Number and alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons in 2020.

A KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, prepares to transfer fuel to a B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., off the coast of Spain, June 13, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

Previous posts have described the count of nuclear weapons in the U.S. inventory and how they are deployed. Future posts will dive into the inventory of other nuclear powers. Plan to have some discussion of the U.S. inventory at various times in the past.

Reading the various articles made me wonder how many weapons are available in what time frame.

(Update 2/28/20:  Realized the photos of 1970s and ’80s weapon originally included in this post would be better in a comparable post discussing weapons in 1980.  Photos moved. New photos added to this post.)

For example, the Minuteman-III loaded with the Mk12A reentry vehicle can carry 3 warheads but are only loaded with 1. It would take months to reconfigure 200 missiles with another 400 warheads.

Of the 12 Ohio-class subs not in refueling, 8 are usually at sea with 4 of those on-station. The other 4 are hours or days away from their assigned station.

There are guessed 200 ALCMs at Minot and 100 gravity bombs at Whiteman which would take a fair amount of time to load. It would take an even long time to transport the remaining 550 weapons out to Minot and Whiteman.

So, I took a wild guess at how many weapons are available to the president immediately and long it would take to get the remaining inventory on line.

Followup post will develop a comparable guess at number and availability back in the depths of the Cold War.


Just to be clear, I don’t have access to anything other than open source information, so everything you see here is my uneducated guesses and uniformed uninformed assumptions based on various printed documents written by people who don’t have access to any classified info.

So on one hand everything you read on this blog is essentially conjecture.

On the other hand, not having access to any real information means I can talk about all the details, even if it means I speculate and assume.

An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches Aug. 19, 2015, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)


Here is the result of my long string of guesses and assumptions in 2020:

on alert day or weeks or
delivery inventory daily days months years
MM-III          600         200         400
MM-III          200         200
Trident II       1,486         288         288         288         622
Trident II           50           16           16           16             2
Trident II          384           72           72           72         168
B-52H          528         200         328
B-2A          322         100         222
F-15E,F16          230         150           80
total       3,800         776         826       1,406         792
Trident C-4 SLBM – ATK rocket park, Utah – Ywtrd_1b by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The loads on the various weapon systems in 2020:

delivery weapon yield
MM-III W78 335 kt
MM-III W87 300 kt
Trident II W76-1 90 kt
Trident II W76-2 5 kt
Trident II W88 455 kt
B-52H W80-1 5kt-150kt
B-2A B61x/B83 10kt-1.2mt
F-15E,F16 B61x 0.3kt-170kt


My conjecture then produces guesses that about 776 weapons are on daily alert and immediately available. In hours, a day, or a few days, another 826 weapons would be on alert and available.  Over the next weeks, month, or a few months, another 1,406 weapons would move to alert status. The remaining 792 weapons would have to wait for the refueling on 2 boomers to finish and pull other subs back into port for reconfiguration.

Take my wildly aimed guesses for whatever they may be worth.

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