New START Aggregate Numbers Released: First Round Slim Picking

You won’t be able to count SS-18s in the New START aggregate date.

By Hans M. Kristensen

Russia and the United States have released the first Fact Sheet with aggregate numbers for the strategic offensive nuclear forces counted under the New START treaty.

It shows that Russia has already dropped below the New START ceiling of 1,550 accountable deployed warheads and the United States is close behind, seven years before the treaty is scheduled to enter into effect (it makes you wonder what all the ratification delay was about).

But compared with the extensive aggregate numbers that were released during the previous START treaty, the new Fact Sheet is slim picking: just six numbers.

Unless the two countries agree to release more information in the months ahead, this could mark a significant step back in nuclear transparency.

The Aggregate Numbers

The Fact Sheet includes six numbers for three categories of counted U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arms under the treaty:

United States

The table lists 882 deployed delivery vehicles. Since we know this includes 450 ICBMs and 288 SLBMs, the number of bombers counted appears to be 144. Less than half of those (about 60 B-2 and B-52H) are actually assigned nuclear missions, the balance being “phantom” bombers (B-52H and B-1B) that have some equipment installed that makes them accountable under the treaty.

The 1,800 deployed warheads include approximately 500 on 450 ICBMs and approximately 1,152 on 288 SLBMs. The remaining 148 warheads constitute the remaining “fake” count of one weapon per deployed bomber. That means our estimate was only four warheads off (!).

If subtracting the 144 “fake” bomber weapons, the actual number of U.S. deployed strategic warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs is 1,656, only about 100 warheads from the New START ceiling. The actual number of bomber weapons present at the bases, we estimate, is 300 or less. They are not deployed on the bombers, so they are not counted by New START, but they were counted by the United States during the now-expired Moscow Treaty (SORT). So the real number of operationally available warheads may be around 1,950, which is what we estimated in March.

Another 2,290 non-deployed strategic warheads are in reserve and there are about 760 non-strategic warheads for a total stockpile of approximately 5,000 warheads. Another 3,500 or so warheads are awaiting dismantlement for a total inventory of roughly 8,500 warheads.

The total number of 1,124 deployed and non-deployed missiles and bombers shows that there are 242 non-deployed missiles and bombers. That number includes 48 SLBMs for two non-deployed SSBNs and additional test SLBMs, reserve Minuteman ICBMs and 50 retired Peacekeeper ICBMs, and heavy bombers in overhaul.

The United States has declassified considerable information in the past and hopefully will continue to do so in the future, so the limited aggregate numbers has fewer implications than in the case of Russia. But it would help to see a breakdown of bombers and non-deployed missiles.

Russian Federation

The effect of the limited aggregate numbers has a much more significant effect on the ability to understand the Russian nuclear posture. Most important is the absence of a breakdown of strategic delivery vehicles.

The number of deployed delivery vehicles is listed as 521. The final aggregate number from the expired START treaty was 630 as of July 1, 2009. Not surprisingly, a reduction because the SS-18, SS-19, SS-25 and SS-N-18 are being phased out. But the limited aggregate information makes it impossible to see which missiles have been reduced.

In our latest estimate we counted 534 deployed delivery vehicles, or 13 more than the New START data. The difference may reflect that some SLBMs on Delta IV SSBNs were not fully deployed and a slightly different composition of the ICBM force.

The Fact Sheet lists 1,537 deployed warheads, which actually translates into 1,461 warheads because 76 of them are “fake” bomber weapons. That means Russia has already met the warhead limit of New START – seven years before the treaty enters into effect.

Despite the uncertainty about the force structure, our latest estimate of Russian strategic nuclear warheads deployed on ICBMs and SLBMs was only 122 warheads off.

The aggregate deployed warhead number also more or less confirms long-held suspicion that Russia normally loads its missiles with their maximum capacity of warheads, in contrast to the United States practice of loading only a portion of the warheads.

That means that Russia only has comparatively few strategic warheads in reserve (essentially all bomber weapons). New START does not count such warheads, nor does it count 3,700-5,400 non-strategic warheads in storage or some 3,200 warheads awaiting dismantlement, for a total inventory of up to 11,000 warheads.

