awaited DF-41 ICBM will “possibly” be capable of carrying multiple warheads but is not yet deployed.
  • Two Chinese medium-range ballistic missile types (DF-3A and DF-21 Mod 1) have been retired.
  • The Chinese ground-launched DH-10 land-attack cruise missile is no longer listed as “conventional or nuclear” but only as “conventional.”
  • None of North Korea’s ICBMs are listed as deployed.

Below I go into more details about the individual nuclear-armed states:


Russia is now more than halfway through its modernization, a generational upgrade that began in the mid/late-1990s and will be completed in the mid-2020s. This includes a complete replacement of the ICBM force (but at lower numbers), transition to a new class of strategic submarines, upgrades of existing bombers, replacement of all dual-capable SRBM units, and replacement of most Soviet-era naval cruise missiles with fewer types.

The NASIC report states that “Russian in September 2014 surpassed the United States in deployed warheads capable of reaching the United States,” referring to the aggregate number reported under the New START treaty. The report does not mention, however, that Russia since 2016 has begun to reduce its deployed strategic warheads and is expected meet the treaty limit in 2018.

ICBMs: Contrary to many erroneous claims in the public debate (see here and here) about a Russia nuclear “build-up,” the NASIC report concludes that “the number of missiles in the Russian ICBM force will continue to decrease because of arms control agreements, aging missiles, and resource constraints…” This conclusion fits the assessment Norris and I have made for years that Russia is modernizing its nuclear forces but not increasing the size of the arsenal.

The report counts about 330 ICBM launchers (silos and TELs), significantly fewer than the 400 claimed by the Russian military. The actual number of deployed missiles is probably a little lower because several SS-19 and SS-25 units are in the process of being dismantled.

The development continues of the heavy Sarmat (RS-28), which looks very similar to the existing SS-18. The lighter SS-27 known as RS-26 (Rubezh or Yars-M) appears to have been delayed and still in development. Despite claims by some in the public debate that the RS-26 is a violation of the INF treaty, the NASIC report lists the missile with an ICBM range of 5,500+ km (3,417+ miles), the same as listed in the 2013 version. NASIC says the RS-26, which is designated SS-X-28 by the US Intelligence Community, has “at least 2” stages and multiple warheads.

Overall, “Russia retains over 1,000 nuclear warheads on ICBMs,” according to NASIC, another assessment that fits our estimate from the Nuclear Notebook. The NASIC report states that “most” of those missiles “are maintained on alert, capable of being launched within minutes of receiving a launch order.” (In comparison, essentially all US ICBMs are maintained on alert: see here for global alert status.)

SLBMs: The Russian navy is in the early phase of a transition from the Soviet-era Delta-class SSBNs to the new Borei-class SSBN. NASIC lists the Bulava (SS-N-32) SLBM as operational on three Boreis (five more are under construction). The report also lists a Typhoon-class SSBN as “not yet deployed” with the Bulava (the same wording as in the 2013 report), but this is thought to refer to the single Typhoon that has been used for test launches of the Bulava and not imply that the submarine is being readied for operational deployment with the missile.

While the new Borei SSBNs are being built, the six Delta-IVs are being upgrade with modifications to the SS-N-23 SLBM. The report also lists 96 SS-N-18 launchers, corresponding to 6 Delta-III SSBNs. But that appears to include 3-4 SSBNs that have been retired (but not yet dismantled). Only 2 Delta-IIIs appear to be operational, with a third in overhaul, and all are scheduled to be replaced by Borei-class SSBNs in the near future.

Cruise Missiles: The report lists five land-attack cruise missiles with nuclear capability, three of which are Soviet-era weapons. The two new missiles that “possibly” have nuclear capability include the mysterious ground-launched cruise missile that Russia has developed and deployed in violation of the INF treaty. The US first accused Russia of treaty violation in 2014 but has refused to name the missile, yet the NASIC report gives it a name: 3M-14. The weapon exists in both “ground, ship & sub” versions and is credited with “conventional, nuclear possible” warhead capability. [Note: A corrected version of the NASIC report published in June removed the reference to a “ground” version of the 3M-14.]

Ground- and sea-based versions of the 3M-14 have different designations. The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) identifies the naval 3M-14 as the SS-N-30 land-attack missile, which is part of the larger Kalibr family of missiles that include:

  • The 3M-14 (SS-N-30) land-attack cruise missile (the nuclear version might be called SS-N-30A; Pavel Podvig reported back in 2014 that he was told about an 8-meter 3M-14S missile “where ‘S’ apparently stands for ‘strategic’, meaning long-range and possibly nuclear”);
  • The 3M-54 (SS-N-27, Sizzler) anti-ship cruise missile;
  • The 91R anti-submarine missile.

The US Intelligence Community uses a different designation for the GLCM version, which different sources say is called the SSC-8, and other officials privately say is a modification of the SSC-7 missile used on the Iskander-K. (For public discussion about the confusing names and designations, see here, here, and here.)

The range has been the subject of much speculation, including some as much as 5,472 km (3,400 miles). But the NASIC report sets the range as 2,500 km (1,553 miles), which is more than was reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense in 2015 but close to the range of the old SS-N-21 SLCM.

The “conventional, nuclear possible” description connotes some uncertainty about whether the 3M-14 has a nuclear warhead option. But President Vladimir Putin has publicly stated that it does, and General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of US European Command (EUCOM), told Congress in March that the ground-launched version is “a conventional/nuclear dual-capable system.”

ONI predicts that Kalibr-type missiles (remember: Kalibr can refer to land-attack, anti-ship, and/or anti-submarine versions) will be deployed on all larger new surface vessels and submarines and backfitted onto upgraded existing major ships and submarines. But when Russian officials say a ship or submarine will be equipped with the Kalibr, that can potentially refer to one or more of the above missile versions. Of those that receive the land-attack version, for example, presumably only some will be assigned the “nuclear possible” version. For a ship to get nuclear capability is not enough to simply load the missile; it has to be equipped with special launch control equipment, have special personnel onboard, and undergo special nuclear training and certification to be assigned nuclear weapons. That is expensive and an extra operational burden that probably means the nuclear version is only assigned to some of the Kalibr-equipped vessels. The previous nuclear land-attack SLCM (SS-N-21) is only assigned to frontline attack submarines, which will most likely also received the nuclear SS-N-30. It remains to be seen if the nuclear version will also go on major surface combatants such as the nuclear-propelled attack submarines.

