31 Oct 2016
Pakistan has a nuclear weapons stockpile of 130–140 warheads and appears to have plans to increase its arsenal further. With several delivery systems in development, four plutonium production reactors, and expansion of uranium enrichment facilities, the country’s stockpile will likely increase over the next 10 years, but by how much will depend on many things. Two key factors will be how many nuclear-capable launchers Islamabad plans to deploy, and how much the Indian nuclear arsenal grows. Based on Pakistan’s performance over the past 20 years and its current and anticipated weapons deployments, the authors estimate that its stockpile could potentially grow to 220–250 warheads by 2025, making it the world’s fifth-largest nuclear weapon state. Pakistan’s deployment of short-range, so-called tactical nuclear weapons is causing considerable concern in South Asia and in the US Government about warhead security and lowering of the threshold for nuclear weapons use.
Pakistan continues to expand its nuclear arsenal with more warheads, more delivery systems, and a growing fissile materials production industry. Analysis of a large number of commercial satellite images of Pakistan army garrisons and air force bases shows what appear to be mobile launchers and underground facilities that might be related to nuclear forces.
We estimate that Pakistan now has a nuclear weapons stockpile of 130–140 warheads (see Table 1). This stockpile exceeds the projection made by the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 1999 that Pakistan by 2020 would have 60–80 warheads (US Defense Intelligence Agency 1999US Defense Intelligence Agency. 1999. The Decades Ahead: 1999-2020, A Primer on the Future Threat, in Scarborough R (2004) Rumsfeld’s War: The Untold Story of America’s Anti-Terrorist Commander, 194–223. Washington, DC: Regnery., 38).
Table 1. Pakistani nuclear forces, 2016.