This list of Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the world is subjective at best. Unless you looked at specific aspects and judged based on that criteria alone, the list cannot be definitive. One can look at a nation’s defense budget or the size of their enlisted members, or combine the two. Another area for consideration is the amount of armor a nation has inventoried including tanks, helicopters, aircraft and ships. This top ten took in a little of all of that, but it is still one perspective looking at the Armies around the world. Input and educational pieces on other armies not listed here, or any additional information that may have been omitted, are welcomed.
Before listing the top ten, one country fell just short of making the list, but certainly deserves to be mentioned – North Korea. They not only have one of the largest Special Forces in the world – 120,000 members – they have a very large inventory of armor.
Pakistan is known for their good upper leadership. Founded in 1947, their three branches of service totals more than 600,000 people – all volunteers. They have close ties to the militaries of the US and China. Pakistan’s budget of over $5 billion is smaller than all the other top ten militaries, but it does exceed the overall defense budget of a number of other countries around the world. While Pakistan has about the same number of naval craft as the United Kingdom (see below), they have more aircraft and helicopters and an incredible total of 9,000 tanks and armored vehicles. They have assisted the United States in their War on Terrorism by fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and along their own borders.
9. United Kingdom
British Forces include three branches of service, – the navy, the army and the air force. Below are some figures for the United Kingdom – the figures presented could vary slightly:
- Active Military (including army, navy and air force) – 197,700
- Reserve – 212,000
- Paramilitary – 152,000
- Aircraft and Helicopters – 1,800
- Tanks and Armored Vehicles – 5,500
Despite having one of the smallest numbers of active military, the militaries of the United Kingdom are a sustainable force and their SAS is among the world’s top Special Forces. Britain is a steadfast ally of the U.S.
Iran has one of the best small forces in the world. Half of this countries government’s income goes towards defense. Their modern day military was first founded in 1923 and currently boasts over 500,000 active members. In addition, its defense budget of $10 billion has allowed more aircraft than the US and UK combined and almost the same amount of aircraft and helicopters as China, a country with a much larger force and budget.
Turkey’s Army dates back over 2,000 years. Their modern day militaries were not established though until 1920. Turkey has over 600,000 members in its military forces and its budget is close to $19 billion. This country comes in fourth for the total number of tanks and armored vehicles – 11,000 plus. All Turkish males – once they reach 20 years of age – are required to serve in the military. There are very few exceptions to this requirement.
Much of Germany’s notable military history began with the rise of Hitler. They were responsible for the start of WWII when they invaded Poland. When the war was over, the country divided and the West German Army was formed. It wasn’t until the 1990s the country reunited. Currently, Germany has more than 200,000 active military members who are well-trained and well-equipped. Germany boasts of one of the best tanks in the world – the Leopard II.
France’s military does not have the reputation as a super power, but its numbers would say differently. Their military totals over 360,000 members spread throughout their navy, air force and paramilitary branches. All three branches are very well rounded, but many feel their navy is bar far their strongest branch. France’s defense budget comes in just over $58 billion. Despite this impressive budget, it still has the smallest number of aircraft and helicopters than any other country on this list.
India has a more advanced Air Force and very-well trained Special Forces. They have four branches of military and also additional paramilitary units. Their active military has more than 1.3 million members. India has an additional 2.1 million in reserves and their paramilitary has 1.3 million members. In all, India has more than 4.7 million total members.
Despite their large number of service members, India’s aircraft and helicopter and tank and armored vehicle totals put them only in the center of the list of countries listed here and they do have the smallest naval craft fleet. Some estimates of nuclear warheads in India’s possession go as high as 80.
This former superpower still has a large amount of equipment in its military inventory. They have well over 1.2 million active military members and an additional 750,000 in the reserve. Their paramilitary total comes in at around 5,000. The total military budget for Russia is in excess of $64 billion. Only two countries have a higher military budget than Russia – the United States and China.
The current known Russian force was first founded in 1992, but Russia’s military history dates back to as early as 863. Between the ages of 18 and 27, all male Russians are drafted into the country’s service for a period of 12 months. A few exceptions, such as being a student or the parent of two or more children, serve as exemptions to this otherwise steadfast rule.
Russia is known to have the largest number of nuclear warheads on hand, but most of them are not active.
Founded in 1927, the People’s Liberation Army of China has more than 2.3 million active service members in its military making it the largest active force in the world. With a reserve of 800,00 and a paramilitary of 1.5 million, in all, China has more than 4.5 million military members. China’s defense budget of $129 billion is continually increasing each year by an average of 12 to 15%. This total makes it the second largest defense budget in the world – second only to the United States. China is believed to house as many as 240 nuclear warheads.
1. United States
The US military has history dating back to 1775 when it first formed forces (Continental Army) to fight in the Revolutionary War. The US Army has been involved in every major world war as well as the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism.
The defense budget for the United States is more than the combined totals of the previous nine countries coming in at over $689 billion. The US has just over 1.4 million active military members, another 1.4 million reserve members and 11,000 in its paramilitary. The US ranks second behind Russia in the total number of warheads, but it does have the largest number of active warheads. The United States leads in the overall aircraft and helicopters – 21,000 – but is just barely ahead of China with its total of tanks and armored vehicles. The United States also has an impressive 12 aircraft carriers in its fleet.
This list of today’s top ten armies (military powers) in the world, certainly sheds light on the overall power of these nations given their impressive numbers in members, equipment and budget.