The fact of the matter is that if you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country. And the countries of the world today were all made possible by means of war. Whether we like it or not, countries are almost constantly under threat. In order to defend themselves, governments need to carefully designate funds to construct and maintain militaries to protect and defend their citizens. And some countries will need it more than others.
This is a ranked list of the most powerful armies in the world, according to the number of military personnel, amount of weapons, geography, financial health, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and global status (First, Second, or Third World) among other factors.
See where the U.S. ranks and which countries are forces to be reckoned with.
While Romania’s population has actually been decreasing in the last few decades, being close to 19 million, the Romanian Armed Forces still have 70,000 active soldiers. The nation allows an annual budget of $4.5 billion.
The Romanian army is divided between Land Forces, Air Force, and the Naval Forces. After they joined NATO in 2004, the conscription laws were changed, making it no longer obligatory to join the forces. The army receives its equipment mainly from the UK, US, and Turkey.
The Armed Forces of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in a country with a population 32 million, has mandatory conscription for citizens of aged 18 and over. Each year, more than 320,000 citizens of Uzbekistan reach military age.
Uzbekistan has been the largest military force in Central Asia, as the army has 65,000 active personnel. The Armed Forces’ budget reaches 2% of the country’s GDP. Training and experience of this military are low, with the government spending relatively little to replace its Soviet-era equipment.
The land of the Dutch is next on the list…
You wouldn’t expect the Netherlands to have, let alone need, a strong military. But the country has 17 million citizens, and 42,000 of them currently serve the Royal Netherlands Army. The military is small compared to others, but they have an impressive amount of fighter jets, helicopters, battle tanks, and self-propelled artillery.
The country has a large budget for the armed forces, designating $12.6 billion every year. This is quite remarkable given its size. While their military doesn’t operate aircraft carriers, there have plenty of warships and submarines.
Argentina has a large population of around 44 million people. Yet the Argentine Army has only 51,000 military personnel. It’s actually one of the few countries that have fewer people on reserves than in active duty, at 52,000.
The military has 86 fighter jets and only a few other fighter aircraft. They’re generally more concerned with work on the ground, deploying 430 tanks, rocket projectors, and other vehicles. The annual budget is $5.1 billion.
Can you guess which European country is next?
Norway, with a modest population of 5.2 million people, also has a humble army of only 3,500 soldiers at any given time. The country holds 46,000 on a reserves list for when or if the time ever comes.
However, despite its size, Norway has 57 fighter jets and a few transport systems. The nation focuses on its land tactics without spending much time in the air. And with an annual budget of $7.2 billion, it’s able to collect naval equipment, including submarines.
The country’s population is 53 million, but Myanmar’s military is small with 406,000 soldiers in active duty. Their army focuses more on air power than naval power, holding 128 fighter jets, 10 fighter helicopters, and other support transportation services.
The annual budget is $2 billion, which can fund more combat tanks and artillery options if needed. The Myanmar armed forces, in general, work to protect the borders and support the nation in times of crises.
Next, a European country deemed as one of the happiest countries in the world.
Switzerland, the country that produces the most chocolate in the world, also has its very own armed forces. The army is modest despite the country’s population of 8.4 million people. There are always 200,000 active military members, with an additional 120,000 people on reserves.
They also have a small Air Force, but it doesn’t include any fighter helicopters. The army holds 224 combat tanks and other armed vehicles. There’s no need for a navy as the nation is completely land-locked with no direct access to the sea.
The South African Army was established in 1910 and evolved over the years. It’s gone through many changes due to the country’s political and social history. Today, there are 40,000 soldiers with an extra 12,000 on reserve.
Its annual budget is $706 million, but this has been cut in recent years due to financial strain. But the military still has access to many necessary pieces of equipment.
Next on the list, the country just south of us…
Mexico has one of the largest populations on this list, with 129 million people. The country has 183,000 active soldiers ready at any given time. And there are many more in reserves if needed. Mexico is one of the few countries which has the technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons, yet it pledged to only use its nuclear technology for “peaceful purposes” following the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1968.
Mexico has no fighter or combat jets, relying on ground forces only. They also don’t have aircraft carriers. With an annual budget of more than $5.7 billion, the military has plenty to work with.