The NASIC report also identifies the 3M-55 (P-800 Oniks (Onyx), or SS-N-26 Strobile) cruise missile with “nuclear possible” capability. This weapon also exists in “ground, ships & sub” versions, and ONI states that the SS-N-26 is replacing older SS-N-7, -9, -12, and -19 anti-ship cruise missiles in the fleet. All of those were also dual-capable.

It is interesting that the NASIC report describes the SS-N-26 as a land-attack missile given its primary role as an anti-ship missile and coastal defense missile. The ground-launched version might be the SSC-5 Stooge that is used in the new Bastion-P coastal-defense missile system that is replacing the Soviet-era SSC-1B missile in fleet base areas such as Kaliningrad. The ship-based version is replacing the SS-N-19 on the nuclear-propelled Kirov-class cruisers and Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier. Presumably it will also replace the SS-N-12 on the Slava-class cruisers and SS-N-9 on smaller corvettes. The submarine version is replacing the SS-N-19 on the Oscar-class nuclear-propelled attack submarine.

NASIC lists the new conventional Kh-101 ALCM but does not mention the nuclear version known as Kh-102 ALCM that has been under development for some time. The Kh-102 is described in the recent DIA report on Russian Military Power.

Short-range ballistic missiles: Russia is replacing the Soviet-era SS-21 (Tochka) missile with the SS-26 (Iskander-M), a process that is expected to be completed in the early-2020s. The range of the SS-26 is often said in the public debate to be the 500-700 km (310-435 miles), but the NASIC report lists the range as 350 km (217 miles), up from 300 km (186 miles) reported in the 2013 version.

That range change is interesting because 300 km is also the upper range of the new category of close-range ballistic missiles. So as a result of that new range category, the SS-26 is now counted in a different category than the SS-21 it is replacing.


The NASIC report projects the “number of Chinese ICBM nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States could expand to well over 100 within the next 5 years.” Four years ago, NASIC projected the “well over 100” warhead number might be reached “within the next 15 years,” so in effect the projection has been shortened by 6 years from 2028 to 2022.

One of the reasons for this shortening is probably the addition of MIRV to the DF-5 ICBM force (the MIRVed version is know as DF-5B). All other Chinese missiles only have one warhead each (although the warheads are widely assumed not to be mated with the missiles under normal circumstances). It is unclear, however, why the timeline has been shortened.

The US military defines the “United States” to include “the land area, internal waters, territorial sea, and airspace of the United States, including a. United States territories; and b. Other areas over which the United States Government has complete jurisdiction and control or has exclusive authority or defense responsibility.”

So for NASIC’s projection for the next five years to come true, China would need to take several drastic steps. First, it would have to MIRV all of its DF-5s (about half are currently MIRVed). That would still not provide enough warheads, so it would also have to deploy significantly more DF-31As and/or new MIRVed DF-41s (see graph below). Deployment of the DF-31A is progressing very slowly, so NASIC’s projection probably relies mainly on the assumption that the DF-41 will be deployed soon in adequate numbers. Whether China will do so remains to be seen.

Click on graph to view full size.

China currently has about 80 ICBM warheads (for 60 ICBMs) that can hit the United States. Of these, about 60 warheads can hit the continental United States (not including Alaska). That’s a doubling of ICBM warheads that can hit the United States (including Guam) over the past 25 years – and a tripling of the number of warheads that can hit the continental United States. The NASIC report does not define what “well over 100” means, but if it’s in the range of 120, and NASIC’s projection actually came true, then it would mean China by the early-2020s would have increased the number of ICBM warheads that can hit the United States threefold since the early 1990s. That a significant increase but obviously but must be seen the context of the much greater number of US warheads that can hit China.

Land-Based Ballistic Missiles: The report describes the long and gradual upgrade of the Chinese ballistic missile force. The most significant new development is the fielding of the DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with 16+ launchers. The missile was first displayed at the 2015 military parade, which showed 16 launchers – potentially the same 16 listed in the report. NASIC sets the DF-26 range at 3,000+ km (1,864 miles), 1,000 km less than the 2017 DOD report.

China does not appear to have converted all of its DF-5 ICBMs to MIRV. The report lists both the single-warhead DF-5A and the multiple-warhead DF-5B (CSS-4 Mod 3) in “about 20” silos. Unlike the A-version, the B-version has a Post-Boost Vehicle, a technical detail not disclosed in the 2013 report. A rumor about a DF-5C version with 10 MIRVs is not confirmed by the report.

Deployment of the new generation of road-mobile ICBMs known as DF-31 and DF-31A ICBMs appears to have stalled; the number of launchers listed in the new report is the same as in the 2013 report: 5-10 DF-31s and “more than 15” DF-31As.

Yet the description of the DF-31A program sounds like deployment is still in progress: “The longer range CSS-10 Mod 2 will allow targeting of most of the continental United States” (emphasis added).

For the first time, the report includes a graphic illustration of the DF-31 and DF-31A side by side, which shows the longer-range DF-31A to be little shorter but with a less pointy nosecone and a wider third stage (see image).

The long-awaited (and somewhat mysterious) DF-41 ICBM is still not deployed. NASIC says the DF-41 is “possibly capable of carrying MIRV,” a less certain determination than the 2017 DOD report, which called the missile “MIRV capable.” The report lists the DF-41 with three stages and a Post-Boost Vehicle, details not provided in the previous report.

One of the two nuclear versions of the DF-21 MRBM appears to have been retired. NASIC only lists one: CSS-5 Mod 2. In total, the report lists “fewer than 50” launchers for the nuclear version of the DF-21, which is the same number it listed in the 2013 report (see here for description of one of the DF-21 launch units. But that was also the number listed back then for the older nuclear DF-21 (CSS-5 Mod 1). The nuclear MRBM force has probably not been cut in half over the past four years, so perhaps the previous estimate of fewer than 50 launchers was intended to include both versions. The NASIC report does not mention the CSS-5 Mod 6 that was mentioned in the DOD’s annual report from 2016.

