The stunning graphic reproduced below appeared in the National Post
on May 4 2012. It represents an estimate of the number of nuclear
missiles currently “ready to use” — that is, deliverable to targets in a
very short time. It does not attempt to compare explosive yields or
even the number of warheads in any given missile.
The outer blue circle are missiles belonging to the United States of America.
The red circle just inside the outer blue circle are those belonging to Russia.
The blue circle inside that one are the missiles belonging to Britain and France.
The red circle inside that are missiles belonging to China and Pakistan.
The innermost circle, light green and blue, are the missiles of India and Israel.
Which brings us back to the most important question of our times :
is there intelligent life on Earth? or will there ever be?
Andrew Barr & Rochard Johnson, National Post Staff, May 4, 2012
This week, China urged Russia and the United States to slash their nuclear arms. Top Chinese official Cheng Jingye told a meeting in Vienna, “As countries with [the] largest nuclear arsenals, the U.S. and Russia should continue to make drastic reductions in their nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner.”
But one of the problems with arms reduction talks is that secrecy makes it difficult to know with any certainty how many missiles and warheads individual countries have. In three weeks, NATO allies meet in Chicago with one topic on the agenda being nuclear weapons and their reduction. However, as the Federation of American Scientists pointed out this week, “since Russia, the United States and NATO cloak their non-strategic nuclear forces in a veil of outdated and unnecessary secrecy, new initiatives are needed to increase transparency of such forces.”
So trying to catalogue the nuclear warheads in the world is an almost impossible challenge. Secrecy aside, every country has different ways of tallying their arsenals (a weapon may be listed as decommissioned and not tallied, but could be made viable again.)
This graphic attempts to look at the number of immediately available nuclear weapons in the world; weapons that could at a very short notice — because that is the point — be used in a war. Taking the latest data available from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists we have constructed a graph of instantly available launch devices — missiles with nuclear warheads installed and ready to fly or drop.
They could be intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-, air- or land-launched cruise missiles, single stage nukes or just plain bombs. The graph does not take into account that in many cases the missiles themselves may contain up to 12 warheads, nor does it take into account the size or kilo tonnage of the weapons themselves.