Sweden, the famously diplomatic country, has 10 million citizens are rarely ever facing the need to be involved in war. That’s why its military has slightly more than 43,000 people, and only 21,000 of them are active at any given time.
They focus primarily on their aircraft, with 138 fighter jets. They also hold 160 combat tanks and self-propelled artillery. Sweden also has a navy, with five submarines. Its annual budget is $6.2 billion.
The next military has a small amount of personnel compared to its population…
The Czech Republic’s population is 10.5 million, with a little less than 25,000 active soldiers. And there are only 2,800 people on the reserves. The military holds just a small number of helicopters (24 to be exact), fighter jets, and support vehicles.
The country is located between Germany and Slovakia, so it doesn’t need naval services. It relies more on strong artillery, having 123 combat tanks and armored cars. The budget is $2.9 billion per year.
Ukraine has an impressive military, despite its population of 44 million. There are an incredible 1.2 million military soldiers and 182,000 are active at any given moment. Ukraine also has an airborne division with 188 jets and several helicopters.
The Ukrainian military has 3,784 combat tanks and fighting vehicles. But its navy is practically useless, with only a few vehicles. Their focus is more on land and sky. The annual budget is more than $6.8 billion.
How many personnel do you think the Greek army has? See, next…
Greece has a tad less than 11 million people in total, but its military is surprisingly large. There are 413,000 members in the armed forces with 161,000 active soldiers. The country possesses 308 fighter and attack aircraft, with 1,244 battle tanks.
Due to being a coastal nation, the military also invested its money into 11 submarines to help protect its borders. The government spends around $4.5 billion a year on the military.
With a population of 69 million people, Thailand is one of the most populated countries in the world. Thailand is located right in the middle of the Indochinese peninsula, with many islands that it needs to protect and potentially defend.
The military has 355,000 full-time personnel, controlling 772 tanks, 81 sea vessels, and 551 aircraft. Thailand spends an annual budget of $7.1 billion on the military. Until now, their military has helped in more than one peacekeeping mission.
Next, a country in the Middle East has to maintain its presence…
Saudi Arabia has a population of 33 million, but its army is relatively small. They have 231,000 active soldiers out of 256,000 personnel. It keeps its presence in the Middle East by operating 287 combat fighter aircraft, many of them purchased from the US.
On top of that, the Saudi Arabian military also has 1,055 combat tanks and more ground force vehicles. They spend a whopping $69.2 billion each year on its defense.
The second-largest country in the world, Canada has a population of 37 million, which is just a little bit more than 10% of the US population. Despite this, however, the land mass is much larger and needs to be protected.
There are 79,000 active members in its military, which is considered one of the most powerful militaries in the world. That’s not bad for a country deemed as the pacifist of North America. The budget is about $20 billion a year, allowing it to maintain four submarines, 181 tanks, and other tools and technologies.
In to a country in Asia, next…
Taiwan has the pressure of maintaining its military strength, with a looming threat from China and other nearby nations. It has 300,000 active personnel with an extra 1.6 million on reserve. That’s a lot for a country with 23 million people. Some of the battle assets include 102 naval ships, 815 air vehicles, and 2,005 tanks.
Military trainees go through physical and mental tests before being enlisted into the army, including crawling through jagged coral and rocks. The annual military budget is $10.2 billion.
Algeria’s population is 41 million with a military number of 800,000 people, which is 10 times the amount of Canada’s. At any given time, there are 420,000 members in active duty. The remaining members are in the reserves.
Most of Algeria’s armed forces are focused on ground reinforcement. There are 1,105 combat tanks and ground support vehicles. The budget is just under $13 billion.
The next country in Europe is no.22 on the list…
Looking back on WWII will remind us that Poland was the first country invaded by Germany. Since then, the country has been intent on not repeating its history. Poland ended up building one of the strongest militaries in the world.
Poland has 12,000 active soldiers and more than 500,000 reservists. In total, there are 1,009 tanks, 83 naval vessels, and 461 aircraft. Its $11.6 billion annual budget is sizeable considering having a population of 38 million people.
Australia might not be a country that you think of when looking at strong militaries, but the huge nation shouldn’t be underestimated. The military has 30,000 active members and 14,000 reservists. Their assets include 408 air vehicles, 59 tanks, and 52 ships.
Despite its small military size compared to other countries, Australia’s army excels in its naval forces. And a $24.4 billion annual budget is one of the highest. Maybe they know something we don’t.