Sea-Based Ballistic Missiles: The report lists a total of 48 JL-2 SLBM launchers, corresponding to the number of launch tubes on the four Jin-class (Type 094) SSBNs based at the Longpo Naval Base on Hainan Island. That does not necessarily mean, however, that the missiles are therefore fully operational or deployed on the submarines under normal circumstances. They might, but it is yet unclear how China operates its SSBN fleet (for a description of the SSBN fleet, see here).

The 2017 report no longer lists the Xia-class (Type 092) SSBN or the JL-1 SLBM, indicating that China’s first (and not very successful) sea-based nuclear capability has been retired from service.

Cruise Missiles: The new report removes the “conventional or nuclear” designation from the DH-10 (CJ-10) ground-launched land-attack cruise missile. The possible nuclear option for the DH-10 was listed in the previous three NASIC reports (2006, 2009, and 2013). The DH-10 brigades are organized under the PLA Rocket Force that operates both nuclear and conventional missiles.

A US Air Force Global Strike Command document in 2013 listed another cruise missile, the air-launched DH-20 (CJ-20), with a nuclear option. NASIC has never attributed nuclear capability to that weapon and the Office of the Secretary of Defense stated recently that the Chinese Air Force “does not currently have a nuclear mission.”

At the same time, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) recently told Congress that China was upgrading is cruise missiles further, including “with two, new air-launched ballistic [cruise] missiles, one of which may include a nuclear payload.”


The NASIC report surprisingly does not list Pakistan’s Babur GLCM as operational.

The NASIC report states that “Pakistan continues to improve the readiness and capabilities of its Army Strategic Force Command and individual strategic missile groups through training exercises that include live missile firings.” While all nuclear-armed states do that, the implication probably is that Pakistan is increasing the reaction time of its nuclear missiles, particularly the short-range weapons.

The report states that the Shaheen-2 MRBM has been test-launched “seven times since 2004.” While that fits the public record, NASIC doesn’t mention that the Shaheen-2 for some reason has not been test launched since 2014, which potentially could indicate technical problems.

The Abdali SRBM now has a range of 200 km (up from 180 km in the 2013 report). It is now designated as close-range ballistic missile instead of a short-range ballistic missile.

NASIC describes the Ababeel MRBM, which was first test-launch in January 2017, as as “MIRVed” missile. Although this echoes the announcement made by the Pakistani military at the time, the designation “the MIRVed Abadeel” sounds very confident given the limited flight history and the technological challenges associated with developing reliable MIRV systems.

Neither the Ra’ad ALCM nor the Babur GLCM is listed as deployed, which is surprising especially for the Babur after 13 flight tests. Babur launchers have been fitting out at the National Development Complex for years and are visible at some army garrisons. Nor does NASIC mention the Babur-2 or Babur-3 (naval version) versions that have been test-flown and announced by the Pakistani military.


It is a surprise that the NASIC report only lists “fewer than 10” Agni-2 MRBM launchers. This is the same number as in 2013, which indicates there is still only one operational missile group equipped with the Agni-2 seven years after the Indian government first declared it deployed. The slow introduction might indicate technical problems, or that India is instead focused on fielding the longer-range Agni-3 IRBM that NASIC says is now deployed with “fewer than 10” launchers.

Neither the Agni-4 nor Agni-5 IRBMs are listed as deployed, even though the Indian government says the Agni-4 has been “inducted” into the armed forces and has reported three army “user trial” test launches. NASIC says India is developing the Agni-6 ICBM with a range of 6,000 km (3,728 miles).

For India’s emerging SSBN fleet, the NASIC report lists the short-range K-15 SLBM as deployed, which is a surprise given that the Arihant SSBN is not yet considered fully operational. The submarine has been undergoing sea-trials for several years and was rumored to have conducted its first submerged K-15 test launch in November 2016. But a few more are probably needed before the missile can be considered operational. The K-4 SLBM is in development and NASIC sets the range at 3,500 km (2,175 miles).

As for cruise missiles, it is helpful that the report continue to list the Bramos as conventional, which might help discredit rumors about nuclear capability.

North Korea

Finally, of the nuclear-armed states, NASIC provides interesting information about North Korea’s missile programs. None of the North Korean ICBMs are listed as deployed.

The report states there are now “fewer than 50” launchers for the Hwasong-10 (Musudan) IRBM. NASIC sets the range at 3,000+ km (1,864 miles) instead of the 4,000 km (2,485 miles) sometimes seen in the public debate.

Likewise, while many public sources set the range of the mobile ICBMs (KN-08 and KN-14) as 8,000 km (4,970 miles) – some even longer, sufficient to reach parts of the United States, the NASIC report lists a more modest range estimate of 5,500+ km (3,418 miles), the lower end of the ICBM range.

Additional Information:

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New Land Foundation, and the Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.


Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Weapons Infrastructure

Pakistan’s tactical NASR nuclear-capable mobile rocket launcher now appears to be deployed.

By Hans M. Kristensen

In our latest Nuclear Notebook on Pakistani nuclear forces, Robert Norris and I estimate that Pakistan has produced an estimated stockpile of 130-140 nuclear warheads for delivery by short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and fighter-bombers.

Pakistan now identifies with what is described as a full-spectrum nuclear deterrent posture, which is though to include strategic missiles and fighter-bombers for so-called retaliatory strikes in response to nuclear attacks, and short-range missiles for sub-strategic use in response to conventional attacks.

Although there have been many rumors over the years, the location of the nuclear-capable launchers has largely evaded the public eye for much of Pakistan’s 19-year old declared nuclear weapons history. Most public analysis has focused on the nuclear industry (see here for a useful recent study). But over the past several years, commercial satellite pictures have gradually brought into light several facilities that might form part of Pakistan’s evolving nuclear weapons launcher posture.

This includes 10 facilities, including 5 missile garrisons (soon possibly 6) as well 2 (possibly 4) air bases with fighter-bombers.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons related infrastructure includes at least 10 major industrial facilities and about 10 bases for nuclear-capable forces. Click map to view full size.

