United Kingdom Nuclear Forces

The United Kingdom's nuclear arsenal consists of four Vanguard submarines, each carrying 16 U.S.-supplied Trident long-range ballistic missiles equipped with up to three warheads. The Royal Navy deploys one submarine at a time, maintains its missiles on a reduced state of alert, and keeps them untargeted. This posture has been in place since 1998, when the United Kingdom reduced its number of deployed nuclear warheads by one-third and removed nuclear-armed aircraft from service. The United Kingdom, which became the third nuclear-weapon state in 1952, has one of the smallest nuclear arsenals among such states, with fewer weapons than France, Russia, or the United States.

The RAF once operated eight squadrons of dual-capable Tornado aircraft. By the end of August 1998, all remaining WE177 bombs had been dismantled, and the Tornados were reassigned.


Name SSBNs Warhead x yield
Trident II D-5 48 1-3 x 100 (MIRV) 185
Total 48   185


Information compiled by Robert S. Norris and William M. Arkin of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Inquiries should be directed to: NRDC, 1200 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C., 20005 (v) 202-289-6868.

Source: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and NRDC