2021 estimate of nuclear weapons held by all nuclear powers.

The missile trailer located in the compound of the Oscar -01 launch control facility at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force). No date or further attribution attached to photo. (Note – if the access door is open and missile transport is getting ready, that is actually a launch facility, not and LCF.)

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute publishes a huge yearbook every yeare. I just learned about this. Yeah, yeah, I’m slow to catch on. I know. That’s why I’m writing this blog – to slowly catch on.

Anyway, I will not be buying the new edition because it runs about $100. Recent copies will run $60-$150 on eBay so will not be getting any of those. Copies 10 years or more from the past can be had for under $10. Might get one of those.

On 6/14/21 SIPRI announced release of their hot-off-the-press 2021 edition. Scroll to the very bottom of the linked page and you can see a link to a free copy of chapter 10 on World Nuclear Forces.

Following tables slice and dice information in the press release and chapter 10 for their estimates of world nuclear forces as of January 2021.

In the following tables, “deployed” is estimate of the deployed warheads either placed on missiles or located at bases where there are operational forces, which would allow rapid loading of the weapons.

“Other” means the warheads which are stored, reserves, or retired awaiting disassembly.

A foot note reminds us the British previously had an announced goal of dropping their inventory down to 180 but they announced this year they will increase the ceiling to 260.

The estimates for North Korea are guesses on how many weapons could be built based on the amount of fissible material they have produced.

Our weapons, along with our closest strategic allies:

Continue reading “2021 estimate of nuclear weapons held by all nuclear powers.”

In case you didn’t have enough to keep you awake at night, our adversaries are expanding their nuclear arsenals.

15U168 TEL 15P158 Topol ICBM by Robert Sullivan is in the public domain (Public Domain Mark 1.0)

Grim news – – China, Russia, and North Korea are expanding their nuclear inventory. From new reports in the last week:

6/16/21 –19fourtyfive – North Korea Might Have Up To 50 Nuclear Weapons: Report – The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, updated their estimate of the nuclear inventory in North Korea.

A year ago they estimated North Korea have between 30 and 40 nuclear weapons.

Continue reading “In case you didn’t have enough to keep you awake at night, our adversaries are expanding their nuclear arsenals.”

Discussion of nuclear weapons capability of U.S. Navy ships in 1990.

B61 thermonuclear bomb on display at March Air Base Museum, Riverside, California. Photo by James Ulvog.

Nuclear weapons carried on U.S. Navy warships back in 1990 is the focus of the preceeding four posts.  Topic caught my interest after a recent tour of the U.S.S. Midway Museum in San Diego, California.

Turns out there were a lot more nukes at sea with the Navy than I realized. 

Links to the four posts, totaling just over 3,000 words, are below along with a brief description of each post:

Continue reading “Discussion of nuclear weapons capability of U.S. Navy ships in 1990.”

Nuclear weapons at sea with the U.S. Navy in 1990 (and earlier).

Ywb61_1b (B61 “Silver Bullet” thermonuclear bomb, USAF museum) by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Previous articles explained the U.S. Navy had three different nuclear weapons deployed at sea in 1990. That of course got me curious about the capabilities of those weapons.

One of the articles I cited had an intriguing table listing all of the nuclear weapons carried by the Navy over the last several decades. The table provided the data source in a citation, which led me to the following book: U.S. Nuclear Arsenal / A history of weapons and delivery system since 1945, by Norman Polmar and Robert S. Norris. I splurged and got a copy at a very nice price (better than what is available as of today).

It is an astounding resource. A veritable encyclopedia of the US nuclear arsenal. It covers warheads, reentry vehicles, missiles, helicopters, tactical fighters, and strategic bombers. Astounding.

For the moment I will dive into some information on the weapons deployed with U.S. Navy in 1990, which also probably covers their loadouts for a decade or two earlier. Will have lots more to discuss from the book later.

B43

There were about 1,000 B43 bombs produced. They were in the inventory from 1961 through 1999.

Continue reading “Nuclear weapons at sea with the U.S. Navy in 1990 (and earlier).”

Nuclear warfare capability of U.S. Navy in 1990.

B61 nuclear bomb. Ywb61_2b by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I have been aware of the US defense posture of maintaining a triad for nuclear deterrence since I was in high school. Since way back then I’ve known the Navy had lots of nuclear weapons on SLBMs under the water.

Only recently have I learned there were a massive number of other nukes in the Navy in the tactical size.

Previous two posts have discussed the nuclear warfighting capabilities of U.S. Navy. Did some more poking around and found that there is actually quite a bit of material available online.

Came across one intriguing article, from Greenpeace of all people:

Article goes into great detail on US capabilities (45 pages), Soviet Union (26 pages), England (11 pages), France (6 pages), and China (2 pages).

Articles written in 1990, which is a useful framework for reference for several reasons.

First, that is about a year before the United States decided (as directed by President Bush) to offload all nonstrategic nuclear weapons from U.S. naval ships. Second, that is a few years after I was on active duty so corresponds relatively close to what was going on my experiences. Third, this corresponds closely to the aircraft on the deck of the U.S.S. Midway Museum, so I have decent pictures to go along as illustrations.

