The Countries With The Biggest Nuclear Arsenals [Infographic]

On Monday, an American Federation of Scientists (AFS) report revealed that China is building a field of nuclear missile silos near the prefecture-level city of Hami in Eastern Xinjiang. The construction project was revealed in a series of satellite images and while it remains at a very early stage with dome shields erected over 14 silos, the entire complex may eventually yield 110 in total. The report comes after a similar discovery was made two months ago involving a field of nuclear missile silos in Yumen, a desert area 240 miles to the southeast. Also under construction, that complex is set to yield 120 silos and the AFS reports that it represents the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever.

China has operated around 20 silos for liquid-fuel DF-5 ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missile) for decades. In addition to the 110 silos being built in Hami and the 120 under construction in Yumen, a dozen are being brought into operation at Jilantai while more are possibly being added in existing DF-5 deployment areas. That means that some 250 Chinese nuclear missile silos are believed to be currently under construction, more than 10 times the number of silos operated by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) today.

The AFS report states that the number of Chinese silos under construction exceeds the total number of silo-based ICBMs operated by Russia and constitutes more than half of the U.S. ICBM force. It also represents the most extensive silo construction since the Cold War. So, given the concerning expansion in China, how does the global nuclear arsenal look in mid-2021? Data maintained by the AFS and updated most recently in May of this year shows that Russia still possesses the largest number of nuclear warheads on the planet at 6,257 while the U.S. inventory stands at 5,550. China’s estimated arsenal stands at 350 by comparison, a figure that will surely climb dramatically after the construction projects at Hami and Yumen are completed.

*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista).

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