18 September 2017

Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2017

Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris

The authors estimate that as of mid-2017, there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Nearly 4000 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice. This article reviews the locations of nuclear weapons in all nine nuclear-armed states, as well as those of US weapons deployed outside the United States. 

As of mid-2017, we estimate that there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Approximately 4150 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice.

By far, the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons reside in Russia and the United States, which possess 93 percent of the total global inventory (Kristensen and Norris 2013Kristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2013. “Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945-2013.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69: 75–81. doi:10.1177/0096340213501363.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). In addition to the seven other countries with nuclear weapon stockpiles (Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea), five nonnuclear NATO allies (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey) host about 150 US nuclear bombs at six air bases. (For a listing of all the sites worldwide, see Table 1.11. Valuable open-source reference material for estimating deployments of nuclear weapons include START and New START data published by the US State Department; Arkin and Fieldhouse (1985Arkin, W. M., and R. Fieldhouse. 1985. Nuclear Battlefields: Global Links in the Arms Race. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger. [Google Scholar]); Arkin et al. (1998Arkin, W. M., R. S. Norris, and J. Handler. 1998. Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments 1998. New York: Natural Resources Defense Council. [Google Scholar]); McKinzie et al. (2001McKinzie, M. G., T. B. Cochran, R. S. Norris and W. M. Arkin. 2001. The U.S. Nuclear War Plan: A Time For Change. New York: Natural Resources Defense Council. [Google Scholar]); Cirincione et al. (2005Cirincione, J., J. B. Wolfsthal, and M. Rajkumar. 2005. Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. [Google Scholar]); the SIPRI Yearbook, various issues; the Monterey Institute for International Studies’ open-source research database on the Nuclear Threat Initiative website, available at http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/index.html;FAS Nuclear Notebooks in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Google Earth; and the authors’ analysis.View all notes)

Table 1. Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2017. 


We estimate that Russia stores nuclear weapons at 48 locations, by far the largest number of any nuclear-armed state. This is a significant reduction from the 100 sites it was using in the late 1990s, 250 in the mid-1990s, and 500 in 1991.22. For previous estimates of Russian nuclear weapons storage sites, see: US Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response, November 1997, p. 43; William M. Arkin, et al., Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments 1998, Natural Resources Defense Council, March 1998, pp. 26–38; Susan Koch, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense For Threat Reduction Policy, testified before Congress, Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, 6 March 2000, p. 2; Kristensen and Norris (2014aKristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2014a. “Worldwide Deployments of Nuclear Weapons, 2014.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November. doi:10.1177/0096340214547619?needAccess=true.[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).View all notes

There is considerable uncertainty about the number of Russian nuclear weapons storage sites, for several reasons. First, the Russian government provides almost no information about its nuclear warhead storage program. Second, Western governments say very little about what they know.33. According to the US government, “In peacetime, all nuclear munitions except those on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs are stored in nuclear weapons storage sites” (CIA 2011CIA. 2011. Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces, 5. Washington DC: National Intelligence Council. [Google Scholar]). The statement does not define “nuclear weapons storage sites,” which exist both as large centralized storage sites separated from bases with operational delivery systems and as smaller storage sites at or close to bases. Moreover, with the expiration of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in 2013, public information about the status of Russian nuclear weapons storage facilities will likely become scarcer. Future US–Russian security cooperation will take place under the 2003 Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in the Russian Federation and a related protocol, which do not cover nuclear weapons storage security.View all notes Moreover, definitions vary on what constitutes a “storage site;” some observers count each fenced storage bunker as a site, even though there may be several individually fenced bunkers within a larger storage complex. We count each storage complex as one site.