I’ll describe a number of interesting tidbits I found in the article.

Mark 43 thermonuclear bomb, USAF Museum, Ohio, Ywm43_1b by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By the way, since I’m talking about nukes, please know I’ve long since forgotten anything I ever knew so today I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ except what I read in non-government or declassified public documents. Just so you know.

Aircraft carriers

Continue reading “Nuclear warfare capability of U.S. Navy in 1990.”

“Nuclear Weapons Afloat”, official tally

Mark 43 thermonuclear bomb, USAF Museum, Ohio, Ywm43_1b by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As mentioned in the previous post, during a recent tour of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, my curiosity awoke regarding how many nuclear weapons an aircraft carrier had onboard. On of several related questions is how many nukes the Navy had.

Previous discussion described two articles exploring the question.

Immediate answer to my first question is the article asserts a U.S. aircraft carrier typically had 100 nuclear weapons on board during the Cold War.

Deeper answer is the articles pointing to declassified information about the number of nuclear weapons Navy had at sea for the years 1961 through 1991.

Continue reading ““Nuclear Weapons Afloat”, official tally”

Nuclear weapons deployed with the U.S. Navy during Cold War.

Access to ‘special weapons’ area. A Marine guarding nukes? Trust me, you would NOT want to mess with him. Photo aboard U.S.S. Midway Museum by James Ulvog.

On a recent tour of the Midway Museum in San Diego I walked past the door to the “special weapons” area. The “special” means nuclear.

I’ve noticed that area on previous times aboard the U.S.S. Midway, but paused to ponder this visit.

This time I wondered:

  • How many nukes did a US carrier have on board?
  • What types?
  • What airplanes were equipped to carry nukes?

As an amusing coincidence, I asked one of the docents if he is aware of open source documents which describe the nuclear loads on carriers. He did not know, but we had a delightful conversation.

Turns out this docent had a parallel job to what I did when I was in the U.S. Air Force. He was based on SSBN submarines while he was in the Navy, having keys to launch the Polaris SLBM. Like I said, what a fun coincidence.

Well, that triggered my curiosity, got me doing a little research, and I found some good materials for starters.

One specific tidbit in the second article link below is directly responsive to my curiosity – the article asserts U.S. aircraft carriers typically carried 100 nuclear weapons on board during the Cold War.

Update: Just so you know, every word I say in my discussions of nuclear weapons is based on what I have read in a public, open-source document. I don’t know anything else at all about nukes.

Continue reading “Nuclear weapons deployed with the U.S. Navy during Cold War.”

Combat drone launches drone. Spare parts for Minuteman system getting scarce.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrates the separation of the ALTIUS-600 small UAS in a test at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground test range, Arizona on March 26, 2021. This test was the first time the weapons bay doors have been opened in flight. (Photo courtesy United States Air Force.)

The U.S. Air Force is working to develop drone fighters. Most recent test flight had the drone launch another drone.

All the original manufacturers for every component of the Minuteman ICBM system are either gone or the assembly lines have long since been shut down. That means USAF is using its own production facility to create the myriad of necessary spare parts.

4/6/21 – New Atlas – Valkyrie combat drone launches another drone during test flight – Imagine a drone fighter that accompanies a cutting-edge manned fighter such as an F-35. The escorting drone could carry a heavy load of bombs to multiply the strike power of a fighter. It could carry an assortment of air-to-air missiles to defend against other planes or air-to-ground missiles to strike radar or other defense assets.

Continue reading “Combat drone launches drone. Spare parts for Minuteman system getting scarce.”

British nuclear forces in 2011.

NE140004002 by Think Defence is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Royal Navy Vanguard Class submarine HMS Vigilant returning to HMNB Clyde after her extended deployment.

The United Kingdom relies exclusively on submarine launched ballistic missiles for their nuclear deterrent. They have no land-based missiles (ICBMs) or bomber delivered nuclear weapons.

In 2011 the speculation was they had 225 nuclear warheads. Of these, 160 were operationally available with 65 spares to allow for routine maintenance and processing.

Continue reading “British nuclear forces in 2011.”

England to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (May 9, 2019) An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 9, 2019. The successful launch certified the readiness of the SSBN crew and the operation performance of the submarine’s strategic weapons
system following completion of its engineered refueling overhaul before
returning to operational availability. (U.S. Navy photo by John Kowalski/Released)

In a significant policy shift, England is planning to expand its nuclear weapon stockpile. The current guess from outsiders is they have 190 nuclear weapons. The previously announced goal was to draw down the inventory to 180 or less by the mid-2020s.

Instead they will build up to a stockpile of not more than 260.

Continue reading “England to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile.”

The horrible effects of nuclear weapons.

Atom Bomb Nuclear Explosion by Burnt Pineapple Productions is in the public domain:  CC0 1.0

For years I’ve been looking for a table that illustrates the horrid effects of nuclear weapons. Have not seen anything that matched what I had in mind.

