25 Strongest Armies In the World – Stats & Figures

A good and strong military is essential for any country’s economic and political growth. They not only protects a nation’s boundaries, but also ensure world’s peace. Ever since the World War II, there has been no significant conflict among nations and global stockpile of arms is one of the major reasons for it.

But building a large army is not so easy. Each year, nations spend a good portion of their total GDP into defense to fortify their beloved homeland. And not surprisingly, it is growing every year. Anyway, the one thing we ended up asking is that who has the strongest armies in the world?

Well, there are only a few criteria from which we can evaluate different armies, since there is no account of recent global conflict. Here, to evaluate a nation’s military strength, we will take account of their estimated weaponry in possession, its technological advancement, their numerical strength, training methods and military’s historical stats.

25. Canada

Canada is last on the list because of their relatively small amount of active troops, moderate air and Naval strength. But do not misinterpret their power based on their numbers as they are highly capable of not only defending their own territory, but are also an active member in US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are also a significant member of the formidable NATO military alliance. Canada has just over 80 main battle tanks, around 40 fighter/ interceptors and 4 diesel-electric subs at their disposal.

24. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the second largest arms importer in the world only after India. In 2016, Riyadh spends nearly $63.7 billion to strengthen its armed forces and modernize its weaponry. According to GFP, Saudi Arabia ranks 24th in total active military personnel, 20th in main battle tank possession and comes 50th in overall naval strength.

23. North Korea

North Korea may not be as economically sound as its neighbors, but militarily they sure recognized. Pyongyang spends a much greater proportion of their money on defense than any other country in the world. They also have the largest paramilitary forces in the world with  5,889,000 personnel.

The recent tensions between North Korea and United States have also led to a speculation about nuclear capability of this nation. Coming back to the statistics, North Korea possesses a staggering 70 submarines, close to 563 combat capable aircraft, mostly Chinese made, and 3,500 ageing Russian T tanks.

22. Iran

The Armed Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the most powerful forces in western Asia. With an active personnel of 545,000 and another 1 million reserved forces, it ranked 8th largest military in the world. Despite of the numerical strength, the Iranian army lacks the much important technological advancement as they are struggling to keep up with other US aligned neighbors. But recently, they have developed their very own missile defense system along with other indigenous military equipment, which can be an indication towards their growing military industry.

21. Australia

Australia’s geographical location plays an important role in its defense. Australia might not have the strongest military or largest navy fleet, but they surely muster a capable and highly advanced force on the earth. The Australian Defense Forces have nearly 2000 AFVs, 465 fighter aircraft and 6 diesel-electric submarines.

20. Thailand

Following the coup d’etat in 2014, Thailand’s military is currently in control of the country. The Thai military is considered a major player in Southeast Asia as it has more than 300,000 active military personnel, a total of 555 ready to fight aircraft and a fleet of 81 ships with 1 aircraft carrier.

19. Taiwan

Taiwan has long been under threat from China, whom continues to make nasty plans about how to invade and retake the country back. Surely they cannot defend when the day comes at-least by themselves, but Taiwan has now turned their focus on its military development on defensive strategies as well. To be almost accurate, the country of Taiwan possesses near 2000 tanks, 286 fighter jets and 4 submarines.

18. Poland

Although, the Polish military had experienced major setbacks during the World War II by the hand of German and Russian forces, it is one of the oldest and successful armed forces in the world. Today, the Polish Armed Forces operate close to 1100 main battle tanks, 99 multi role fighter aircraft, and a total of 5 submarines.

17. Indonesia

The Indonesian National Armed Forces were first established in 1945, during the Indonesian National Revolution, when it adopted the guerrilla warfare against the Dutch regime. Since then, the Indonesian army has grown into a respectable military force. In 2015, the Indonesian government spends US$ 8.5 billion on the military budget to strengthen their armed forces.

16. Brazil

Brazil has the third largest armed forces in the Americas, only after the United States and Colombia, and most advanced in Latin America due to their superior level of military equipment. Brazil has more than 2 million active and reserve military personnel with 43 fighter jets and 12 attack helicopters. They have the third largest navy in South America, after Colombia and Bolivia.

15. Vietnam

If any country can say that they repelled the mighty American forces, its definitely Vietnam. The People’s Army of Vietnam first established in 1944 during the first Revolutionary Party Military Conference to drive the French and Japanese occupiers out of Vietnam. Anyway, Vietnam has an surprisinglyVietnam, reportedly 1,100 making, it the 7th largest country in possession of air defense systems. It also has the 13th largest standing armed forces in the world.

14. Pakistan

The Pakistani army is the 7th largest military in the world in terms of active military and largest among the Muslim nations. Since the Sino-Pakistan Agreement of 1963, the Pak military has close ties with China, working jointly on defense projects like JF-17, the K-8 programs. Both nations also participate in various nuclear and space technology programs. As of 2016, Pakistan Armed Forces own nearly 3000 battle ready tanks, 300 fighter jets and 10 frigates with 8 submarines.

13. Egypt

The Egyptian Armed Forces is the second largest military organization in Africa, third strongest in Arab league and the 10th largest in the world. The Egyptian army relies heavily on defense imports from the United States, Russia and France. Statistically, Egyptian army has an aircraft inventory of 461 aircraft, a naval fleet 60 small and large ships.

12. Israel

Technically, Israel has a small military. But with obligatory military service in the country, a large percentage of the Israeli population is capable of participating in an active war. The powerful Middle Eastern country is surrounded by aggressive neighbors, which led to numerous conflicts and wars over the years.