The Russian government has occasionally made declarations about its nuclear weapons storage program. For example, at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, Russia declared that “the total number of nuclear weapons storage facilities has been reduced fourfold” since 1991 (Russian Federation 2010aRussian Federation. 2010a. “National Report on the Implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons by the Russian Federation.” NPT CONF 2010/28. Moscow: Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. May 3. 14. [Google Scholar]). At the same event, the Russian delegation distributed a publication stating that “[a]ll Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons are concentrated in centralized storage bases exclusively ob [sic] the national territory” (Russian Federation 2010bRussian Federation. 2010b. Practical Steps of the Russian Federation in the Field of Nuclear Disarmament. Moscow: Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. May. 8. [Google Scholar]). Moreover, twice a year under the terms of New START, the Kremlin hands over a detailed list of its strategic force deployments to the US government. Unfortunately, the list is secret.44. The New START list is secret, and the United States agreed during treaty negotiations not to publish it. During the previous START, which expired in 2010, the US State Department released the list of Russian weapons and warheads counted by the treaty.View all notes

There is also uncertainty about the status of many nuclear weapon systems, including what constitute “nonstrategic” weapons. For example, medium-range Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers are sometimes described by Russians as strategic, even though they have a shorter range than the strategic weapons covered by New START. Yet, this may imply that Tu-22M3 bases store some nuclear weapons. There is also uncertainty about whether some storage facilities associated with naval attack-submarine bases store nonstrategic nuclear weapons.

Russian permanent nuclear weapon storage locations fall into three main categories: operational warheads at Strategic Rocket Force, navy, and air force bases; nonstrategic and reserve or retired warheads at national-level storage sites; and warheads at assembly and disassembly factories.55. Weapons are also occasionally present at an unknown number of temporary storage sites when in transit between bases and production facilities.View all notes

The storage locations for operational warheads include 11 ICBM fields and garrisons, two ballistic missile submarine bases, and two heavy bomber bases.66. Unlike ICBMs and nuclear submarines, heavy bombers do not carry nuclear weapons under normal circumstances. But we estimate that some nuclear weapons are present in storage bunkers at the two heavy bomber bases. Intermediate-range Tu-22M3 Backfire-C bomber bases could possibly also store nuclear weapons. We assume that all weapons for Su-34 Fullback and Su-22M Fencer-D tactical fighter-bombers are in central storage alongside all other nonstrategic nuclear warheads.View all notes The national-level storage sites maintained by the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defense include 12 separate locations. The warhead production complexes also have some warhead storage capacity. There are also a number of regional sites that appear to be nuclear, some of which have been upgraded in recent years.

United States

The United States today stores nuclear weapons at 18 sites, including 12 sites in 11 US states and another six sites in five European countries.77. For an overview of US nuclear forces, see Kristensen and Norris (2017aKristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2017a. “US Nuclear Forces, 2017.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January. doi:10.1080/00963402.2016.1264213?needAccess=true.[Crossref], [Google Scholar]).View all notes

All Air Force nuclear warheads are now stored at five US locations: the F.E. Warren and Malmstrom Air Force Bases, which store intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Whiteman Air Force Base, which stores bombers, Minot Air Force Base, which stores both ICBMs and bombers, and one central storage facility, the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex (KUMMSC).

The US Navy stores its nuclear weapons at the Strategic Weapons Facilities at Kitsap in Washington State and at Kings Bay in Georgia, the only two remaining naval nuclear weapon storage sites. Some naval warheads may also be present at the KUMMSC.

The United States is the only country that deploys nuclear weapons in other countries, but the number kept abroad significantly shrank with the end of the Cold War.88. For US nuclear weapons deployments in the period of 1951–1977, see Norris, Arkin, and Burr (1999Norris, R. S., W. M. Arkin, and W.Burr. 1999. “Where They Were.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 55: 26–35. doi:10.1080/00963402.1999.11460389. November.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]) and Norris, Arkin, and Burr (2000Norris, R. S., W. M. Arkin, and W.Burr. 2000. “How Much Did Japan Know?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January. doi:10.1080/00963402.2000.11456913.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).View all notes Approximately, 150 nonstrategic nuclear bombs are stored in underground vaults beneath 87 aircraft shelters at six bases in five European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey) for delivery by US and NATO fighter-bombers. Likewise, most of the nuclear weapons the United States used to deploy at sea have been retired, including all tactical weapons. Today, only strategic weapons remain at sea.99. For an overview of US deployments of nuclear weapons at sea, see Kristensen and Norris (2016aKristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2016a. “Declassified: US Nuclear Weapons At Sea.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, February 3.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/02/nuclear-weapons-at-sea/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

