The National Interest
September 29, 2019, 2:21 PM UTC
Key Point: India has 130 to 140 nuclear warheads—and more are coming, according to a new report.
“India is estimated to have produced enough military plutonium for 150 to 200 nuclear warheads, but has likely produced only 130 to 140,” according to Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. “Nonetheless, additional plutonium will be required to produce warheads for missiles now under development, and India is reportedly building several new plutonium production facilities.”
In addition, “India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, with at least five new weapon systems now under development to complement or replace existing nuclear-capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems, and sea-based systems.”
Unlike the missile-centric U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, India still heavily relies on bombers, perhaps not unexpected for a nation that fielded its first nuclear-capable ballistic missile in 2003. Kristensen and Korda estimate India maintains three or four nuclear strike squadrons of Cold War-vintage, French-made Mirage 2000H and Jaguar IS/IB aircraft targeted at Pakistan and China.
“Despite the upgrades, the original nuclear bombers are getting old and India is probably searching for a modern fighter-bomber that could potentially take over the air-based nuclear strike role in the future,” the report notes. India is buying thirty-six French Rafale fighters that carry nuclear weapons in French service, and presumably could do for India.
India’s nuclear missile force is only fifteen years old, but it already has four types of land-based ballistic missiles: the short-range Prithvi-II and Agni-I, the medium-range Agni-II and the intermediate-range Agni-III. “At least two other longer-range Agni missiles are under development: the Agni-IV and Agni-V,” says the report. “It remains to be seen how many of these missile types India plans to fully develop and keep in its arsenal. Some may serve as technology development programs toward longer-range missiles.”