The nuclear warheads that would arm the launchers are thought to be stored at other secure facilities that have not yet been identified. In a crisis, these warheads would first have to be brought to the bases and mated with the launchers before they could be used.

Security at these and other Pakistani defense facilities is a growing concern and many have been upgraded with additional security perimeters during the past 10 years in response to terrorist attacks.

There are still many unknowns and uncertainties about the possible nuclear role of these facilities. All of the launchers are thought to be dual-capable, which means they can deliver both conventional and nuclear warheads. So even if a base has a nuclear role, most of the launchers might be assigned to the conventional mission. Further analysis in the future might disqualify some and identify others. But for now, this profile of potential road-mobile launcher garrisons and air bases are intended as a preliminary guide and accompany the recent FAS Nuclear Notebook on Pakistani nuclear forcesContinue reading

Nuclear Transparency and the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan

ssmp2016By Hans M. Kristensen

I was reading through the latest Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and wondering what I should pick to critique the Obama administration’s nuclear policy.

After all, there are plenty of issues that deserve to be addressed, including:

– Why NNSA continues to overspend and over-commit and create a spending bow wave in 2021-2026 in excess of the President’s budget in exactly the same time period that excessive Air Force and Navy modernization programs are expected to put the greatest pressure on defense spending?

– Why a smaller and smaller nuclear weapons stockpile with fewer warhead types appears to be getting more and more expensive to maintain?

– Why each warhead life-extension program is getting ever more ambitious and expensive with no apparent end in sight?

– And why a policy of reductions, no new nuclear weapons, no pursuit of new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons, restraint, a pledge to “put an end to Cold War thinking,” and the goal of disarmament, instead became a blueprint for nuclear overreach with record funding, across-the-board modernizations, unprecedented warhead modifications, increasing weapons accuracy and effectiveness, reaffirmation of a Triad and non-strategic nuclear weapons, continuation of counterforce strategy, reaffirmation of the importance and salience of nuclear weapons, and an open-ended commitment to retain nuclear weapons further into the future than they have existed so far?

What About The Other Nuclear-Armed States?

Despite the contradictions and flaws of the administration’s nuclear policy, however, imagine if the other nuclear-armed states also published summaries of their nuclear weapons plans. Some do disclose a little, but they could do much more. For others, however, the thought of disclosing any information about the size and composition of their nuclear arsenal seems so alien that it is almost inconceivable.

Yet that is actually one of the reasons why it is necessary to continue to work for greater (or sufficient) transparency in nuclear forces. Some nuclear-armed states believe their security depends on complete or near-compete nuclear secrecy. And, of course, some nuclear information must be protected from disclosure. But the problem with excessive secrecy is that it tends to fuel uncertainty, rumors, suspicion, exaggerations, mistrust, and worst-case assumptions in other nuclear-armed states – reactions that cause them to shape their own nuclear forces and strategies in ways that undermine security for all.

Nuclear-armed states must find a balance between legitimate secrecy and transparency. This can take a long time and it may not necessarily be the same from country to country. The United States also used to keep much more nuclear information secret and there are many institutions that will always resist public access. But maximum responsible disclosure, it turns out, is not only necessary for a healthy public debate about nuclear policy, it is also necessary to communicate to allies and adversaries what that policy is about – and, equally important, to dispel rumors and misunderstandings about what the policy is not.

Nuclear transparency is not just about pleasing the arms controllers – it is important for national security.

So here are some thoughts about what other nuclear-armed states should (or could) disclose about their nuclear arsenals – not to disclose everything but to improve communication about the role of nuclear weapons and avoid misunderstandings and counterproductive surprises: Continue reading

An AUMF Against the Islamic State, and More from CRS

Ongoing U.S. military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria lacks any specific authorization from Congress.  A comparative analysis of various proposals for Congress to enact an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Islamic State is provided in an updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Although the Obama Administration has claimed 2001 AUMF and 2002 AUMF authority for its recent and future actions against the Islamic State, these claims have been subject to debate,” the report said.

“Some contend that the Administration’s actions against the IS also fall outside the President’s Article II powers. Concerned with Congress’s constitutional role in the exercise of the war power, perceived presidential overreach in that area of constitutional powers, and the President’s expansion of the use of military force in Iraq and Syria, several Members of Congress have expressed the view that continued use of military force against the Islamic State requires congressional authorization. Members have differed on whether such authorization is needed, given existing authorities, or whether such a measure should be enacted.”

“This report focuses on the several proposals for a new AUMF specifically targeting the Islamic State made during the 113th and 114th Congresses. It includes a brief review of existing authorities and AUMFs, as well as a discussion of issues related to various provisions included in existing and proposed AUMFs that both authorize and limit presidential use of military force.”  See A New Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State: Issues and Current Proposals, January 15, 2016.

Other new and newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

North Korea: Legislative Basis for U.S. Economic Sanctions, updated January 14, 2016

North Korea: A Comparison of S. 1747, S. 2144, and H.R. 757, January 15, 2016

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation, updated January 15, 2016

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2016, updated January 14, 2016

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations, updated January 14, 2016

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons, updated January 14, 2016

New Nuclear Notebook: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2015

Click to download report
Click image to download report

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.

For more information:

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.

Keeping the Lights on: Fixing Pakistan’s Energy Crisis

pakistan1Legal and illegal power connections in Lahore, Pakistan1)Personal Photograph. 2013.

A stable and thriving Pakistan is the key to preserving harmony and facilitating progress in the broader South Asia region. Afghanistan, which is to the west of Pakistan, has a long border that divides the Pakhtun people between the countries. As a result of this border, Pakistan not only has a significant role in the Afghan economy, but instability in the loosely governed Pakistani frontier region spills across the border into Afghanistan. Because of this relationship, Pakistan has a direct impact on the outcome on the 13 year U.S. led war in Afghanistan.  On the other hand, an unstable Pakistan would not only shatter budding trade relations with India, but could also spark conflict between the two nuclear armed rivals.

