A new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has weighed in with an educated guess about the Israeli military’s secretive nuclear weapons program, estimating the nation has around 80 “strategic” level nuclear weapons.
The estimate suggests 50 of the warheads are for Jericho II medium range missiles, with another 30 gravity bombs to be dropped from warplanes. The report says it is possible that smaller tactical nukes could also be in the nation’s arsenal.
If true, this would make Israel’s arsenal the smallest of the eight nuclear powers, though roughly in line with India and Pakistan who both, like Israel, are not signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). SIPRI put their arsenals in the range of 90-120 warheads.
Israel had been believed to have a considerably larger arsenal than this, with past estimates mostly in the 200 warhead range and some suggesting the number could be as high as 400. Israel is the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East.
The report was critical not only of the non-NPT nations with nuclear arsenals, but also of the signatories who they reported are flouting treaty requirements to work toward disarmament, noting that all five such powers (US, UK, Russia, China, and France) are working on new nuclear weapons or plan to do so.
The countries “appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely”, says SIPRI in their latest yearbook report.
“Once again there was little to inspire hope that the nuclear-weapon-possessing states are genuinely willing to give up their nuclear arsenals. The long-term modernisation programmes under way in these states suggest that nuclear weapons are still a marker of international status and power,” said SIPRI senior researcher Shannon Kile.
At the start of 2013, eight states – the US, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel – possessed approximately 4,400 operational nuclear weapons. Nearly 2,000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert. If all nuclear warheads are counted, these states together possess a total of approximately 17,265 nuclear weapons.
The international arms trade in major conventional weapons grew by 17% between 2003 and 2012. The five largest suppliers over the past five years – the US, Russia, Germany, France and China – accounted for 75% of all conventional arms exports.
SIPRI estimates world military expenditure in 2012 to have been $1.756tn (£1.157tn), representing 2.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) – or $249 for each person in the world. Though a little lower than the previous two years, the total is higher than in any year between the end of the second world war and 2010.