The total aggregate number for deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles is listed as 865. That shows us that Russia has 344 non-deployed delivery vehicles, a considerable amount given the relatively limited size of their deployed force of 521 delivery vehicles. Since Russia has a limited number of bombers more or less exclusively committed to the nuclear mission, the non-deployed delivery vehicles mainly include retired ICBMs. It would be good to hear whether they will be destroyed or stored.

Additional releases

Each of the two parties to New START can decide under the treaty to release additional information to the public about their own nuclear postures. Given the limited information in the aggregate numbers Fact Sheet, it would be a huge disappoint if they don’t.

I understand from the U.S. government that it is planning to do so later this year, and it is important that Russia considers doing so as well.

Under the terms of the treaty the two parties may also agree to jointly release additional information.


At a first glance the aggregate numbers released by the United States and Russia under the New START treaty is a huge disappointment. It represents a step back in nuclear transparency compared with the standard set by the same two countries under the previous START treaty.

Earlier last month, Ambassador Linton Brooks, Ambassador Jack Matlock and Secretary William Perry joined FAS in calling on the United States and Russia to continue to meet this standard.

We have yet to receive a formal reply but the aggregate numbers Fact Sheet is a reply of sort.

It ought to be a natural that international nuclear transparency is increased with each new treaty, that previously unaccounted categories are brought under accounting, and that uncertainties are cleared up. Moreover, international nuclear transparency means transparency not just for the two parties to the treaty but for the international community as well.

The aggregate numbers Fact Sheet includes the total number of warheads actually deployed on ICBMs and SLBMs, an important improvement from the previous treaty. But the breakdown of number of delivery vehicles and deployment locations has moved into the black.

As mentioned above, the United States and Russia have the right under the treaty – individually or jointly – to release additional information about their nuclear force structures.

It is essential that they do so and continue to do so with each future aggregate numbers Fact Sheet release. Otherwise, the uncertainty about their forces could accumulate and undermine predictability and transparency for other nuclear powers. That, in turn, could make it harder to get those countries involved in nuclear arms control in the future.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.


9 Responses to “New START Aggregate Numbers Released: First Round Slim Picking”

  1. Distiller June 2, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    Re transparency: I’d say in the interest of the deterrence effect and also survivability the smaller the arsenal, the more important it is *not* to tell the other side where and on what exactly the warheads are. Can’t see that aspect as a step back. I think it’s a stabilizing element in the game.

    Also taking into account that mathematically Russia faces the UK (and the French) strategic weapons in addition to the U.S. ones, and that BMD is almost not mentioned, the Russian side was *very* cooperative in New START. What primarily counts is getting the strategic warhead numbers down from an excessive level.

    However, there are at least four things that any future treaty should aim for:
    (1) — Initially a definition of the stockpile status, followed by the goal of stockpile elemination. Currently we have operational (deployed), operational reserve (non-deployed, which would be the x% rotables for maintenance plus a few test articles), and the stockpile. The stockpile status is unclear, and it gives especially the U.S. a pretty huge upload potential which runs against the spirit of strategic arms reduction.
    (2) — Replacement of the test ban treaty with a joint test & demonstration regime, with x warhead (or system) test per x years per treaty party. Would be stabilizing as each side could place higher trust in its own deterrence capability than with decades without full test. In addition the industry and know-how is kept alive.
    (3) — And then the step away from a purely bi-lateral treaty towards one open for other strategic nuclear powers and placed at e.g. the U.N.

    Also a definition of “tactical warheads”, maybe via a yield definition, and a treaty limit for those. Of course yield can’t be counted and counting those small warheads isn’t easy, maybe impossible. Requires trust, but trust is the basis of this all here, and we wouldn’t talk about dangerously low warhead numbers in any case.

    Reply: To get all that – trust included – seems to me to require transparency. “Not to tell the other side where and on what exactly the warheads are” precludes verification, breeds mistrust, results in misunderstandings and is the basis for worst-case planning. I find it curious that the United States and Russia can tell each other what they have, where, and how much of it, but at least Russia insists that no one else can know. No one else, China or France included, have the capability to take advantage of that knowledge. Looks like silly secrecy to me. HK

  2. The Launch Bunker June 5, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Everyone is making valid points. However, The Launch Bunker would like to address Distiller’s point about not disclosing the number and location of the newer smaller nuclear force. The Russians may be taking a ‘minimum deterrence’ approach to their strategic war plans.

