At the start of 2023, nine countries — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) and Israel— collectively possessed approximately 12,512 nuclear weapons, 9,576 of which are believed to be operational.
An estimated 3,844 of these warheads were deployed with operational forces, including about 2,000 that were kept in a state of high active alert.
The US and Russia have extensive and expensive programmes to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads, missiles, aircraft and sub-marine delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities.
China slowly grows its stockpile
China is in the midst of a significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear arsenal. Its nuclear stockpile is expected to continue growing over the coming decade.
Some projections suggest it will deploy at least as many intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as Russia or the US in that period. However, China’s overall nuclear warhead stockpile is still expected to remain smaller than that of either of those states.
The nuclear arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states are even smaller, but all are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so.