Next, a previously war-torn country also doesn’t want to repeat its history…
Vietnam has created an impressive army, having more than 5 million people on reserves. There are also 500,000 active soldiers. Keep in mind that the population of Vietnam is 96 million. It looks like they want to keep it that way.
The Vietnamese armed forces have 189 jets and helicopters, and 1,829 combat tanks and fighting vehicles. In its naval division, it possesses eight submarines and five warships. They can afford it with a $7.8 billion budget.
With more than 46 million people living in Spain, a military of 170,000 people may seem small. But they manage to have a strong presence. There are 50,000 serving full time, which isn’t bad for a European country.
But air force is small, with 151 attack and fighter jets and six helicopters. The country also has four submarines because of its proximately to the water. The country’s strong economy allows it to allot $11.4 billion each year to the military.
Next, the Hermit Kingdom is no.18 on the list…
Considering North Korea is completely off the map, and we only know what the nation chooses to reveal, it’s hard to say exactly how powerful the army is. But we all see how important it is for them to make their power known. The country has a confirmed 661 jets, helicopters, and other air force vehicle. There are also 70 submarines and 13 frigates that circle the earth undetected.
22% of the country’s GDP goes towards building its army, which is ten times more than the average number. Many are aware of the nation’s attempts to build nuclear weaponry. Let’s just hope that this is part of their hype to be seen as a force to be reckoned with.
Pakistan continues to be in conflict with India. The country is actually one youngest countries in the world, with the majority of its citizens under the age of 22. Pakistan has one of the biggest militaries, with 654,000 active personnel and 550,000 on reserve.
They have 74 ships, 923 aircraft, and 2,200 tanks. Pakistan’s army operates independently of the government or citizens; it acts as its own force and doesn’t answer to politicians. The budget is $10 billion a year.
As everyone knows, Israel is in a constant state of conflict, meaning it needs to maintain a strong armed force. The tiny country has been protecting its borders and citizens since 1948. Being in the military is mandatory in Israel. The 8.7 million citizens have served or are still serving in the Israel Defense Force (IDF).
The government spends an impressive $21 billion annually on its military, which accounts for roughly 5.1% of the country’s GDP. The IDF has 170,000 active personnel and 465,000 on reserve.
You might not think that Indonesia’s army is going to be strong, and maybe they like it that way. But the nation has 264 million people, and around 476,000 are active military members. An extra 400,000 soldiers are on call.
The army works to protect its many island borders, attempts to battle terrorism, and seek world peace. It has two submarines as well as 420 jets, 191 ships, and hundreds of tanks. The budget is $8 billion per year.
Next, a South American country…
With a population of 209 million, there are simply more people available to serve in the army. Brazil has 1.6 million people on reserve, but its active army consists of only 384,000 people, which is small considering its size.
Despite the low number of active members, Brazil’s armed forces have 13 helicopters, 224 fighter aircraft, and a number of transport vessels. $29 billion is spent on the military each year.
One of the world’s earliest and greatest civilizations, Egypt has an army that’s one of the oldest and largest in the world. It has 470,000 active soldiers and 800,000 reservists ready to serve at any moment.
The Egyptian army has 245 naval vehicles, 4,624 tanks, and 1,133 airplanes. They spend between $7-11 billion every year protecting its borders. $1.6 billion of that budget comes from the US in the form of financial aid. The country, by the way, has a population of 97 million people.
Next, no.12 on the list. Getting close to the top 10…
Iran’s population is 81 million, less than Egypt’s. But they have more people in the military. As of now, there are 934,000 soldiers in the armed forces, and 534,000 are actively serving. Iran is another country that wants the world to know of its power.
Iran has steadily built a strong military, including 407 fighter planes, 100 helicopters, and a trainer aircraft. Its ground force is remarkable, with almost 2,900 combat tanks and 28 submarines in its surrounding waters. The country spends $19.6 billion a year on its military.
With a population of 60 million, Italy has been able to build an impressive army capable of protecting its citizens and ready for battle if needed. With borders connecting to four different countries, Italy is never too careful. The annual military budget is $29.2billion.
That’s a lot of money, yes. It goes to funding its 320,000 active members and the 42,000 reservists. Not to mention the 174 ships, 785 aircraft, and 586 tanks ready to be deployed.
