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Deployed Russian Warheads Could Exceed 2,400, Experts Say

Russia near the beginning of this year appeared to have roughly 2,430 nuclear warheads deployed on active land-, air- and sea-based delivery platforms, though only around 1,560 of the armaments are covered by limits set under a bilateral strategic arms control treaty with the United States, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reported in its latest edition (see GSN, Feb. 27).

New START, which entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011, requires the United States and Russia by 2018 to each reduce deployment of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from a cap of 2,200 mandated by this year under an older treaty. It also limits the number of fielded strategic warhead delivery platforms to 700, with an additional 100 systems permitted in reserve.

The pact's rules count nuclear bombers as each containing a single nuclear weapon, "regardless of its actual assigned load," according to issue experts Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris. Warheads count individually toward treaty limits if they are deployed on launch-ready ICBMs or submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Russia is likely to have placed almost 1,490 nuclear warheads on 434 active-duty ballistic missiles, the analysis states. In addition, 950 more warheads are linked to submarines undergoing maintenance and to 72 aircraft. Moscow routinely rotates its ballistic missile submarines out of service for refurbishment; vessels undergoing updates do not hold their assigned armaments, according to the report.

Moscow is also believed to hold roughly 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads "in central storage" and another 5,500 weapons that have been taken out of service ahead of possible disassembly (Kristensen/Norris, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 5).

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