From frequent attacks by Islamic militants across the country to a slowing economy, it is clear that there are many issues that threaten Pakistan’s stability. However, the most pressing issue that Pakistan faces today is its deteriorating economy. In particular, a crushing energy shortage across the country significantly constrains economic growth. This fiscal year, Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is forecasted to grow by measly 3.4 percent.2)“Global Economic Prospects: Pakistan,” The World Bank, 2014. At the same time, the country’s population is expected to grow by 1.8 percent adding to the 189 million people living there today.3)Population Projection Tables by Country: Pakistan. The World Bank. 2014. If there aren’t jobs available for the millions of young Pakistanis entering the work force, not only will poverty increase, but there is a strong possibly that some of these youth could vent their frustrations by joining the countless Islamic militant groups active in the country.

To build a more prosperous economy, Pakistan needs to address its energy problems. Without a reliable source of electricity or natural gas, how can Pakistani businesses compete on the global market? Large parts of the country today face blackouts lasting an average of 10 hours each day because of the electricity shortage.4)Ghumman, Khawar, “Increased loadshedding worries Prime Minister,” Dawn, April 24 2014. 5)“Electricity shortfall reaches 2,500MW,” The Nation, Jan 2 2014. The current gap between electricity generation and demand is roughly 2500 MW, a shortage large enough to keep a population of 20 million or the city of Karachi in the dark.6)Ibid.

These power shortages are only expected to become worse in the coming summer months. This is because demand for electricity peaks in the sizzling heat, while hydroelectric generation decreases as the water flow in the rivers drops due to seasonal fluctuation. This article will focus on the causes of the country’s energy problems involving the electricity sector and explore possible directions Pakistan can take to improve its energy situation, building its economy in the process.


How Does Pakistan Generate its Electricity?

Pak Energy

Figure 1: Pakistan’s Electricity Generation by Source7)“Pakistan Energy Yearbook,” Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan, 2012.

Figure 1 breaks down Pakistan’s electricity generation by source. Thermal power, which includes natural gas, oil, and coal generated electricity, accounts for 70 percent of Pakistan’s total electricity generation, while hydroelectric generation is roughly responsible for the remaining 30 percent.

Electricity generated from furnace oil accounts for slightly over a third of Pakistan electricity. In the early 1990s, the country faced a power shortage of about 2000 MW when there was a peak load on the electricity grid.8)“Policy Framework and Package of Incentives for Private Sector Power Generation Projects in Pakistan,” Government of Pakistan, 1994. To resolve the growing crisis, the Pakistani government implemented a new policy in 1994, which was designed to attract foreign investment in the power sector9)Beg, Fatima and Fahd Ali, “The History of Private Power in Pakistan,” Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2007. and as a result there was construction of oil based power plants. These power plants were cheaper and faster to construct compared to other electricity generation plants such as hydroelectric dams. At the same time, the relatively low prices (below $17 a barrel) of crude oil meant that these plants generated electricity fairly cheaply.10)“Crude Oil Purchase Price.” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2014. Fast forward to present times, the price of crude oil has risen to hover roughly around $100 a barrel.11)Ibid. Unlike nearby Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is naturally not well endowed in crude oil reserves. This means that Pakistan must ship increasing amount of valuable currency abroad to secure the oil it needs to keeps these power plants running.

Along with furnace oil power plants, natural gas is used to generate about another third of electricity; it is provided by domestic reserves, thereby helping Pakistan’s economy and energy security. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pakistan has proven natural gas reserves of 24 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2012. These reserves will last Pakistan an estimated 17 years based on the country’s annual consumption rate of 1.382 Tcf in 2012.12)Pakistan. U.S. Energy Information Administration. At the same time, consumption rates are estimated to increase four fold to nearly 8 Tcf per year by the year 2020, further reducing the size of the domestic reserves.13)Tirmizi, Farooq, “The Myth of Pakistan’s infinite gas reserves,” The Express Tribune, Mar 14 2011.

The Pakistani government in 2005 under President Pervez Musharraf promoted the conversion of cars to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of gasoline.14)“Natural Gas Allocation and Management Policy,” Government of Pakistan: Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources, Sept 2005. The rationale was that this conversion would reduce the amount of money spent on purchasing and importing oil abroad. At the same time, CNG is cleaner for the environment than burning gasoline. As a result of this policy, more than 80 percent of Pakistan’s cars today run on CNG.15)Boone, Jon, “Pakistan’s government deflates dream of gas-powered cars,” The Guardian, Dec 25 2013. But because of this surging demand for its limited natural gas, there is a critical shortage of it which has adversely impacted the country’s ability to use this fuel source to generate electricity. Essentially Pakistanis are forced to decide whether to use natural gas to fuel their cars, cook their food, or generate electricity.


Power Theft and the Circular Debt Issue

The reliance on oil and natural gas to generate electricity is incredibly inefficient, but these inefficiencies alone are not responsible for the crippling power shortages. The other source of tension involves the accumulation of circular debt in the electricity sector over the past few years. Circular debt is a situation where consumers, electricity producers and the government all owe each other money and are unable to pay. By June 2013 when the new government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took control, this circular debt had ballooned to $5 billion.16)Bhutta, Zafar, “Circular debt: Power sector liabilities may cross Rs1 trillion by 2014,” The Express Tribune, May 26 2013.

There are several reasons for the accumulation of this debt; the largest problem stems from power theft.17)Pakistan’s Energy Crisis: Power Politics. The Economist, May 21 2012. Many Pakistani elites and even parts of the government do not pay their electricity bills. The law and order situation also prevent power companies from collecting bills in certain parts of the country. As a result, Pakistani electricity companies currently recover only 76 percent of the money that electricity consumers owe them.18)Jamal, Nasir. “Amount of unpaid power bills increases to Rs286bn.” Dawn. Apr 16 2014. In fact, the Pakistani Minister for Water and Power, Mr. Khwaja Muhammad Asif, has acknowledged that the Pakistani government is one of the country’s largest defaulters of electricity bills.19)“Govt one of the biggest electricity defaulters, says Khawaja Asif.” Dawn, May 2 2014. part of recent crackdown, the power ministry cut supplies to the Prime Minister’s home and the Parliament House (among many government offices) because they were delinquent on their electricity bills.20)“Pakistan cuts prime minister’s electricity for not paying bills” Reuters. Apr 29 2014. While many Pakistanis don’t pay their electricity bills, others steal power by illegally hooking into the power grid. This theft coupled with an inefficient electricity grid and the associated transmission loss means that Pakistan’s electricity generators are left with huge financial losses.

