The United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom are nuclear weapons states under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). India, Pakistan, and North Korea also overtly possess nuclear weapons since these states are not party to the treaty. Israel – not a party to the NPT – is understood to have nuclear weapons, as well, but does not acknowledge it.
Russian strategic nuclear forces are smaller than the Soviet Union’s. Russia has 1,090 warheads on 331 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) at six missile fields, 576 warheads on 160 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) in missile submarines patrolling from three naval bases, 838 gravity bombs on 75 bombers at two air bases.
SS-18. With the NATO reporting name “Satan,” it is an ICBM. It can carry ten 550 to 750 kiloton multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads with many decoys and other penetration aids. It allowed Russia to maintain its hard target kill requirement. It is stored in a container inserted into a silo that could be removed – allowing for a second salvo before an adversary’s warheads arrive.
SS-19. With the NATO reporting name “Stiletto,” it is an ICBM with an estimated yield of 400 kt. It can carry six MIRVs or one Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV). HGVs differ from traditional reentry vehicles by their ability to maneuver and operate at lower altitudes. The missile was designed to use silos constructed for it.
SS-27. With the NATO reporting name “Sickle B,” it’s an ICBM. It has a yield of 800 kt. It’s designed to counter and evade missile defense systems. It may be deployed inside a reinforced missile silo. The missile can carry four to six warheads along with decoys.
SS-29. With the Russian designation “Yars,” it is an ICBM with MIRV capabilities. It can carry three to six MIRVs with 300 to 500 kt warheads or six to nine 150 kt warheads. The Yars-S is the modernized and scaled down version of the road mobile missile. It can be mounted on a MZKT-79221 sixteen wheeled transporter-erector launcher (TEL).
SS-X-30. With the NATO reporting name “Satan II,” it is intended to replace the SS-18. It can carry ten heavy or fifteen light warheads, 16 to 24 HGVs, or a combination of warheads and countermeasures against anti-ballistic missile systems. Its launch sites might be equipped with an active protective system designed to negate an adversary’s first strike by discharging a cloud of metal arrows or balls – kinetically destroying incoming gravity bombs, cruise missiles, and ICBMs at an altitude of up to 6 kilometers. It also has a short boost phase, which shortens the interval when it can be tracked by satellites with infrared sensors – making it more difficult to intercept.
SS-X-31. With the Russian designation “Rubezh,” it is an ICBM with maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRVs). It can carry up to four 150 to 300 kt warheads and HGVs. The warheads may change their trajectory. It is road mobile and launched from a TEL.
SS-N-18. With the Russian designation “Layner,” it is a SLBM. It can carry four 500 kt warheads with penetration aids, eight 100 kt warheads with enhanced penetration aids, ten low yield warheads with standard penetration aids, or twelve 100 kt warheads without penetration aids. It’s equipped with improved systems to overcome anti-ballistic missile shields. It is in service with Delta IV class submarines.
SS-N-23A. With the NATO reporting name “Skiff,” it’s a SLBM, and it can carry four MIRVs with a 500 kt yield each or ten with a 100 kt yield. It is tasked with preventing the weakening of Russia’s nuclear deterrent. It’s designed to be launched from Delta IV class submarines.
SS-N-32. With the Russian designation “Bulava,” it is a SLBM, but it can be loaded onto a TEL, railway strategic missile train, or various other launchers. It can carry six to ten 100 to 150 kt MIRVs. It’s intended as the future cornerstone of Russia’s nuclear triad. It is deployed on the new Borei class submarines.
Russia also possesses various tactical nuclear weapons. There are 700 operationally deployed air defense tactical nuclear weapons with 500 in reserve, 650 deployed by the air force, and 700 deployed by the navy with 1,350 and 1,570 in reserve respectively. This includes the RA-115 suitcase bomb and the RA-115-01 for submersible weapons.
China is estimated to have an arsenal of more than 550 warheads on its ICBMs – more than the United States – but the exact number is a state secret. China has completed at least two ballistic missile submarines that can carry twelve SLBMs, and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has 120 bombers and about 80 dual capable aircraft.
