United States nuclear forces, 2016

Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear warheads does the U.S. have?

At the beginning of 2016, the US Defense Department maintained a stockpile of an estimated 4,670 nuclear warheads for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. The stockpile did not shrink significantly over the last year, but has shrunk by roughly 350 warheads since September 2009, when the United States announced that the nuclear arsenal contained 5,113 warheads.1

Most of the warheads in the stockpile are not deployed but stored for potential upload onto missiles and aircraft if so decided, and many are destined for retirement in the future. We estimate that approximately 1,930 warheads are deployed, of which roughly 1,750 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and at bomber bases in the United States. Another 180 tactical bombs are deployed in Europe. The remaining approximately 2,740 warheads – more than 58% – are in storage as a so-called hedge against technical or geopolitical surprises. Many of those are scheduled to be retired before 2030. In addition to the warheads in the Defense Department stockpile, approximately 2,340 retired, but still intact, warheads are in storage under the custody of the Energy Department and awaiting dismantlement, for a total US inventory of roughly 6,970 warheads…

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The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.


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