All these losses accumulate to form the circular debt and it places power producers in a position where they are unable to purchase enough fuel from abroad to operate power plants at full capacity. With an installed generation capacity of 22500 MW, Pakistan currently has more than enough installed capacity to meet peak demand levels today. The power producers are in reality only able to generate between 12000MW and 15000MW because of both inefficient energy infrastructure and circular debt..21)Kazmi, Shabbir. “Pakistan’s Energy Crisis.” The Diplomat, Aug 31 2013. This actual amount of electricity generated is far less than the 17000 MW of demand nationwide during peak hours of electricity usage.22)Abduhu, Salman. “Lack of funds real reason behind loadshedding.” The Nation, May 9 2014.

The circular debt also makes it more difficult for power producers to invest in upgrading existing electricity infrastructure. If power producers don’t have the money to operate oil based power plants at full capacity, they certainly do not have enough capital to build newer, more efficient power plants. Even when the lights are on, the inefficient electricity system takes an additional toll on the country’s economy. Pakistanis today pay more than double their Indian neighbors for electricity (16.95 Pakistani Rupees vs. 7.36 Pakistani Rupees per KWh respectively),23)Electricity Shock: “Pakistanis Paying the Highest Tariffs in Region.” The Express Tribune, Jan 31 2014. putting Pakistani firms at a further disadvantage compared to regional competitors.


Fixing Pakistan’s Electricity Problems

One of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s first actions after taking office was to pay off the $5 billion in circular debt that had accumulated by July 2013.24)Chaudhry, Javed. “Circular Debt: ‘All dues will be cleared by July’.” The Express Tribune, June 14 2013. Unfortunately, this step alone will not solve the power woes as it does not fix the underlying causes of the country’s power crisis. In fact, the circular debt has accumulate again, and stood at $1.8 billion by January 2014.[25]  To sustainably address the power crisis, Pakistanis need to change their attitude towards power theft by forcing the government and those delinquent to clear outstanding bills. At the same time, Pakistan must improve the efficiency of its electricity sector as well as expand and diversify its electricity generating capacity in order to ensure that the country can handle the expected growth in demand over the coming years.


Hydroelectric Generation

Pakistan has tremendous potential to expand its electricity generating capacity by developing its renewable energy resources. At nearly 30 percent, hydroelectricity is already a major source of electricity generation, but according to the Pakistani government, this reflects only 13 percent of the total hydroelectric potential of the country.25)“Hydropower Resources of Pakistan.” Private Power and Infrastructure Board, Feb 2011. There are several drawbacks of major hydroelectric projects including that they are capital intensive and require extensive time to build. Furthermore, hydroelectric dams are harmful to the local ecosystem and can displace large populations. The U.S. government is actively investing in helping Pakistan develop its hydroelectric resources; in 2011, USAID funded the renovation of the Tarbela Dam.26)USAID Issues $6.66 m for Tarbela Units. Dawn. Mar 9 2011. In the process, this added generation capacity of 128 MW, which is enough electricity for 2 million Pakistanis.27)“Tarbela Dam Project.” USAID, Sept 26 2013.


Solar Energy

solar energy

Figure 2: Pakistan’s Solar Generation Potential28)“Pakistan Resource Maps.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Aug 2006.

According to the USAID map of solar potential in Pakistan, the country has tremendous potential in harnessing the sun to generate electricity.  Pakistan has an average daily insolation rate of 5.3 kWH/m2,29)The Feasibility of Renewable Energy in Pakistan, Triple Bottom-Line, 2012. which is similar to the average daily insolation rate in Phoenix (5.38 kWH/m2) or Las Vegas (5.3 kWH/m2), which are some of the best locations in the United States for solar generated electricity.30)“Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy,” NASA, 2013. So far, Pakistan has begun construction on a photovoltaic power plant in Punjab that will begin to produce 100 MW by the end of 2014.31)Quad-e-Azam Solar Power. According to the World Bank some 40,000 villages in Pakistan are not electrified.32)Renewable Energy in Pakistan: Opportunities and Challenges, COMSATS-Science Vision, December 2011. Tapping into these solar resources could easily electrify many of these off the grid villages, while avoiding an increase in demand on the national electricity grid.


Nuclear Energy

Pakistan has three currently active nuclear power plants: two located in Punjab and one in the southern port city of Karachi. The two Chinese built nuclear power plants in Punjab each have a net generation capacity of 300 MW.33)CHASNUPP-1. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2014. 34)CHASNUPP-2. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2014. The Karachi power plant, which was built with a reactor supplied by Canada in 1972, has a net generation capacity of 125 MW, enough to provide power to 2 million Pakistanis. 35)KANUPP. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2014. China has been a key supplier and investor in Pakistani nuclear energy, but there are some concerns regarding the transfer of nuclear technology to Pakistan, where A.Q. Khan’s nuclear network was headquartered. Specifically, China argues that its alliance with Pakistan predates its joining of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which has restricted nuclear sales to Pakistan, so this justifies its desire to supply Pakistan with the technology.36)Shah, Saeed. “Pakistan in Talks to Acquire 3 Nuclear Plants From China.” The Wall Street Journal, Jan 20 2014. The Chinese are helping construct four more nuclear power plants, the first of which is expected to be online starting in 2019.37)Mahr, Krista. “How Pakistan and China Are Strengthening Nuclear Ties.” Time, Dec 2 2013. While these plants will add 2,200 MW of generation capacity, these nuclear power projects are expensive;38)Ibid the current nuclear power plants under construction are said to cost about $5 billion per plant, an investment that China is helping finance.39)Ibid


Coal Power

There is a large amount of coal located in the Thar Desert in the southeastern part of the country.40)“Pakistan’s Thar Coal Power Generation Potential.” Private Power and Infrastructure Board, July 2008. While the quality of the coal isn’t the best, Pakistan has a lot of it, nearly 175 billion tons,41)“Discovery Of Ignite Coal In Thar Desert.” Geological Survey of Pakistan, 2009. which is enough to meet current electricity demands for more than 300 years.42)“Nawaz, Zardari launch Thar coal power project.” Dawn, Jan 31 2014. However, Pakistan currently only has one operational coal power plant.