CSS-3. With the Chinese designation “Dong Feng 4,” it is an ICBM. The silo-based version has one 3.3 megaton warhead, and the road and rail mobile version carries three warheads. The missile serves as a regional deterrence instrument. The road and rail mobile versions are housed in caves or garages to be rolled out on launch.
CSS-4. With the Chinese designation “Dong Feng 5,” it’s an ICBM with an estimated yield of 4 to 5 Mt. Three to eight warheads can be placed on a variant, and ten can be placed on an improved variant.
CSS-10. With the Chinese designation “Dong Feng 31,” it is a road mobile ICBM. It was designed to carry a single 1 Mt warhead, but a variant can hold three to five 20, 90, or 150 kt warheads and MaRVs. It’s only armed with one warhead with decoys and penetration aids to complicate missile defense efforts. It is capable of targeting Europe, Asia, and parts of Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and the variant allows targeting most of the continental United States. The missile is mounted on a TEL, and the People’s Republic has developed an improved variant with an off-road eight axle TEL.
CSS-20. With the Chinese designation “Dong Feng 41,” it is a solid fueled ICBM. It can carry a single 1 Mt warhead. MIRVed, it can carry six to ten 20, 90, or 150 kt warheads, but it likely only carries three warheads with additional payload used for penetration aids. The technology is in response to the U.S. national missile defense system. It is rail mobile, but missile bases house them in silos.
CSS-N-14. With the Chinese designation “Ju Lang 2,” it is a SLBM. Its payload is a single 1 Mt warhead, or MIRVed, it can accommodate one to three 1 Mt warheads or three to eight with yields of 20, 90, or 150 kt. It may be modified with an anti-satellite warhead. The missile is deployed on People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Jin class submarines.
Approximately half of China’s missiles are medium range ballistic missiles targeting regional theater targets. It also has ground and air launched tactical cruise missiles that could be converted to carry nuclear weapons. China has also bought Russian multirole aircraft capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.
North Korea has between eighty and ninety nuclear warheads and is producing as many as twelve weapons annually. It could accrue fissile material worth 300 weapons.
KN-20. With the North Korean designation “Hwasong 14,” it is a mobile ICBM. Its warhead is estimated to weigh 500-600 kg. The range of a missile carrying that payload is enough to reach Anchorage. The missile is launched from a detachable platform on a concrete pad.
KN-22. With the North Korean designation “Hwasong 15,” it’s a road mobile ICBM. Its maximum payload is 1,000 kg, and it might be able to carry additional decoys. The missile has a enough range to reach the United States and several U.S. allies, including France and the United Kingdom. It’s fired from a fixed launch pad or a nine axle TEL vehicle.
KN-28. With the North Korean designation “Hwasong 17,” it is the latest iteration of North Korea’s ICBM program. It could hold warheads three times larger than the KN-22, and it might be capable of holding three to four warheads. It may potentially evade U.S. missile defenses. It’s carried on an eleven axle TEL vehicle.
North Korea has conducted tests with a HGV, an intermediate range ballistic missile and various cruise missiles.
India has an estimated arsenal of 160 nuclear weapons. An estimated 68 nuclear warheads are on land based ballistic missiles. The Indian Navy has developed two sea-based delivery systems for nuclear weapons. The first is a submarine launched system of at least four Arihant class submarines armed with up to 12 medium range ballistic missiles. The second is a ship launched system based around a short-range ship launched ballistic missile. One air base with four squadrons (sixteen multirole aircraft) with 16 bombs and two air bases with four squadrons each of attack aircraft with 32 bombs are assigned the nuclear strike role.
Agni-V. The missile is a road mobile ICBM. Its nuclear warhead weighs 2,500-3,000 kg, and each missile can carry two to ten separate warheads. It can hit any target in China. Agni-V is launched from a Transport-cum-Tilting vehicle, a seven axle trailer pulled by a three axle truck.
