We live, we are frequently reminded, in what the Chinese call "Interesting Times". The threat of global terrorism has become the focal point of US defence policy; the Athens games recently employed the biggest security operation in Olympic history, at a cost of approximately £600 million; and anyone boarding a plane, or using public transport in a major Western city, can expect to feel just a little nervous for the duration of their And yet we seem to have forgotten that, just twenty years ago, the world's very existence hinged on a decidedly shaky balance in the proliferation of American and Soviet nuclear weapons, and a frankly terrifying policy known as Mutually Assured Destruction. Thousands upon thousands of missiles were (and still are) trained on major population centres on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and it seemed as if the whole house of cards could come tumbling down at any moment. Now that was a good time to be paranoid. Frankly, I'm bored with terrorism. I live in the provinces, I drive to work. If Al Qaeda want to get me, I'll be on the A429, crossing junction 17 of the M4 at around 8.35 every weekday, but I can't see it happening. Furthermore, I'm British, and unless memory serves me wrong we've dealt with the threat of terrorism since 1916. No, balls to terrorism. Sure, they might have anthrax and sarin gas, and maybe even dirty bombs, but for me, for real sphincter-clenching fear, give me an deuterium-tritium fusion warhead with an intercontinental range capability every time. Therefore, oh lucky readers, I am making it my business to bring back the halcyon days of nuclear paranoia with a series of reports on the current situation in the field of atomically dispensed death. That's right folks, no minor celebrities here. It's time to get edu-me-cational on yo' ass. So, let's start easy. Who's got the bomb? The Yanks, obviously, and the Ruskies. China, France, us, India and Pakistan. Oh, and Israel, although they're staying a little quiet about the whole thing, apparently. In reverse order of destructive capability it goes something like this:
Pakistan: Approx 24-48 strategic nuclear weapons (i.e. designed for long range attack), which could be deployed from their fleet of 32 US-built F16 aircraft with a range of 1,600 kilometres, or from the Ghuari or Shaheen missile systems with a range of between 700 - 2,500 km.
India: Approx 60 strategic nuclear weapons, capable of deployment from several aircraft and missile systems, though all with a range of less than a thousand kilometres. Ambitions to front submarine-based capability, but so far hampered by technical difficulties.
Israel: Approx 100-200 strategic nuclear weapons, though actual figures highly secretive. Several aircraft with deployment capability, particular the US F-E4 and F14, though the Jericho II missile has a range of 1,500 - 4,000 km and an intercontinental ballistic missile could be developed.
United Kingdom: 180 strategic nuclear weapons, 5 tactical, 15 inoperative in storage. All based on four Trident submarines with a 7,400 kilometre range. At any time, only one submarine is on patrol, with missile de-targeted.
China: 250 strategic nuclear weapons, 120 tactical. Mostly air and missile based with 12 warheads deployed on a Xia submarine, which may or may not be operational. Maximum missile range of 13,000 kilometres from the DF-5A ICBM.
France: 350 strategic nuclear weapons, all submarine and aircraft deployed since President Jacques Chirac dismantled Hades and S3D missiles in 1996. Max. range of 6,000 km.
Russia: Still the big boys of nuclear capability. Approx 6,000 strategic, 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons,
though estimates including weapons awaiting dismantlement vary between 10,000 - 15,000 tactical. The
2002 Treaty of Moscow states that both Russia and the US must reduce their strategic capacity to 1,700
- 2,200 warheads by 2012. Aircraft, submarine and missile deployment with ranges of 6,400 -12,300 km.
United States: Still hanging on to the Cold War mentality. 8,646 strategic, 2,010 tactical weapons as of
Feb 2003. The Treaty of Moscow applies as above, though while Russia will primarily be dismantling for
economic reasons, the US will be moving their arsenal to a responsive or inactive capacity, that is, putting them in storage. Air, land and sea deployment with ranges of 7,400 - 16,000 km.
Now that's scary. Death from the skies, EMP, blazing atomic fire, shadows on the walls. Beat that, Bin Laden. But we'll come to that next time, with an overview of atomic history, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the birth of the H-bomb. Till then, happy dreams, Home Defendants.