Pakistan is taking steps to develop this resource. In January 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former President Zardari broke ground on a $1.6 billion coal power project in the Thar Desert.43)Ibid. This particular project is expected to be operational by 2017.44)Ibid.

Pakistan has taken some clear steps such as developing its renewable resources and tapping its coal reserves, which can help expand and diversify where and how it generates its electricity. Further harnessing these resources will help alleviate the electricity shortfall. However, these steps alone will not solve the energy crisis. The more difficult solution involves changing the country’s attitude toward power theft, both by private citizens and the government. Convincing people to pay their electricity bills is difficult when even the government itself doesn’t pay its fair share. At the same time, there is less incentive to pay when citizens don’t even have access to a dependable source of electricity when they need it. As long as this attitude is prevalent among Pakistanis from all walks of life as well as the government, the country cannot sustainably solve its energy woes. Circular debt will continue to accumulate and large sections of the country will face hours of darkness each day.

Tackling the energy problem is the first step to strengthening the economy; over time, a growing economy will attract greater investment in the energy sector. Pakistan’s sensitive geographic location could become a strategic asset as it would serve as a bridge linking the economies of Afghanistan and Central Asia with the broader Indian subcontinent. Not only does the population provide Pakistan with a large domestic market, but it also empowers the country with a young, entrepreneurial workforce. This gives Pakistan tremendous potential, but can only be unleashed if the country figures out a way to keep the lights on and the factories humming.


Ravi Patel is a student at Stanford University where he recently completed a B.S. in Biology and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Biology. He completed an honors thesis on developing greater Indo-Pakistan trade under Sec. William Perry at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). Patel is the president of the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum. He also founded the U.S.-Pakistan Partnership, a collaborative research program linking American and Pakistani university students. In the summer of 2012, Patel was a security scholar at the Federation of American Scientists. He also has extensive biomedical research experience focused on growing bone using mesenchymal stem cells through previous work at UCSF’s surgical research laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Nelson Zhao is a fourth year undergraduate at University of California, Davis pursuing degrees in economics and psychology. Nelson is the Vice-President at the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum and the Program Director at the U.S.-Pakistan Partnership. At the U.S.-Pakistan Partnership, he aims to develop a platform to convene the brightest students in order to cultivate U.S.-Pakistan’s bilateral relations.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Personal Photograph. 2013.
2. “Global Economic Prospects: Pakistan,” The World Bank, 2014.
3. Population Projection Tables by Country: Pakistan. The World Bank. 2014.
4. Ghumman, Khawar, “Increased loadshedding worries Prime Minister,” Dawn, April 24 2014.
5. “Electricity shortfall reaches 2,500MW,” The Nation, Jan 2 2014.
6. Ibid.
7. “Pakistan Energy Yearbook,” Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan, 2012.
8. “Policy Framework and Package of Incentives for Private Sector Power Generation Projects in Pakistan,” Government of Pakistan, 1994.
9. Beg, Fatima and Fahd Ali, “The History of Private Power in Pakistan,” Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2007.
10. “Crude Oil Purchase Price.” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2014.
11. Ibid.
12. Pakistan. U.S. Energy Information Administration.
13. Tirmizi, Farooq, “The Myth of Pakistan’s infinite gas reserves,” The Express Tribune, Mar 14 2011.
14. “Natural Gas Allocation and Management Policy,” Government of Pakistan: Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources, Sept 2005.
15. Boone, Jon, “Pakistan’s government deflates dream of gas-powered cars,” The Guardian, Dec 25 2013.
16. Bhutta, Zafar, “Circular debt: Power sector liabilities may cross Rs1 trillion by 2014,” The Express Tribune, May 26 2013.
17. Pakistan’s Energy Crisis: Power Politics. The Economist, May 21 2012.
18. Jamal, Nasir. “Amount of unpaid power bills increases to Rs286bn.” Dawn. Apr 16 2014.
19. “Govt one of the biggest electricity defaulters, says Khawaja Asif.” Dawn, May 2 2014.
20. “Pakistan cuts prime minister’s electricity for not paying bills” Reuters. Apr 29 2014.
21. Kazmi, Shabbir. “Pakistan’s Energy Crisis.” The Diplomat, Aug 31 2013.
22. Abduhu, Salman. “Lack of funds real reason behind loadshedding.” The Nation, May 9 2014.
23. Electricity Shock: “Pakistanis Paying the Highest Tariffs in Region.” The Express Tribune, Jan 31 2014.
24. Chaudhry, Javed. “Circular Debt: ‘All dues will be cleared by July’.” The Express Tribune, June 14 2013.
25. “Hydropower Resources of Pakistan.” Private Power and Infrastructure Board, Feb 2011.
26. USAID Issues $6.66 m for Tarbela Units. Dawn. Mar 9 2011.
27. “Tarbela Dam Project.” USAID, Sept 26 2013.
28. “Pakistan Resource Maps.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Aug 2006.
29. The Feasibility of Renewable Energy in Pakistan, Triple Bottom-Line, 2012.
30. “Surface Meteorology and Solar Energy,” NASA, 2013.
31. Quad-e-Azam Solar Power.
32. Renewable Energy in Pakistan: Opportunities and Challenges, COMSATS-Science Vision, December 2011.
33. CHASNUPP-1. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2014.
34. CHASNUPP-2. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2014.
35. KANUPP. Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2014.
36. Shah, Saeed. “Pakistan in Talks to Acquire 3 Nuclear Plants From China.” The Wall Street Journal, Jan 20 2014.
37. Mahr, Krista. “How Pakistan and China Are Strengthening Nuclear Ties.” Time, Dec 2 2013.
38. Ibid
39. Ibid
40. “Pakistan’s Thar Coal Power Generation Potential.” Private Power and Infrastructure Board, July 2008.
41. “Discovery Of Ignite Coal In Thar Desert.” Geological Survey of Pakistan, 2009.
42. “Nawaz, Zardari launch Thar coal power project.” Dawn, Jan 31 2014.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid.

