Israel has 80 nuclear warheads, can make 115 to 190 more, report says

The Los Angeles Times reports: Israel has 80 nuclear warheads and the potential to double that number, according to a new report by U.S. experts.

In the Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, recently published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, proliferation experts Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris write that Israel stopped production of nuclear warheads in 2004.

But the country has enough fissile material for an additional 115 to 190 warheads, according to the report, meaning it could as much as double its arsenal.

Previous estimates have been higher but the new figures agree with the 2013 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute yearbook on armament and international security. The yearbook estimated 50 of Israel’s nuclear warheads were for medium-range ballistic missiles and 30 were for for bombs carried by aircraft, according to a report in the Guardian.

Although widely assumed a nuclear power, Israel has never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons or capabilities and continues to maintain its decades-old “strategic ambiguity” policy on the matter, neither confirming nor denying foreign reports on the issue.


Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris write: Excessive secrecy prevents the public from knowing the exact number of nuclear weapons in the world. Although the United States, Russia, Britain, and France have taken steps to increase the transparency of their nuclear stockpiles—both past and present—China, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea continue to refuse to provide basic information about their arsenals. Moreover, an unfortunate new trend is emerging, in that countries that previously provided estimates of the other nations’ nuclear forces have curtailed their release of such information. Secrecy creates uncertainty, mistrust, and misunderstandings. Increased transparency would alleviate this potentially dangerous situation.

We estimate that, combined, the nine nations with nuclear weapons possess more than 10,000 nuclear warheads in their military stockpiles. In addition, several thousand US and Russian retired (but still intact) warheads are in storage, awaiting dismantlement. If the military stockpiles and the retired warheads are counted together, we estimate that the worldwide inventory includes more than 17,000 warheads. The overwhelming portion of that inventory consists of US and Russian warheads, which account for more than 90 percent of all warheads in the world.

Approximately 4,400 warheads—nearly half of all stockpiled warheads—are deployed on missiles or at bases with operational launchers. Of these, we estimate that roughly 1,800 US and Russian warheads are on high alert atop long-range ballistic missiles that are ready to launch 5 to 15 minutes after receiving an order.

Overall, today’s warhead inventories are considerably lower than the Cold War peak of more than 70,000 warheads in the mid-1980s, but the level is still high, considering that the Cold War ended more than 20 years ago. The United States and Russia continue to retain nuclear arsenals that are 10 to 20 times greater than any other state’s. If the trend over time is followed, the US and Russian arsenals (and to a lesser extent those of France and Britain) will continue to decline, but at a slower pace than during the past two decades.

As for China, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea, these nations have nuclear stockpiles that are minuscule in comparison with those of Russia and the United States, but more difficult to estimate. Even so, all of these countries (with the possible exception of North Korea) have sufficient numbers of warheads and delivery systems to inflict enormous destruction over significant ranges with catastrophic humanitarian and climatic consequences in their regions and beyond.

Moreover, in contrast with the United States, Russia, France, and Great Britain, the stockpiles of China, Pakistan, India, and possibly of Israel and North Korea, are likely to increase, although at a much slower pace than prevailed during the US–Soviet arms race of the Cold War. [Continue reading…]

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One thought on “Israel has 80 nuclear warheads, can make 115 to 190 more, report says

  1. delia ruhe

    “From one perspective Israel’s future is bleak. Not for the first time, a Jewish state has found itself on the vulnerable periphery of someone else’s empire: overconfident in its own righteousness, willfully blind to the danger that its indulgent excesses might ultimately provoke its imperial mentor to the point of irritation and beyond, and heedless of its own failure to make any other friends. To be sure, the modern Israeli state has big weapons—very big weapons. But what can it do with them except make more enemies?”

    — Tony Judt, “The country that wouldn’t grow up” (2006)

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