Britain and France

London and Paris have reduced the size of their arsenals and limited where their weapons are deployed. Britain only has one type of nuclear weapon, the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The missiles and associated warheads are located at two facilities in Scotland, although warheads are also serviced at two factories southwest of London.1010. For an overview of British nuclear forces, see Kristensen and Norris (2011Kristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2011. “British Nuclear Forces, 2011.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September.http://bos.sagepub.com/content/67/5/89.full.pdf+html [Google Scholar]).View all notes

France has retained two types of nuclear weapons: SLBMs at a submarine base in Bretagne and air-to-surface missiles for land- and carrier-based aircraft. France also has a warhead production and maintenance complex at Valduc. We estimate that the French warheads are spread over seven locations.1111. For an overview of French nuclear forces, see Kristensen (2015Kristensen, H. M. 2015. “France.” In Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition. edited by R. Acheson, 30–37. New York: Reaching Critical Will.http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Publications/modernization/assuring-destruction-forever-2015.pdf [Google Scholar]).View all notes


Researching Chinese nuclear weapons storage is difficult given the almost complete official secrecy that surrounds China’s nuclear forces.1212. For an overview of Chinese nuclear forces, see Kristensen and Norris (2016bKristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2016b. “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. July. doi:10.1080/00963402.2016.1194054?needAccess=true.[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).View all notes Moreover, as is the case with other nuclear-armed states, Western governments say very little about what they know.1313. During the Obama administration, information published by the US government about Chinese nuclear forces decreased. An overview of Chinese nuclear missiles previously published in the annual Pentagon report on China’s military forces has completely disappeared from the publication (Kristensen 2013Kristensen, H. M. 2013. “Chinese Nuclear Developments Described (And Omitted) by DOD Report.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, May 14.http://fas.org/blogs/security/2013/05/china2013/ [Google Scholar]).View all notes

Even so, important new information has become available from other sources since we made our previous estimate in 2014. This includes more satellite images on Google Earth that allow the public to monitor developments in Chinese forces. Moreover, a number of publications by Mark Stokes at the Project 2049 Institute have made invaluable new information and analysis available to the public.

We cautiously estimate that China may have nuclear warheads at 12 facilities. Nearly all of China’s 270 nuclear warheads are concentrated in the central nuclear weapons storage site, known as 22 Base and located in the western part of Shaanxi province in central China (Stokes 2010Stokes, M. A. 2010. “China’s Nuclear Warhead Storage and Handling System.” Project 2049 Institute, March 12.http://www.project2049.net/documents/chinas_nuclear_warhead_storage_and_handling_system.pdf [Google Scholar]). The missiles intended to deliver these warheads are dispersed across China at approximately 25 brigade bases organized under six base headquarters. Each of these base headquarters probably has a small number of nuclear warheads in regional storage sites.

The Chinese navy has two bases with nuclear-capable missile submarines, each of which might have an adjacent warhead storage facility. The Air Force has a couple of intermediate-range bomber bases that might have a secondary nuclear mission, although Chinese bombers do not currently have a nuclear mission.

China also has a small number of warhead design, production, and maintenance facilities, presumably with a small number of warheads present.


Islamabad is quantitatively and qualitatively increasing its arsenal and deploying weapons at more sites, yet the locations are difficult to pinpoint. For example, no reliable public information exists on where Pakistan produces or stores its nuclear weapons. Thus, we have used commercial satellite images, expert studies, and local news reports and articles to make the assumption that nuclear weapons are likely to be at, or near, wherever nuclear-capable weapon systems are deployed. Based on this work, we cautiously estimate that Pakistan stores nuclear weapons at nine locations.

Pakistan has a rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal of 130–140 warheads and an increasing portfolio of delivery systems.1414. For an overview of Pakistan’s nuclear forces, see Kristensen and Norris (2016cKristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2016c. “Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2016.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. November. doi:10.1080/00963402.2016.1241520?needAccess=true.[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).View all notes Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not believed to be fully operational under normal circumstances. We have found no credible information that identifies permanent nuclear weapons storage locations, but there are a few clues.

