Of the total inventory of an estimated 12 705 warheads at the start of 2022, about 9440 were in military stockpiles for potential use.
Of those, an estimated 3732 warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft, and around 2000—nearly all of which belonged to Russia or the USA—were kept in a state of high operational alert.
Such are conclusions of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's analysts published in its latest report, SIPRI Yearbook 2022, which assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security.
The global nuclear arsenal is expected to grow in the coming years for the first time since the Cold War while the risk of such weapons being used is the greatest in decades, a leading conflict and armaments think-tank said on Monday.
Russia has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal with a total of 5,977 warheads, some 550 more than the United States. The two countries possess more than 90 per cent of the world’s warheads, though SIPRI said China was in the middle of an expansion with an estimated more than 300 new missile silos.
North Korea, India and Pakistan are stockpiling on nuclear missiles
While North Korea conducted no nuclear test explosions or long-range ballistic missile tests during 2021, SIPRI estimates that the country has now assembled up to 20 warheads, and possesses enough fissile material for a total of 45–55 warheads.
In early 2021 France officially launched a programme to develop a third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine. India and Pakistan appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, and both countries introduced and continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery system in 2021.
All of the nuclear-armed states are increasing or upgrading their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies, said Wilfred Wan, Director of SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme. It is a very worrying trend, he added.
SIPRI analysts reviewed data related to the countries that are known by the ownership and procurement of such weapons.
But on the list of global threats is also Iran. Some analysts estimate Teheran has already acquired at least several nuclear warheads.