SIPRI: Israel has close to 100 nuclear warheads

Report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says there’s an estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons in the hands of nine states.

June 17, 2019 12:35
3 minute read.
SIPRI: Israel has close to 100 nuclear warheads

An unarmed AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missile is released from a B-52H Stratofortress over the Utah Test and Training Range during a Nuclear Weapons System Evaluation Program sortie, 80miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., September 22, 2014. Picture taken September 22, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel has close to 100 nuclear weapons, a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has found.

While Israel has a long-standing policy of not commenting on its nuclear arsenal, according to the report there are approximately 30 that are gravity bombs, which can be delivered by fighter jets – some of which are believed to be equipped for nuclear weapon delivery – and approximately 50 warheads that can be delivered by land-based ballistic missiles such as the Jericho III intermediate-range ballistic missile – which, according to foreign reports, has a range of 5,500 km.

The report also mentioned the numerous unconfirmed reports that Israel has modified its fleet of German-built Dolphin class submarines to carry nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles, giving it a sea-based second-strike capability.

According to the report, at the start of 2019 there were approximately 13,865 nuclear weapons in the hands of nine states – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – of which 3,750 were deployed with operational forces and another estimated 2,000 kept in a state of high operational alert.

Russia and the US collectively account for over 90% of global nuclear weapons, the report found, with 6,500 in Moscow’s arsenal and Washington possessing 6,185 nuclear weapons. The UK was reported to have 200, France 300, Israel between 80 and 90, Pakistan between 150 and 160, India between 130 and 140, China 290 and North Korea between 20 and 30 nuclear weapons.

Iran was reported to be continuing to implement the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and was not mentioned in the report as having any nuclear weapons.

According to the report, the US has 1,750 deployed nuclear warheads and another 4,435 “other warheads,” including operational ones held in storage and retired warheads awaiting dismantling. Russia, by comparison, has 1,600 deployed warheads with 4,900 other warheads; the UK has 120 deployed warheads and France has 280.

The other countries, including Israel, had no deployed nuclear warheads.

The raw material for nuclear weapons is fissile material, either highly enriched uranium (HEU) or separated plutonium. All states with a civilian nuclear industry are capable of producing fissile materials, the report stated.

According to the report, China, France, Russia, the UK and the US have produced both HEU and plutonium for use in their nuclear weapons, while India and Israel have produced mainly plutonium. Pakistan has mainly produced HEU, but it is expanding its ability to produce plutonium. North Korea has produced plutonium for use in nuclear weapons, but may have produced HEU as well.

Despite the high number of nuclear warheads, the report noted that the inventories of the nuclear-armed states continue to decline, due in large part to Russia and the US reducing their arsenals in line with the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) while also making unilateral reductions.

Nevertheless, both countries “have extensive and expensive programs underway to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems and nuclear weapons production facilities,” the report said.

While the nuclear arsenals of the other seven nuclear-armed states are “considerably smaller,” they all are either developing or deploying new weapons systems or have announced their intention to do so.

The report stated that China is gradually increasing the size and diversifying the composition of its nuclear arsenal, while North Korea continues to prioritize its military nuclear program as a central element of its national security strategy.

Rivals India and Pakistan are both expanding their military fissile material production capabilities “on a scale that may lead to significant increases in the size of their nuclear weapon inventories over the next decade,” the report said.

The report acknowledged that the availability of reliable information on the status of nuclear arsenals and the capabilities of nuclear-armed countries varies significantly depending on the state.

“China now publicly displays its nuclear forces more frequently than in the past, but releases little information about force numbers or future development plans. The governments of India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests, but provide no information about the status or size of their arsenals,” the report said, adding that: “North Korea has acknowledged conducting nuclear weapon and missile tests, but provides no information about its nuclear weapons capabilities.”

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