India can produce a neutron bomb designed to maximize lethal radiation while minimizing the blast itself. However, India applies a deterrence theory in which a state possesses no more nuclear weapons than is necessary to deter an adversary from attacking.
Israel’s stockpile is up to 400 nuclear warheads. The number of missiles that Israel possesses is unknown, but it is estimated that Israel has fifty nuclear warheads for delivery by two dozen missiles. Approximately thirty warheads are capable of being delivered by a couple squadrons of fighter-bomber aircraft. The Israeli Navy operates a fleet of five Dolphin class submarines equipped with cruise missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads.
Jericho III. Israel’s Jericho III is an intermediate range ballistic missile. It can carry a 1 Mt nuclear warhead, two or three 150-400 kt MIRVed warheads, or up to six 100 kt warheads. The missile gives Israel nuclear strike capabilities within the entire Middle East. Its ICBM launchers are believed to be buried so deep that they would survive a nuclear attack.
It has been reported that Israel has a complete repertoire of other nuclear capabilities. 1 Mt bombs give Israel an EMP attack ability. Israel also is reported to have an unknown number of neutron bombs. Reports indicate Israel developed warheads small enough to fit in a suitcase. Israel reportedly has three battalions of 175mm self-propelled artillery pieces capable of firing 108 nuclear shells. Reportedly, Israel has deployed multiple nuclear land mines in the Golan Heights.
The French Navy has 290 TN-75 warheads on four Triomphant class submarines, one of which is required to be in patrol in the Atlantic Ocean at any given time per French law. France’s aircraft deliverable nuclear weapon stockpile consists of at least twenty 300 kt TN-81 warheads carried by the Medium-range Air to Surface Missile-A (Air-Sol Moyenne Portée-A [ASMP-A]) equipped on French Air Force Mirage 2000 NK3s, French Navy Super Etendards, and French Air Force/Navy Rafales.
M51. A sea-ground strategic ballistic missile in French terminology, the M51 is a SLBM. The missile carries six to ten 110 kt TN-75 thermonuclear warheads. The warheads are miniaturized, hardened, stealthy successors to the 150 kt TN 71. They are the primary armament for the Triomphant class SSBN.
In French nuclear doctrine, the TN-81 is a pre-strategic weapon, a last resort warning shot prior to a full scale strategic nuclear weapon deployment. France would be willing to use nuclear weapons against a state attacking France by terrorism. French nuclear forces have been configured for that option.
United Kingdom. The Royal Navy maintains a fleet of four Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines equipped with Trident II missiles. The warhead design is based on the U.S. W-76 warhead (See Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles). Each submarine can carry up to sixteen missiles, and each missile can carry up to eight warheads. However, each boat deploys no more than 40 warheads split between eight missiles. The United Kingdom always has at least one ballistic missile submarine on patrol – giving it a nuclear deterrent that is effectively invulnerable to pre-emptive attack.
Pakistan. Pakistan is estimated to have around 140 warheads and enough fissile material for 200 warheads. It possesses a variety of nuclear capable medium range ballistic missiles. Pakistan also possesses nuclear tipped cruise missiles. It can launch Babur-III medium range cruise missiles from the Agosta 90B class submarine that can be used as a second-strike capability. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) possesses the Ra’ad Air-Launched Cruise Missile that can carry a 10 kt to 35 kt nuclear warhead and be fired by Mirage IIIs or 75 F-16 fighters. The PAF has two dedicated units operating 27 JF-17 Thunder fighter-bombers in each squadron with 78 aircraft total.
Nuclear weapons have been present in many nations, often as staging grounds under other powers’ control. However, in only one instance has a nation given up nuclear weapons after being in full control of them. South Africa developed nuclear weapons but disassembled its arsenal before joining the NPT. The fall of the Soviet Union left the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in physical possession of nuclear weapons, though not operational control – which was dependent on Russian controlled electronic Permissive Action Links and Russian command and control systems – before transferring their weapons to Russia.