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Animated Chart: Nuclear Warheads by Country (1945-2022)

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Visualizing The Nuclear Warheads of Countries Since 1945

Despite significant progress in reducing nuclear weapon arsenals since the Cold War, the world’s combined inventory of warheads remains at an uncomfortably high level.

Towards the late 1980s, the world reached its peak of stockpiled warheads, numbering over 64,000. In modern times, nine countries—the U.S., Russia, France, China, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea—are estimated to possess roughly 12,700 nuclear warheads.

The animated chart above by creator James Eagle shows the military stockpile of nuclear warheads that each country has possessed since 1945.

Nuclear Warheads Currently in Possession by Countries

The signing of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) brought about a rapid disarmament of nuclear warheads. Though not immediately successful in stopping nuclear proliferation, it eventually led to countries retiring most of their nuclear arsenals.

As of 2022, about 12,700 nuclear warheads are still estimated to be in use, of which more than 9,400 are in military stockpiles for use by missiles, aircraft, ships and submarines.

Here’s a look at the nine nations that currently have nuclear warheads in their arsenal:

CountryMilitary StockpileRetired WeaponsTotal Inventory
🇷🇺 Russia4,4771,5005,977
🇺🇸 United States3,7081,7205,428
🇫🇷 France2900290
🇨🇳 China3500350
🇬🇧 United Kingdom18045225
🇮🇱 Israel90090
🇵🇰 Pakistan1650165
🇮🇳 India1600160
🇰🇵 North Korea20020
Total9,44012,705

The U.S. and Russia are by far the two countries with the most nuclear warheads in military stockpiles, with each having close to 4,000 in possession.

Timeline: Key Events in the Nuclear Arms Race

At the dawn of the nuclear age, the U.S. hoped to maintain a monopoly on nuclear weapons, but the secret technology and methodology for building the atomic bomb soon spread. Only 10 countries have since possessed or deployed any nuclear weapons.

Here are a few key dates in the timeline of the nuclear arms race from 1945 to 2022:

August 6 & 9, 1945:

The U.S. drops two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, decimating the cities and forcing the country’s surrender, ending the Second World War.

August 29, 1949:

The Soviet Union tests its first nuclear bomb, code-named First Lightning in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. It becomes the second country to develop and successfully test a nuclear device.

October 3, 1952:

The UK conducts its first nuclear test at Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia, and later additional tests at Maralinga and Emu Fields in South Australia.

February 13, 1960:

France explodes its first atomic bomb in the Sahara Desert, with a yield of 60–70 kilotons. It moves further nuclear tests to the South Pacific, which continue up until 1996.

October 16–29, 1962:

A tense stand-off known as the Cuban Missile Crisis begins when the U.S. discovers Soviet missiles in Cuba. The U.S. intiaties a naval blockade of the island, with the crisis bringing the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war.

October 16, 1964:

China becomes the fifth country to test an atomic bomb in 1964, code-named Project 596. The country would conduct an additional 45 atomic bomb tests at the Lop Nor testing site in Sinkiang Province through 1996.

July 1, 1968:

The NPT opens for signatures. Under the treaty, non-nuclear-weapon states agree to never acquire nuclear weapons, and nuclear powers must make a legal undertaking to disarm.

May 18, 1974:

India conducts an underground nuclear test at Pokhran in the Rajasthan desert, code-named the Smiling Buddha. Since conducting its first nuclear test, India has refused to sign the NPT or any subsequent treaties.

September 30, 1986:

Through the information provided by Israeli whistleblower and nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, The Sunday Times publishes a story that leads experts to conclude that Israel may have up to 200 nuclear weapons.

October 9, 2006:

After previously signing onto the NPT, North Korea breaks from the treaty and begins testing nuclear weapons in 2006. It has since gathered 20 nuclear warheads, though the actual number and their efficacy are unknown.

Though the threat of nuclear weapons never left, the latest growing tensions in Ukraine have brought the topic back into focus. Even as work towards disarmament continues, many of the top nuclear states hesitate to fully reduce their arsenals to zero.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Misc

Visualized: Aircraft Carriers by Country

The U.S. controls 40% of global aircraft carrier fleet.

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A voronoi graphic showing aircraft carriers by country.

Visualized: Aircraft Carriers by Country

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Aircraft carriers are warships equipped with a full-length flight deck for carrying, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Since they allow naval forces to utilize air power without relying on local bases, they usually serve as the capital ships of a fleet.

In this graphic, we visualize the number of aircraft carriers in service by country as of May 2024.

This graphic only includes ships capable of carrying planes (excluding those designed solely for helicopters). The list is based on data from various sources.

U.S. Dominance

The U.S., with 11 aircraft carriers in total, owns 40% of the global fleet. Some of the American carriers can carry around 80 fighters. The country’s total combined deck space is over twice that of all other nations combined.

CountryIn serviceNATO Member
🇺🇸 United States11Yes
🇨🇳 China3No
🇮🇳 India2No
🇮🇹 Italy2Yes
🇯🇵 Japan2No
🇬🇧 United Kingdom2Yes
🇫🇷 France1Yes
🇷🇺 Russia1No
🇪🇸 Spain1Yes
🇹🇭 Thailand1No
🇹🇷 Turkey1Yes
Total27

Along with France, the U.S. is the only nation with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. These ships can remain at sea for as long as crew provisions last, without the need for refueling.

In 2024, China’s newest, largest, and most advanced aircraft carrier, the Fujian, started sea trials. With the addition of this ship, the country becomes second in our ranking.

Of 11 countries that have aircraft carriers in their fleets, six are NATO members.

Learn More About War Machines from Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out ‘Visualized: Top 15 Global Tank Fleets.’ This visualization showcases the most powerful tank fleets as of 2024.

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