‘I am absolutely confident, in the right conditions  we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons.’ Geoff Hoon, UK defence secretary, January 23 2002

Warheads US Russia Britain France China Israel India Pakistan
Stockpile 10,600 18,000
Strategic 6,140 4,852 185 348 282
Non-strategic 1,120 3,380 120
Total 7,260 8,232 185 348 402 ~200 30-40 30-50

The figures above are based on public information and contain some uncertainty.

Despite efforts over the past half-century to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons and commitments under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to achieve this goal, the five states defined by the NPT as nuclear weapon states - China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States - continue to deploy more than 16,500 operational nuclear weapons.

If all warheads are counted - deployed, spare and those in storage and 'pits' (plutonium cores) held in reserve - the five nuclear states possess an estimated total of 36,500 warheads - 98 percent of the world nuclear weapon stockpile.

What are strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons?
Broadly this has to do with yield (how big an explosion) and range - how far it can be ‘delivered’. These are imprecise and debatable definitions and originated in the Cold War US/Russia confrontation where distance was an issue. Strategic nuclear weapons were those on long-range ballistic missiles able to travel 13,000 kilometres, or bombs on long-range bombers able to fly 16,000 kilometres non-stop . Such a definition, however, has little meaning when applied to Indian, Pakistani or Israeli nuclear weapons, where distances of targets are relatively short.

The explosive power of many non-strategic weapons is much larger than that of the 20 kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

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