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Air Force Intelligence Report Provides Snapshot of Nuclear Missiles

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Click to download full report

By Hans M. Kristensen

The U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) has published its long-awaited update to the Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat report, one of the few remaining public (yet sanitized) U.S. intelligence assessment of the world nuclear (and other) forces.

Previous years’ reports have been reviewed and made available by FAS (here, here, and here), and the new update contains several important developments – and some surprises.

Most important to the immediate debate about further U.S.-Russian reductions of nuclear forces, the new report provides an almost direct rebuttal of recent allegations that Russia is violating the INF Treaty by developing an Intermediate-range ballistic missile: “Neither Russia nor the United States produce or retain any MRBM or IRBM systems because they are banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty, which entered into force in 1988.”

Another new development is a significant number of new conventional short-range ballistic missiles being deployed or developed by China.

Finally, several of the nuclear weapons systems listed in a recent U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command briefing are not included in the NASIC report at all. This casts doubt on the credibility of the AFGSC briefing and creates confusion about what the U.S. Intelligence Community has actually concluded.  Continue Reading →

Air Force Briefing Shows Nuclear Modernizations But Ignores US and UK Programs

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Click to view large version. Full briefing is here.

By Hans M. Kristensen

China and North Korea are developing nuclear-capable cruise missiles, according to U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

The new Chinese and North Korean systems appear on a slide in a Command Briefing that shows nuclear modernizations in eight of the world’s nine nuclear weapons states (Israel is not shown).

The Chinese missile is the CJ-20 air-launched cruise missile for delivery by the H-6 bomber. The North Korean missile is the KN-09 coastal-defense cruise missile. These weapons would, if for real, be important additions to the nuclear arsenals in Asia.

At the same time, a closer look at the characterization used for nuclear modernizations in the various countries shows generalizations, inconsistencies and mistakes that raise questions about the quality of the intelligence used for the briefing.

Moreover, the omission from the slide of any U.S. and British modernizations is highly misleading and glosses over past, current, and planned modernizations in those countries.

For some, the briefing is a sales pitch to get Congress to fund new U.S. nuclear weapons.

Overall, however, the rampant nuclear modernizations shown on the slide underscore the urgent need for the international community to increase its pressure on the nuclear weapon states to curtail their nuclear programs. And it calls upon the Obama administration to reenergize its efforts to reduce the numbers and role of nuclear weapons. Continue Reading →

Indian Army Chief: Nukes Not For Warfighting

Gen. V.K. Singh

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By Hans M. Kristensen

India’s nuclear weapons “are not for warfighting,” the chief of India’s army said Sunday at the Army Day Parade. The weapons have “a strategic capability and that is where it should end,” General V. K. Singh declared.

The rejection of nuclear warfighting ideas is a welcoming development in the debate over the role of nuclear weapons in South Asia. Pakistan’s military’s description of its new snort-range NASR missile as a “shoot and scoot…quick response system” has rightly raised concerns about the potential early use of nuclear weapons in a conflict.

NASR is one of several new nuclear weapon systems that are nearing deployment with warheads from a Pakistani stockpile that has nearly doubled since 2005.

India is also increasing its arsenal and already has short-range missiles with nuclear capability: the land-based Prithvi has been in operation for a decade, and a naval version (Dhanush) is under development. But India’s posture seems focused on getting its medium-range Agni II in operation, developing longer-range versions to target China, and building a limited submarine-based nuclear capability.

If Gen. Singh’s rejection of nuclear warfighting is reflected in India’s future nuclear posture, two important things will have been achieved: rejection of the mindless tit-for-tat philosophy that otherwise dominates nuclear posturing; and limiting the scenarios where nuclear weapons otherwise could come into use. The rejection also has importance for other nuclear weapon states, where some have called for making nuclear weapons more “tailored” to limited regional scenarios.

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.

Pakistani Nuclear Forces 2011

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has doubled since 2004 and could double again in the next 10 years if the current trend continues, according to the latest Nuclear Notebook. Click on chart to download full size version.

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By Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris

The latest Nuclear Notebook on Pakistan’s nuclear forces is available on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists web site. Since our previous Notebook on Pakistan in 2009 there have been several important developments.

Based on our own estimates, official statements, and fissile material production estimates produced by the International Panel of Fissile Materials, we conclude that Pakistan’s current nuclear weapons stockpile of 90-110 warheads might increase to 150-200 within the next decade. This would bring the Pakistani stockpile within range of the British stockpile, the smallest of the original five nuclear weapon states, but still far from that of France (despite some recent news reports to the contrary).

This development is precipitated by the anticipated introduction of several new nuclear delivery systems over the next years, including cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles. The capabilities of these new systems will significantly change the composition and nature of Pakistan’s nuclear posture.

India is following this development closely and is also modernizing its nuclear arsenal and fissile material production capability. The growing size, diversity, and capabilities of the Pakistani and Indian nuclear postures challenge their pledge to only acquire a minimum deterrent. Bilateral arms control talks and international pressure are urgently needed to halt what is already the world’s fastest growing nuclear arms race.

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.

Pakistan’s “Shoot and Scoot” Nukes: FAS Nukes in Newsweek

Pakistan’s military describes its new short-range nuclear NASR missile as a “shoot and scoot…quick response system.”                                                                          Image: ISPR

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By Hans M. Kristensen

Andrew Bast at Newsweek was kind enough to use our estimates for world nuclear forces in his latest article on Pakistan growing arsenal.

