U.S. cutting nuclear warhead stockpile despite major China, Russia buildups
The number of U.S. nukes has declined in the last seven years and now includes 3 ,750 nukes. These weapons can be deployed on bombers and missiles as well as many other weapons kept in storage according to Energy and State Department factsheets made public this week.
The number of warheads in strategic weapons arsenal has fallen from 4 ,717 to September 2014..
The latest fact sheets hail the declassification the stockpile’s transparency as an important measure to promote weapons non-proliferation. To protect its efforts to deter nuclear-armed enemies, the Trump administration refused to disclose the number of warheads.
According to the latest disclosures, as of September 2020, the number of U.S. warheads was 3,750, down from around 31,255 in 1968 and 22,217 following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Since September 2017,, the last time warhead numbers had been made public, a total of 711 nukes were removed.
The number of non-strategic nukes was not disclosed. These include a stockpile containing aircraft-dropped nukes.
The warhead stockpile contains both active and inactive warheads. Active warheads can be both strategic and non-strategic weapon that are kept in an operational, ready for use status.
Inactive warheads are kept in reserve and don’t have any tritium gas bottles to increase their explosive power like active warheads.
The current strategic warhead stockpile under the New START arms treaty is 1,389 warheads deployed on long-range missiles, submarine-launched missiles and warheads counted for delivery on strategic bombers.
Disclosure of the decline in U.S. warheads comes as China is building an estimated 350 new silos for long-range missiles at three locations in western China, as The Washington Times reported earlier this year. U.S. officials estimate the new silos will house the 10-warhead DF-41 missile, and suggest a production capability of up to 3,500 new warheads.
China’s current strategic warhead stockpile has been estimated to be around 250 warheads.
Russia is also building up its nuclear arsenal with new strategic weapons such as nuclear-powered cruise missiles, high-speed underwater drones armed with multi-megaton warheads, and nuclear-powered cruise rockets.
Adm. Charles Richard was the commander of the Omaha-based Strategic Command and warned in an August speech that Russia and China are both aggressively modernizing nuclear arsenals. He was especially alarmed at Beijing’s nuclear advancements.
“We’re witnessing a strategic breakthrough by China,” Adm. Richard said at a missile defense conference held in Alabama. “The explosive growth of their conventional and nuclear forces cannot be described as stunning .”