Nuclear Arms Race Intensifies: New Report Reveals Expanding Arsenals

News Image By PNW Staff June 21, 2024
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China is expanding its nuclear arsenal more rapidly than any other country, now possessing three times the number of warheads that India has, according to a report released on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think tank. 

Meanwhile, Pakistan maintains a rough parity with India in terms of the number of nuclear warheads. Russia and the US remain far ahead of all other countries, together accounting for 90% of the world's nuclear weapons.

The SIPRI analysis indicates that China's nuclear warheads increased from 410 in January 2023 to 500 by January 2024, with further growth anticipated. India has 172 (from 164 in 2023) warheads, while Pakistan has 170 (unchanged from 2023) warheads.

According to SIPRI, the role of nuclear weapons as a deterrent has increased amid ongoing geopolitical turmoil, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Hamas conflict. All nine nuclear-armed states continue to modernize their arsenals, with several deploying new nuclear-armed or nuclear-capable weapon systems in 2023.

"We have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War," said Wilfred Wan, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's weapons of mass destruction program.

The current nuclear stockpiles are as follows: Russia has 4,380 warheads, the US has 3,708, France has 290, the UK has 225, Israel has 90, and North Korea has 50. Of these, an estimated 3,904 warheads are deployed on missiles and aircraft, while the remaining warheads are kept in storage.

"Around 2100 of the deployed warheads were kept in a state of high operational alert on ballistic missiles. Nearly all of these warheads belonged to Russia or the USA, but for the first time China is believed to have some warheads on high operational alert," SIPRI said.

In a report last October, the Pentagon projected that China is on track to exceed 1,000 warheads by 2030, alongside building a robust arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Swedish think tank noted that China could potentially match Russia or the US in the number of ICBMs by the end of the decade, despite maintaining a significantly smaller stockpile of nuclear warheads compared to these countries.

SIPRI also highlighted that India, Pakistan, and North Korea are all developing the capability to deploy multiple warheads on ballistic missiles, a capability already possessed by the US, UK, Russia, France, and China.

This would enable a rapid potential increase in deployed warheads, as well as the possibility for nuclear-armed countries to threaten the destruction of significantly more targets," it said.

Israel's reported 90 nuclear warheads are considered modest compared to other nuclear powers, with some speculating Israel may possess up to 300 warheads. SIPRI indicates about 30 of Israel's warheads are intended for delivery by F-16I and F-15 aircraft. The status of Israel's F-15 fleet is uncertain, though the United States referred to them in 2019 as capable of nuclear missions.

Regarding Israel's ballistic missile capabilities, up to 50 warheads are likely designated for Jericho ballistic missiles, although Israel has never officially acknowledged possessing such missiles. SIPRI reports Israel is upgrading its missile arsenal from Jericho 2 to Jericho 3, which has a range of up to 4,000 km.

Additionally, Israel reportedly operates five Dolphin-class submarines, manufactured in Germany and based in Haifa. While Germany denies these submarines can carry nuclear warheads, SIPRI suggests they potentially enhance Israel's nuclear triad capability - allowing for nuclear strikes from air, land and sea.

In a separate report, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, said the nine nuclear-armed states spent a combined total of $91.4 billion on their arsenals in 2023 -- equivalent to $2,898 per second. 

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