    Here is what Minimum Deterrence means: Since nuclear weapons are extremely destructive, you can create a large effect with a small number of weapons if you hold at risk the opposition’s high-value targets (such as high population cities) versus the opposition’s weapons of mass destruction. If this is the case, then it necessitates a launch-on-warning policy, since all of Russia’s (now smaller) nuclear force could be taken out with a single blow. In this scenario, it doesn’t matter if the US knows where the missiles are, since they would be nothing more than smoking holes by the time a weapon could be placed on target.

    In addition, If Russia is using a minimum deterrence strategy then a European Missile Shield may have a large impact on the deterrent value of their deployed nuclear weapons. This puts the United States in a position where they need to choose between mitigating the risk of a Middle East based intermediate-to-long range nuclear missile and the risk of an arms buildup in Russia.

  3. Notlaw99 June 8, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    Counting weapons and reentry vehicles really does not amount to much. What matters is the nature of the weapon system delivery system. The US is still using fixed point launchers for the Minuteman III weapon system that is 450 launchers and 45 launch control centers all of the weapon storage areas and spare missile on the missile support bases are known locations ad fully targeted. Minuteman III uses a hot launch so you can’t reload the launchers in any reasonable time period from a strategic stand point so there is really no point in targeting reserve missiles or weapon storage areas as the Russians would be wasting weapon assets. Likewise of you can hit all 450 Minuteman III launchers the is no reason to strike the Launch Control Centers and you save 45 RV that can b used to strike something else.

    The US is eliminated the B-52 and B-1 as strategic weapon delivery systems that leave only the B-2 for strategic weapon delivery but there are not that many B-2 less the 24 and we have attired some all ready. It is a very expensive weapon system per unit quantity and a very technical weapon system per unity quantity and that asset is not dedicated to strategic usage. The complexity of the B-2 means that most spare components of high value are unique to the B-2 with a short production run un air frames you also have a short production run of spar commodities to support the weapon system. Time compliance and hour use compliance on individual components will be the nemesis flight line maintenance as a required inspection can ground the aircraft. If you don’t have a bench stock low time commodity spars you are going to be is the cross cannibalization business big time. And those B-2 that are not flying just sitting on strategic alert are going to be tempting targets of opportunity for donor aircraft to keep the rest of the B-2 fleet ready to flying so if the is a high time hour part that is going to need an inspection soon and every bad actor part the can not duplicate failure on test equipment in a back shop on base; guess what air frames they are going to get installed in, that a no brainer the alert aircraft because they are not scheduled to fly today. And in reality 4 – 8 B-2s in major exchange nuclear environment is not going to help you strategically to that extent as there are just too many defensive air craft get you on a visual intercept weather you are stealth or not. A significant number of your nuclear B-2s aircraft is going to none effective after striking their first target as the Russians will know it is a sub sonic air breather deliver system and they know what the available strategic aircraft deliver systems as well as we do.

    The most effective strategic launch platform in the US inventory remains the Trident Submarine armed with the Trident II D5 MERVed missile. The Tomahawk configurations are excellent for theater nonnuclear or tactical nuclear delivery but lack the range got strategic nuclear operations. And the Trident II D5 still remains the strategic planner weapon system of choice for planning nuclear operations because of the stealth capability limitless sea launch locations and with GPS on reentry vehicles exceeds the accuracy of the Minuteman III weapon system as it is fins not spin that counts. The weapon system will likely survive an initial Russian nuclear strike while the land base ICBM force, command control centers would likely afford 85% attrition, alternate command control centers and National Command Authority will most assuredly be lost.

    While the USA has not deployed a new strategic weapon system in the 21st century the Russian have New soviet strategic missile submarines and missiles, as well as, mobile ICBM system. with the Russians investment in over side strategic air lift capability can move mobile ICBMs to any air port in the world large enough for the aircraft to land and negotiate landing right and large hanger space. and move the nose of the air craft into the hanger or nose dock off load their missile and support personnel and flay away to deploy another on there to a alternate locations you can’t see what is going on by satellite reconnaissance so you can’t target the weapons as you don’t know where they are deployed and they can be generate to launch configuration by driving the outside in a matter of minutes.

    Our current Relations with the Russians is relatively good and the probability of a nuclear exchange with them is relatively and our current threat is from Al-Qaida or foreign or domestic terrorist.