The most detailed public statements we’re aware of were made by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 when she told Congress that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons “are widely dispersed in the country.” She said the weapons “are not at a central location” but that Pakistan has “adopted a policy of dispersing their nuclear weapons and facilities” (Clinton 2009Clinton, H. R. 2009. US Secretary of State testimony before the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs for Fiscal Year 2010, April 23.http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-111hhrg55951/html/CHRG-111hhrg55951.htm [Google Scholar]). Senior US officials subsequently said that most of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal was south of Islamabad (Kralev and Slavin 2009Kralev, N., and B. Slavin. 2009. “Clinton Warns of Pakistan Nuke Risk.” Washington Times, April 24.http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/24/clinton-warns-of-pakistan-nuke-risk [Google Scholar]; Sanger 2009Sanger, D. 2009. “Pakistani Strife Raises U.S. Doubts on Nuclear Arms.” New York Times, May 4.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/04/world/asia/04nuke.html [Google Scholar]). We have previously identified a number of facilities that appear to be related to Pakistani nuclear missile forces (Kristensen 2016Kristensen, H. M. 2016. “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Weapons Infrastructure.” FAS Strategic Security Blog, November 16.https://fas.org/blogs/security/2016/11/pakistan-nuclear-infrastructure/ [Google Scholar]).

Former President Pervez Musharraf reportedly told Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker that Pakistan had constructed a huge tunnel system for the transport and storage of nuclear weapons. “The tunnels are so deep that a nuclear attack will not touch them,” he said, adding that it was impossible to monitor the movements of nuclear components by satellite (Hersh 2009Hersh, S. M. 2009. “Defending the Arsenal: In an Unstable Pakistan, Can Nuclear Weapons Be Kept Safe?” The New Yorker, November16.http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/11/16/defending-the-arsenal [Google Scholar]). One potential underground facility is near Tarbala in the country’s north.


As with Pakistan, we have found little reliable information that indicates where India’s 120–130 nuclear warheads are stored.1515. For an overview of India’s nuclear arsenal, see Kristensen and Norris (2017bKristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2017b. “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2017.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July. doi:10.1080/00963402.2017.1337998?needAccess=true.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]).View all notes Based on available unclassified sources and satellite imagery, we cautiously estimate that India stores nuclear weapons at at least five locations.

India is thought to keep its nuclear warheads and bombs in central storage locations rather than on bases with operational forces. But India’s missile force is evolving rapidly as larger missiles with longer ranges and shorter response times appear. And India is putting the final touches on its first nuclear submarine, to be able to deploy a secure second strike capability. One of the key questions is whether India will begin to deploy nuclear weapons on its subs under normal circumstances. Although not yet on our list (because it is not complete), the first submarine base is under construction near Rambilli in Andhra Pradesh on the Indian east coast.


Israel is a wild card because of the opacity of its nuclear weapons program. Like other nuclear-armed states, however, Israel has been modernizing its arsenal and probably also its storage facilities. Israel’s nuclear weapons are not believed to be fully operational under normal circumstances but are estimated to include 80–85 warheads.1616. For analyses of Israeli nuclear forces, see Cohen (2010Cohen, A. 2010. The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb. New York: Columbia University Press. [Google Scholar]); Cohen and Burr (2009Cohen, A., and W. Burr. 2009. Israel Crosses the Threshold. National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 189, April 28.http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB189/index.htm. [Google Scholar]); Kristensen and Norris (2014bKristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2014b. “Israeli Nuclear Forces, 2014.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November. doi:10.1177/0096340214555409?needAccess=true.[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]); and the Avner Cohen profile page (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/person/avner-cohen) and Avner Cohen Collection page (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/the-avner-cohen-collection) at the Wilson Center.View all notes We estimate that Israel might store nuclear warhead components at five locations.

North Korea

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, produced sufficient fissile material to potentially make 20 weapons, and made considerable progress in developing ballistic missiles. Yet, the extent to which North Korea has weaponized its nuclear test devices and deployed nuclear weapons is still uncertain, as is where any such weapons would be stored.

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