My poking around for information on this current series of nukes has led me to many places on the good ol’ net. After looking at several articles, I thought to check on Wikipedia. Guess what? Found a reasonable approximation of what I have been wanting.

 

The lesson from this data for those on active duty is that nuclear safety is imperative.

The lesson for the rest of us is that we and our leaders must strive to make sure nuclear weapons are never used.

 

The Wikipedia article is Effects of nuclear explosions.

The following table is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The original author is not visible, so I cannot give further attribution.

In short version, that means I can use the information, modify it, adapt it, share it, or distribute it, even commercially if so desired.

The requirement of doing so is that anything created from this data must be shared with others under the same license.

So, the information in this blog post, but only this specific blog post, may be used by anyone under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

 

The frightening effects of nuclear weapons:

Continue reading “The horrible effects of nuclear weapons.”

French nuclear weapon inventory in 2019.

070723-N-6524M-004 by cryogenic666 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Mediterranean Sea (July 23, 2007)– A French Rafale M combat aircraft performs a catapult-assisted launch from the flight deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). The Rafale is the first French aircraft to both launch and recover on an American carrier. U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Morris. Image released by LT Mark C. Jones, PAO CVN 65.

For an overview of France’s nuclear weapons consider the document French nuclear forces, 2019 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Their preferred citation is: Hans M. Kristensen & Matt Korda (2019) French nuclear forces, 2019, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 75:1, 51-55, DOI: 10.1080/00963402.2019.1556003.

The bulk of their nuclear inventory is submarine based with a small number of land-based fighters and a smaller number of carrier-based fighters.

Strategy

France’s defense policy is their nuclear weapons are for “legitimate self-defense.”  They have not adopted a no-first-use policy and reserve the right for a limited strike as a “final warning” that they will defend themselves.

SLBMs and SSBNs

France has four Triomphant-class nuclear powered submarines. One of these SSBNs is always on patrol, a second is getting ready to go on patrol, another has returned from patrol, and the final one is in maintenance. Article says each sub patrol is approximately 70 days.

Continue reading “French nuclear weapon inventory in 2019.”

Why all these discussions of nuclear weapons, especially now?

LGM-30 Minuteman III
An LGM-30 Minuteman III missile soars in the air after a test launch. (U.S. Air Force photo) No date provided or further attribution attached to photo.

Been wondering why I’m continuing my posts on nuclear weapons? Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Here are the first few reasons that come to mind:

  • Life continues. All of us, especially me, need to continue on with our lives. The current pandemic is going to be with us for a short while. There will be an echo in the next flu season. This COVID-19 bug is going to be around for a long time. We need to keep living.

Continue reading “Why all these discussions of nuclear weapons, especially now?”

Inventory and accuracy of Soviet nuclear weapons in 1990.

Untitled photo of Tu-95 Bear under escort by F-15C Eagle by Robert Sullivan is in the public domain (CC0 1.0)

 

In my research on nuclear armaments came across a superb resource: Physics and Nuclear Arms Today (Readings from Physics Today)

(Update 4/2/20: Title of post revised.)

The book has lots of articles from the early 1980s through 1991. I bought the book especially for one specific article in 1983 dealing with US and Soviet nuclear forces. The gold mine in that article was a detailed inventory of strategic weaponry as of 1990. It gives a detailed listing of U.S. and Soviet land, submarine, and air based strategic weapons, including count, yield, equivalent megaton, and circular error probable (CEP). Lots of info I’ve been seeking for a long time.

The previous post gave info on US weapons. This post describes the Soviet inventory. Third post will make some comparisons.

First I’ll give my recap of the info and then do a little analysis.  Width limits on web pages mean there will be multiple tables.

  Continue reading “Inventory and accuracy of Soviet nuclear weapons in 1990.”

Inventory and accuracy of U.S. nuclear weapons in 1990.

USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631) returning to port on 2/1/91, but exact date is in doubt. Sub was in service from 1964 through 1992. Photo taken by U.S. Government employee in course of assigned duties so it is in the public domain.

Came across a superb resource during my research on nuclear armaments: Physics and Nuclear Arms Today (Readings from Physics Today)

(Update 4/2/20: Title of post revised.)

The book has articles from the early 1980s through 1991. Lots of good stuff.  I bought the book especially for one article from 1983 dealing with US and Soviet nuclear forces. The gold mine in that article was a detailed inventory of strategic weaponry as of 1990. It gives a detailed listing of U.S. and Soviet land, submarine, and air based strategic weapons, including count, yield, equivalent megaton, and circular error probable (CEP). Lots of info I’ve been looking for a long time.

Information in that table is credited to The Military Balance 1989-90. At a price of over $200 for the paperback, don’t think I’ll be buying my own copy.

This post will give info on US weapons. Next post will describe the Soviet inventory. Third post will make some comparisons.  Width limits on web pages mean there will be multiple tables.  Continue reading “Inventory and accuracy of U.S. nuclear weapons in 1990.”