United States nuclear forces, 2017

By Hans M. Kristensen, Robert S. Norris | January 2, 2017

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

At the beginning of 2017, the US Defense Department maintained a stockpile of an estimated 4,480 nuclear warheads for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. This figure is unchanged over the last year. Since September 2009, when the United States announced that the nuclear arsenal contained 5,113 warheads, the stockpile has decreased by 633.

Most of the warheads in the stockpile are not deployed but stored for potential upload onto missiles and aircraft, and many are destined for retirement. We estimate that approximately 1,740 warheads are currently deployed, of which roughly 1,590 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and at bomber bases in the United States. Another 150 tactical bombs are deployed in Europe. The remaining approximately 2,740 warheads—61% of the total—are in storage as a so-called hedge against technical or geopolitical surprises (see Table 1). Several hundred of those are scheduled to be retired before 2030…

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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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