    But if a nuclear confrontation is going to occur with Russia it will be an SLBM lead of attach on both coast. Atlantic attack neutralizing Washington DC Whitehouse Pentagon Alternate Command Center Fort Mead MD. The Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) to communicate with submarines and Atlantic SLMB warning sensors. and Atlantic SLMB basing locations. Coordinated attack on west coast all three ICBM fields Pacific SLBM basing locations West coast SLBM warning sensors. Most of the war will be over in the first 8 – 15 minutes depending the Russian SLBM ripple fire launch rate and follow on attack by Russian ICBMs and you will lose national command authority between minute 3 and 5 of the Atlantic SLBM Launch. In general President Eisenhower was correct in 1956 when he was concerned about the survivability of national command authority and implemented the Predelegation Authority Protocol that authorized select Unified and Specified Commanders to expend nuclear weapons on their own authority if the US or its possessions are attacked with nuclear weapons and retaliation authority has not been received by NCA. this was done between 1956 and 1968. The probability of the President being able to use the Biscuit and Football in a retaliatory attack negligible at will all happen too fast. And presidential history of managing the Biscuit [the President's personal authenticator to use with the Football] is not all that encouraging.

  4. density matrix July 7, 2011 at 2:17 am #

    It must be pointed out that existense of 1954 year Livermore very -high yield devices known since 1963( but yields declassified in 1994-41St GAC minutes on Sundial ,and Murray 23 Feb 1956 statement before AEC on Gnomon).

    The CHAIRMAN. Did you participate in the decision apparently
    made in 1954 and, I suppose, in years subsequent to that, not to go-
    in for the very high yield weapons ?
    Dr. FOSTER. No, sir. I was not in a position to participate in the
    The CHAIRMAN. You did not. You are familiar with that?
    Dr. FOSTER. Yes, sir.
    The CHAIRMAN. Who did make that determination not to pursue
    the high yields?
    Dr. FOSTER. Well, the instructions came from the Atomic Energy
    Commission to the laboratory.
    The CHAIRMAN. You think this was a mistake?
    Dr. FOSTER. At the time, Senator, I think it was the right thing
    to do, to decide not to build THEM and, as a matter of fact, at that
    time, at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory we had DESIGNS to do
    JUST this job, and it was these designs that raised the question.
    Now, the question of whether or not 1 megaton or 10 or 100 is the
    right one depends an awful lot on what you think the situation on the
    other side is, and this changes as a function of time.
    The CHAIRMAN. Then, do I understand you to say at the time, you
    mean in 1954 it was the right thing to do?
    Dr. FOSTER. That is correct.”
    From Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Eighty-eighth Congress, first session, on Executive M, 88th Congress, 1st session .Statement of Foster Dr. Jhon S., Jr.,Director ,Lawrence Radiation Laboratory,Livermore,Caliv.

    So they were designed and theirs explosions were simulated. And in 41st gac minutes(version -1994 declassified,new version in 2006,I’m dont know whether or not Hansen seen it,i’m not yet).

    So, Sundial and Gnomon described on p.33.

    On p.34 Possible Gnomon tests.

    However 1000-megaton blast not be very impresive because such a bomb would only blown up hole in atmosphere.

    York stated that these devices and 1955 designs for class A bomb and probably for a 120mt bomb (twice A) have much badder yield-to-weight ratious than a new soviet devices.

    So Bethe panel estimated weight of Tsar bomb as 20 000 pounds.

    Soviets designed and tested 3 devices of this category:

    100 mt (tsar) weighed 20 tons,7 was a ballistic case.
    50Mt and 40mt scaled-down versions in 10t and 8t were tested in 1962 and considered as missile warheads-UR-500 and R-56.

    So weight of new A(1955) was 25 000 pounds (60Mt) and doubleA-weight 50 000 (120Mt),so this means that Gnomon (1000Mt) weighed 400 000 pounds
    and Sundial (10 000MT) 4 000 000 pounds and they were extremely dirty (around 80% fission) devices.

  5. density matrix July 30, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Sundial was based upon one of the early Alarm Clock designs-this is from a new Swords.(apparently lithiated 1000Mt Alarm Clock).

    Based on data from a new Swords work on them spanned at least year.Its not clear why plans to test GNOMON were dropped.

    Of course Chuck seen a new version of Minutes before edition of the first Swords.

