Indian nuclear forces, 2018

By Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda | November 1, 2018


Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does India have?

India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal with development of several new nuclear weapon systems. We estimate that India currently operates seven nuclear-capable systems: two aircraft, four land-based ballistic missiles, and one sea-based ballistic missile. At least five more systems are in development. The development program is in a dynamic phase, with long-range land- and sea-based missiles emerging for possible deployment within the next decade.

India is estimated to have produced at least 600 kilograms of weapon-grade plutonium (International Panel on Fissile Materials 2015), sufficient for 150–200 nuclear warheads; however, not all the material has been converted into nuclear warheads. Based on available information about its nuclear-capable delivery force structure and strategy, we estimate that India has produced 130–140 nuclear warheads (see Table 1). It will need more warheads to arm the new missiles that it is currently developing. In addition to the operational Dhruva plutonium production reactor near Mumbai, India has plans to build at least one more plutonium production reactor. Moreover, the unsafeguarded Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor under construction at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) near Kalpakkam could potentially increase India’s plutonium production capacity significantly in the near future if it achieves criticality as planned. The director of IGCAR has additionally stated that six more fast breeder reactors will come online within the next 15 years. Construction of the first two, to be located at IGCAR, would reportedly begin in 2021 and be ready for commercial power production by the early 2030s (Kumar 2018)…

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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 Matt Korda, a research associate with the project. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.

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