According to GFP, Israel has the 18th most powerful air force and 36th largest navy in the world. It also has quality cyber and space assets, nuclear weapons and is a leading arms importer in the world. Israel is also a home to some of the fearsome special forces in the world.

11. Italy

Italian Armed Forces is one of the most respected military organizations in the world. In recent years, without any imminent internal or external threat to the nation, the military has diverted its focus on international peace support operations. The Italian forces take advantage of an existing arms industry in the nation, some of its indigenous arms producers are global players like Beretta and Benelli.

10. South Korea

South Korea defense budget reached a staggering $34 billion in fiscal year 2016. This is largely due to the ever increasing defense threats from their arch rival North Korea, and partially because of their bitter relations with Japan and China. It maintains an army of over 640,000 active personnel, along with the 6th largest air force and one of the formidable navies in the world.

9. Germany

The German Armed Forces or Bundeswehr is one of the most dominant forces in the Entire Europe. It was formed in 1955, immediately after the fall of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. One of the most unique feature of the German Armed Forces is its Joint Medical Service and Joint Support Service, which handles various logistic and medical tasks of the Bundeswehr. According to its official website, the Bundeswehr has a total strength of 178,334 active soldiers, making it the 33 largest armies in the world.

8. Turkey

The modern history of Turkish armed forces starts right after the fall of the mighty Ottoman Empire. Today, the Turkish armed forces are one of the largest in the eastern Mediterranean. It holds one of the largest air force in the world. As of  2016, the Turkish navy operates a variety of warships, including; 16 frigates, 9 corvettes, 12 submarines and various other smaller ships. Turkey is also a pledged member of the ambitious F-35 program.

7. France

Back in 2013-2014, French government took an important decision to ‘freeze’ its military spending, to effectively fund other important sectors. France’s current military budget stands at $32.7 billion a year, which is nearly 1.8% of the country’s GDP, much below the spending target as set by NATO, much to Trump’s dismay.

With over 210,000 active forces combined with reserve force of same amount, France only has about 500,000 solders. It has just over 1,000 aircraft, along with 9,000 ground vehicles. Even if these do not make French army a formidable force, we should not forget that this army is one of the most successful and fearsome armies in the history of humankind. Its position in the EU, and a total 290 nuclear weapons, makes it a global game changer.

6. Japan

Things would have been different if there were no nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anyway, after the destruction of the Japanese Empire in 1947, they signed a peace treaty in which the country cannot have an offensive army. But, it soon changed due to its growing dispute with the China, and Japan started a military expansion, first time in 40 years. Today, Japan’s military spending stands at an astonishing $49.1 billion, the world’s 6th highest. It has over 247,000 active personnel and almost 60,000 in reserve. With 1,595 combat ready aircraft, it has the 5th largest air force in service.

5. United Kingdom

The British armed forces are one of the mightiest forces in the world. But, recently like the other developed European countries, the United Kingdom has also planned on reducing the size of their armed forces by a considerable amount in upcoming years. According to a recent report, their defense budget currently stands at $54 billion. UK ranks 30th in number of active personnel, 12th in air force strength and 32nd in naval strength.

4. India

India is an emerging global military power. And it is obvious since its neighbors are getting stronger and it’s important to keep up with them. India has the second largest active military personnel in the world only after China and USA. It is also the largest military importer in the world.

India is the only nation who has strong relations with the USA and Russia at the same time. Although, India’s main strength comes from its manpower, it also has a formidable air force, consisting of 676 multi-role fighter aircraft and 857 transport/logistics jets. India’s naval power can be judged by the fact that it holds the 8 largest submarine fleet in the world.

3. China

The Chinese military is growing at a really impressive rate. Their official military budget stands at a staggering $152 billion of their annual GDP of $11 trillion (2016). With a formidable standing army of 2,335 million, it can challenge any nation on this planet. Along with soldiers, they also host a massive arsenal with advanced technology.

China ranks third largest in aircraft inventory, second biggest in naval power and comes first in most tanks possessed by any nation. According to many reports, China is planning to hike their gigantic defense expenditure.

2. Russia

Russia (former Soviet Union) and USA were engaged in a bloody chaos right after the World War II for nearly five decades which we know as the Cold War. As history tells us, USSR’s defeat at the hands of the USA resulted in its disintegration and Russia emerged as a new world player, though with relinquished power.

Read: USA vs Russia: The Military Stats | Weapon War

Since the days of Cold War, the Russian armed forces only grew stronger, capable and backed with modern state of the art weaponry. Russia is number 1 in terms of total tanks, second largest in aircraft possession just behind the US, and have the fourth largest submarine fleet in the world. They also nurture 7,000 nuclear warheads, the largest in the world.

1. United States of America

USA is the undisputed winner here. The North American superpower has a mammoth annual GDP of $18.96 trillion (2016) of which they spend nearly $593 billion or 3.3% of GDP in the defense sector, which is the largest in the world and way more than the next 9 armies combined. The country harbors the largest army in the world with 1.4 million active personnel and another million in reserve.

Read: 13 Top Secret US Military Intelligence Programs

America is also a home to some of the world’s biggest defense and arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. According to globalfirepower, the United States posses a total of 5,884 tanks, 1331 MLRS, a total of 13,762 aircraft and a giant fleet of 415 ships including 70 submarines. They are also the second largest possessor of nuclear warheads at 6,800, only after Russia.

Written by
Varun Kumar

I am a professional technology and business research analyst with more than a decade of experience in the field. My main areas of expertise include software technologies, business strategies, competitive analysis, and staying up-to-date with market trends.

I hold a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. If you'd like to learn more about my latest projects and insights, please don't hesitate to reach out to me via email at [email protected].

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