    There was a third device named the TAV.TAV mean a Omega,it may be that TAV even larger than SUNDIAL.Teller in January 1992 proposed building of a million-megaton device for a destruction of largest asteroids-but apparently Classical Super.Classical Super works for a multi-gigaton devices-fact routinely known among nuclear astophysicists.

    LASL also studied devices up to submarine size ,but appears even theirs names classified.

    So ,Mr.Kristenson I’m have a questions :

    1.There exist . beyond docs. that Chuck Hansen cited on them in a second Swords ?
    2.In your opinion why plans to test the GNOMON were dropped?
    3.If these docs .exist. there exist possibility for me without visiting NSA or CIC?
    i’m would be greetfull for your answers.

  6. density matrix July 30, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    In third question I’m missed “to obtain them”.

  7. density matrix July 30, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    I’m also have question:

    1.Where stated that USSR have 120 SS-9mod 1 deployed with a 8.3Mt ?

    Kataev gives only 46,CIA 48-50.

    2.SS-6 warheds were 2.9mt and 2.9MT-weaponized RDS-37 and device 49.

    CIA estimates were 8Mt. for a second device.

    3.SS-8 warhead was 2.3Mt,as well SS-5,SS-7 light warheads and R-36MRV and orbital warheads.
    3 and 6Mt were a first CIA estimates,2-3.5 and 3.5 to 5mt -latest.

    4.SS-11 first warhead was only 500 KT,not 1.1MT.I’m ever seen warplan with these missiles.As well SS-N-6 warhead.

    So what was approx. Soviet megatonnage at peek? Not of course 16700Mt-NRDC,or 14000mt-CIA,in alternate vision CIA predicted 22000Mt for a 1969 ,including 50 100Mt warheads(believed to be 20 000 pounds) on Very Large ICBM.

  8. density matrix August 15, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    TAV was a 1000-megaton device,Gnomon was smaller.

  9. density matrix August 17, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    About new warheads such as 35 MT Titan-2. They were mostly fusion devices with y/w~6kt/pound.,Tsar bomb have been estimated as 63% pure with weight of 20,000 pounds.

    35Mt warhead was not alone “”According one source a single Pluto could carry a 5500-pound payload which could be broken down like this :
    5-1.3 megatons
    9-1.1 megatons
    14-750 kilotons
    16-200 kilotons
    36-50 kilotons
    42-5 kilotons”

    Compared to Pluto Skybolt a children toy.This 26-megaton weighed 4,550 pounds.W-67 (around 2MT) weighed 675 pounds.
    And this is only a small version.ground-based version with Tory-3 have a following specs:

    total vehicle lenght-88 feet.
    hot reactor dia.-46 inches.
    Hot day design Mach number
    1,000 feet above sea-3.5
    30,000 feet-4.2
    max number of warheads-26 ,1.1mt each
    payload-15 kpounds.
    range 1,000 feet-penetration mode-11,500 m
    30,000-98,300 nm
    weight :

    USAF wanted 60 missiles by 1969.
    “The second-strike capability was quite different.11 Dyna Soars and their launch vehicles would form a single unit ;10 would be unmanned and 1 manned control vehicle.Once launched into storage 100 n.m. high
    orbit,no futher communications from the ground would be strictly necessary:the 3-man crew would be capable of controling whole unit.
    Each unmanned Dyna Soar bomber had single 20 megaton (weighning 3500 pounds),a 5000 pounds thrust turbojet and 3000 pounds of fuel.On command,bomber would re-enter,drop to subsonic speed and start the turbojet ,after that it would fly the last 250 miles low alltitude (below radar ) using terrain-mapping radar for guidance to within 400 feet of the target.

    An alternate version meant for high-altitude detonation (for taking out soft targets,i.e. cities) would delete the jet engine in favor for of a 40 megaton bomb”

    USAF wanted 2 units with T-III boosters.

    If we add 2,600 Minuteman,300 mobile Minuteman,260 Titan -2 with 35Mt warhead,675 B-52 ,200 RS-70 with 18 glide missiles each(1.1Mt each),720 Polaris ,including A-4 (with 5-10mt warhead),700 Spartan ABM-what would be consequences?Plus ultra-heavy ICBM based on T-3 (up to 150 megatons)-something around 30 missiles -and this all by 1969. What if JFK never been a president ,what if in 1960 Nixon won and Gates remained a Secretary of Defense? What if Barry became a president after Nixon?

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