Of special interest is Pakistan’s production of the NASR (Hatf-9), a worrisome development for South Asia and the decade-long efforts to avoid nuclear weapons being used. With its range of only 60 kilometers, the multi-tube NASR system is not intended to retaliate against Indian cities but be used first against advancing Indian army forces in a battlefield scenario.

Pakistan’s military’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) describes NASR as a system that “carries nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy, shoot and scoot attributes” developed as a “quick response system” to “add deterrence value” to Pakistan’s strategic weapons development program “at shorter ranges” in order “to deter evolving threats.”

“Shoot and scoot…quick response system” ??

That sounds like an echo from nuclear battlefields in Europe at the height of the Cold War. It is time for Pakistan to explain how many nuclear weapons, of what kind, and for what purpose are needed for its minimum deterrent.

As bad as it is, though, talk about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal passing the size of France at some point is, at the current rate, probably one or two decades ahead.

Don’t forget: Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not equal to the number of warheads that could potentially be produced by all the highly-enriched uranium and plutonium Pakistan might have produced. The size also depends on other factors such as the number of delivery vehicles and other limitations.

More information in the next Nuclear Notebook scheduled for publications in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on July 1st.

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.

India and Pakistan: Whose is Bigger?

India-Pakistan nuclear competition on display again

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By Hans M. Kristensen

If Indian news reports (here, here, and here) are any indication, India has once again discovered that Pakistan might possess a few nuclear weapons more than India.

This time the reports are based on an article Robert Norris and I published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in which we provide estimates for the number of nuclear weapons in the world.

In 2009, our report on Pakistan’s nuclear forces triggered a statement from the chief of the Indian army that if the warhead estimate in our report was correct then Pakistan had moved beyond what is needed for deterrence. The unintended acknowledgement: so had India.

In 2008, reports about the arrival of the first Chinese Jin-class SSBN at a naval base on Hainan Island were followed by suggestions that India needed to build perhaps five new Arihant-class ballistic missile submarines.

As far as I can gauge, apart from nuclear testing where India started first, Pakistan has always been a little ahead in warheads, fissile material, and delivery systems. But neither country can claim any nuclear moral high ground; both are increasing their nuclear arsenals, both are producing more fissile material for nuclear weapons, and both are diversifying the means to deliver nuclear weapons and extending their range.

The two countries are now at a warhead level about equal to that of Israel (~80 warheads). But whereas it took Israel 40 years to reach that level, India and Pakistan have done so in only 12 years. And they’re apparently not done.

Although neither government wants to say so publicly, India and Pakistan are in effect in a nuclear arms race. It might not be of the intensity of the Cold War arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States, but it is a race nonetheless for capability and systems. Pointing to the other side having more only underscores that dynamic.

Indian and Pakistani security will probably be served better by trying soon to define just how big a nuclear force is sufficient for minimum deterrence so that “prudent planning” doesn’t take them to a new and more dangerous level.

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.

Estimated Nuclear Weapons Locations 2009

Some 23,300 nuclear weapons are stored at 111 locations around the world (click for map)

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By Hans M. Kristensen

The world’s approximately 23,300 nuclear weapons are stored at an estimated 111 locations in 14 countries, according to an overview produced by FAS and NRDC.

Nearly half of the weapons are operationally deployed with delivery systems capable of launching on short notice.

The overview is published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and includes the July 2009 START memorandum of understanding data. A previous version was included in the annual report from the International Panel of Fissile Materials published last month. Continue Reading →

Pakistani Nuclear Forces 2009

A high-security weapons storage area northwest of Karachi appears to be a potential nuclear weapons storage site. (click image to download larger version)

By Hans M. Kristensen

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stockpile now includes an estimated 70-90 nuclear warheads, according to the latest Nuclear Notebook published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The estimate is an increase compared with the previous estimate of approximately 60 warheads due to Pakistan’s pending introduction of a new ballistic missile and cruise missiles.

The increase in the warhead estimate does not mean Pakistan is thought to be sprinting ahead of India, which is also increasing its stockpile. Continue Reading →

New Air Force Intelligence Report Available

The NASIC report dispels many web-rumors.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Air Force Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) has published an update to its Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat. The document, which I obtained from NASIC, is sobering reading.

The latest update continues the previous user-friendly format and describes a number of important assessments and new developments in ballistic and cruise missiles of many of the world’s major military powers.

The report also helps dispel many web-rumors that have circulated about Chinese, Russian, Indian and Pakistani nuclear forces.

In this blog I’ll focus on the nuclear weapon states, particularly China.

Continue Reading →

Concern Over Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are “widely dispersed” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Does that include the large weapons storage complex at Sargodha? Click for image.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed concern over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the light of increasing violence in the country. The weapons “are widely dispersed in the country – they are not at a central location,” she said in what is perhaps the first U.S. public indication of its knowledge about how Pakistan stores its nuclear weapons.

We’re pleased that both Washington Times and the Carnegie Endowment use our estimates for how many nuclear weapons Pakistan and other countries have. For additional information about Pakistan’s nuclear forces, see:

* Preparation of Shaheen-2 ballistic missile launchers.
* Nuclear Notebook: Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces, 2007 (most recent update).
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