And the top 10 most powerful armies begins now…
Germany’s peak was surely in the 1940s when they had more than 3.5 million active members. After the war, however, the numbers dwindled down, and the country hasn’t had the same power since. Despite that, it’s still the 10th most powerful army in the world.
The German army has 60,000 troops now, and 325,000 are on reserve. There are more than 400 tanks, five submarines, and 676 aircraft to use. The 82 million people that live in Germany are no longer required to register to the army at the age of 18. The country does spend $44 billion a year on it though.
Being located above Lebanon, Turkey has had its share of conflicts over the years. Its history is as full of war as it is in culture. Today, it’s still battling with the Syrian Opposition and Iraq. The $18 billion annual budget helps its 410,000 active members of the military do their job.
The Turkish army has more than 1,000 aircraft, 115 ships, and 4,000 tanks. With a population of almost 80 million, the country has many to protect.
Next, the 8th most powerful army…
Japan has also seen far too much war over the years. Aside from their armed forces, Japan also has a ‘Self-Defense Force,’ meaning they have the right to fight and protect themselves from any nation on the planet.
With a huge budget of $45 billion annually, the Japanese army funds it 247,000 active men and women who serve, and the additional 63,000 on reserves. The soldiers have access to 1,590 fighter jets, 131 ships, and 670 tanks.
It’s no news that tension exists between North and South Korea ever since the 1960s. The neighboring countries are constantly on edge and ready jump in if needed. Because of North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities, South Korea is pressured to stay alert and prepared.
It has 625,000 active soldiers, and 2.9 million are in the reserves. The country has a population of 50 million citizens, and the government allots $39 billion a year to fund all the 2,300 tanks, 1,451 vehicles, and 166 ships.
Can you guess which country comes in at no.6?
With a large annual budget of $47 billion (1.9% of the GDP), the United Kingdom has its work cut out for it, aiming to protect its 66 million citizens. But the UK’s head of the government is not the Commander-in-Chief.
Queen Elizabeth II is the official head of state, with her own Secretary of State for Defense to advise her on the policy. As of this year, the United Kingdom has 146,000 active soldiers and 44,000 reservists. The soldiers also have access to 66 naval vessels, 407 tanks, and 879 aircraft.
France’s population is 67 million, and their army consists of the Navy, Air Force, Army, and National Guard. There are more than 205,000 active soldiers and 60,000 more who are ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The country spends $57.8 billion annually on the military – 2.3% of its GDP.
France dedicates $57.8 billion every year to its military, which is 1.81% of the country’s entire GDP. In terms of battles fought and won, France is the most successful military force in European history.
Next, the 4th most powerful army. Can you guess?
India, being the seventh largest country in the world and having the second-highest population, is a force to be noted. The country has been working hard to reinforce its armed services ever since its independence in 1947.
With one billion people at its disposal, the active army consists of a whopping 1.3 million. The military has 2,100 planes, 6,500 tanks, and more than 200 ships. The budget is $43 billion per year – 2.5% of the country’s GDP.
China is a giant that shouldn’t be messed with. They have 2.3 million active soldiers and an additional 1.2 million on reserve. The army has an unbelievable amount of battle assets, including 9,150 tanks, 673 naval boats, and nearly 3,000 aircraft.
The military budget is a massive $228 billion a year, which is 1.9% of its GDP. That’s more than most other countries on this list combined. They’re estimated to have 260 nuclear warheads, but it’s unconfirmed.
Next, the top 2…
Russia is the largest country in the world and includes nine different time zones. So their large military presence is unsurprising. They have 766,000 active Russian soldiers and 2.5 million more on reserve.
Beyond the military’s confirmed nuclear weapons, the military has more than 15,000 tanks, 350 ships, and various cyber capabilities. It’s what the $66 billion annual budget goes towards. Russia invests heavily in its military power, 4.3% of its GDP to be exact.
That’s right; the United States has the most powerful army in the world. But with a population of 430 million and being the most powerful nation overall, it comes as no surprise. The US invests more in the military than any other country. The budget was recently expanded to $610 billion, which is 3.1% of the GDP.
There are 1.4 million active military members and an additional 1.1 million waiting on reserves. The US military has 13,444 jets, 9,000 tanks, and more than 470 sea vehicles. The United States clearly raises the bar in terms of armed forces and the power a country has.