Nuclear Modernization Briefings at the NPT Conference in New York


By Hans M. Kristensen

Last week I was in New York to brief two panels at the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (phew).

The first panel was on “Current Status of Rebuilding and Modernizing the United States Warheads and Nuclear Weapons Complex,” an NGO side event organized on May 1st by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). While describing the U.S. programs, I got permission from the organizers to cover the modernization programs of all the nuclear-armed states. Quite a mouthful but it puts the U.S. efforts better in context and shows that nuclear weapon modernization is global challenge for the NPT.


The second panel was on “The Future of the B61: Perspectives From the United States and Europe.” This GNO side event was organized by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation on May 2nd. In my briefing I focused on providing factual information about the status and details of the B61 life-extension program, which more than a simple life-extension will produce the first guided, standoff nuclear bomb in the U.S. inventory, and significantly enhance NATO’s nuclear posture in Europe.


The two NGO side events were two of dozens organized by NGOs, in addition to the more official side events organized by governments and international organizations.

The 2014 PREPCOM is also the event where the United States last week disclosed that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile has only shrunk by 309 warheads since 2009, far less than what many people had anticipated given Barack Obama’s speeches about “dramatic” and “bold” reductions and promises to “put an end to Cold War thinking.”

Yet in disclosing the size and history of its nuclear weapons stockpile and how many nuclear warheads have been dismantled each year, the United States has done something that no other nuclear-armed state has ever done, but all of them should do. Without such transparency, modernizations create mistrust, rumors, exaggerations, and worst-case planning that fuel larger-than-necessary defense spending and undermine everyone’s security.

For the 185 non-nuclear weapon states that have signed on to the NPT and renounced nuclear weapons in return of the promise made by the five nuclear-weapons states party to the treaty (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States) “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at early date and to nuclear disarmament,” endless modernization of the nuclear forces by those same five nuclear weapons-states obviously calls into question their intension to fulfill the promise they made 45 years ago. Some of the nuclear modernizations underway are officially described as intended to operate into the 2080s – further into the future than the NPT and the nuclear era have lasted so far.

Download two briefings listed above: briefing 1 | briefing 2

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

Air Force Intelligence Report Provides Snapshot of Nuclear Missiles

Click to download full report

By Hans M. Kristensen

The U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) has published its long-awaited update to the Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat report, one of the few remaining public (yet sanitized) U.S. intelligence assessment of the world nuclear (and other) forces.

Previous years’ reports have been reviewed and made available by FAS (here, here, and here), and the new update contains several important developments – and some surprises.

Most important to the immediate debate about further U.S.-Russian reductions of nuclear forces, the new report provides an almost direct rebuttal of recent allegations that Russia is violating the INF Treaty by developing an Intermediate-range ballistic missile: “Neither Russia nor the United States produce or retain any MRBM or IRBM systems because they are banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty, which entered into force in 1988.”

Another new development is a significant number of new conventional short-range ballistic missiles being deployed or developed by China.

Finally, several of the nuclear weapons systems listed in a recent U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command briefing are not included in the NASIC report at all. This casts doubt on the credibility of the AFGSC briefing and creates confusion about what the U.S. Intelligence Community has actually concluded.  Continue reading

Air Force Briefing Shows Nuclear Modernizations But Ignores US and UK Programs

Click to view large version. Full briefing is here.

By Hans M. Kristensen

China and North Korea are developing nuclear-capable cruise missiles, according to U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

The new Chinese and North Korean systems appear on a slide in a Command Briefing that shows nuclear modernizations in eight of the world’s nine nuclear weapons states (Israel is not shown).

The Chinese missile is the CJ-20 air-launched cruise missile for delivery by the H-6 bomber. The North Korean missile is the KN-09 coastal-defense cruise missile. These weapons would, if for real, be important additions to the nuclear arsenals in Asia.

At the same time, a closer look at the characterization used for nuclear modernizations in the various countries shows generalizations, inconsistencies and mistakes that raise questions about the quality of the intelligence used for the briefing.

Moreover, the omission from the slide of any U.S. and British modernizations is highly misleading and glosses over past, current, and planned modernizations in those countries.

For some, the briefing is a sales pitch to get Congress to fund new U.S. nuclear weapons.

Overall, however, the rampant nuclear modernizations shown on the slide underscore the urgent need for the international community to increase its pressure on the nuclear weapon states to curtail their nuclear programs. And it calls upon the Obama administration to reenergize its efforts to reduce the numbers and role of nuclear weapons. Continue reading

Indian Army Chief: Nukes Not For Warfighting

Gen. V.K. Singh

By Hans M. Kristensen

India’s nuclear weapons “are not for warfighting,” the chief of India’s army said Sunday at the Army Day Parade. The weapons have “a strategic capability and that is where it should end,” General V. K. Singh declared.

The rejection of nuclear warfighting ideas is a welcoming development in the debate over the role of nuclear weapons in South Asia. Pakistan’s military’s description of its new snort-range NASR missile as a “shoot and scoot…quick response system” has rightly raised concerns about the potential early use of nuclear weapons in a conflict.

NASR is one of several new nuclear weapon systems that are nearing deployment with warheads from a Pakistani stockpile that has nearly doubled since 2005.

India is also increasing its arsenal and already has short-range missiles with nuclear capability: the land-based Prithvi has been in operation for a decade, and a naval version (Dhanush) is under development. But India’s posture seems focused on getting its medium-range Agni II in operation, developing longer-range versions to target China, and building a limited submarine-based nuclear capability.

If Gen. Singh’s rejection of nuclear warfighting is reflected in India’s future nuclear posture, two important things will have been achieved: rejection of the mindless tit-for-tat philosophy that otherwise dominates nuclear posturing; and limiting the scenarios where nuclear weapons otherwise could come into use. The rejection also has importance for other nuclear weapon states, where some have called for making nuclear weapons more “tailored” to limited regional scenarios.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.