Jeffrey LewisStockpile Numbers


That’s the number of active nuclear weapons in the US stockpile as of Sept. 30, 2009.

The Defense Department has released aggregate stockpile numbers for 1962-2009, as well as annual warhead dismantlements from 1994-2009 in a fact sheet entitled, Increasing Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile.

The fact sheet does not enumerate the “several thousand” nuclear weapons awaiting dismantlement.

This brings up to date the data that the Department of Energy released in 1994, Declassification of Certain Characteristics of the United States Nuclear Weapon Stockpile.

Apparently the IC Red Team was unsuccessful in rendering the fact sheet in the form of an origami nuclear bomb (above). So, DOD released it.

Origami representation of Ivy Mike by Michael Tolmachev.


  1. yousaf

    At least 16.44 times too many.

    Col. B. Chance Saltzman, chief of the Air Force’s Strategic Plans and Policy Division, has argued that “the United States could address military utility concerns with only 311 nuclear weapons in its nuclear force structure while maintaining a stable deterrence.”

    Oddly enough both 5113 and 311 are primes. (5113 is, in fact, a balanced prime).

  2. Alex W. (History)

    Like most official secrets, the mystique is more exciting than the reality. The story of how they decided to declassify it is probably more interesting than the declassified data itself, but it will probably be some years before the decision process itself is declassifiable.

    But it’s nice to have the “authenticated” data. The NDRC estimates seem to have been mostly right, in terms of the general trends? It’s also interesting to see exactly what the reductions were in 2003-2007 — I was and am still surprised that those weren’t more publicized.

    Another way to visualize the data, other than cumulative numbers, is as change per year, which is kind of interesting, and draws attention to the years of major variation:


    It took me a few tries to figure out what the origami was supposed to be representing. The left one is the secondary and the right on the primary? I had once considered trying to make a papercraft Trinity gadget, but the spheres (e.g. tamper) proved to be too much of a pain. My goal was to scale it so the pit could be a steel marble, a fun little surprise for whomever bothered to dissect the thing.

  3. Andrew

    Let us not forget the Pentagon left out thousands of retired warheads or warheads waiting to be dismantled.

    According to FAS, a closer approximation of total warheads is closer to 9,600.

  4. spaceman africa
  5. John Bragg (History)

    5,113? Well, shoot, I thought it was at least 5,139. I’m nuking Topeka tomorrow.

    —Kim Jong Il.

  6. Andy

    Nice graph Alex! Always look forward to your posts. 🙂

  7. Georg Schoefbaenker (History)

    Did I miss something in 1991. I don’t think so 🙂

    The compilation of active and inactive warheads in the DOD document “Increasing Transparency in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile” dates the dissolution of the USSR in 1993. De facto the dissolution of the SU happened in August 1991 with the coup d‘État of the communist center against Gorbachev and on paper (raified) in the Treaty of Alm Aty in Dez. 1991. How can you trust the numbers of deployed U.S. warheads between 1969 and 2009 if these guys are not able to correctly date the dissolution of the USSR?