RANKED: The World’s 20 Strongest Militaries

RANKED: The World’s 20 Strongest Militaries


Despite budget cuts and a reduction in size, the US has maintained its position as the world’s strongest military, according to a report on globalization from Credit Suisse.

While the US is still far and away the world’s top military superpower, Russia and China are its closest rivals. Canada, however, is the weakest of the 20 countries on the list.

Credit Suisse acknowledged the difficulties of determining comparative military strength in its report. To provide a benchmark, the report assigns weighted values for six variables before tabulating a final score.

The factors under consideration for military strength and their total weights are number of active personnel (5% of total score), tanks (10%), attack helicopters (15%), aircraft (20%), aircraft carriers (25%), and submarines (25%).

The ranking defines military might in purely quantitative terms and does not account for the actual quality of the arms and training that the militaries may have. As such, the placement of some countries on the list may come as a surprise.

No. 20. Canada

No. 20. Canada

MCpl. Angela Abbey/Canadian Forces Combat Camera

A Canadian soldier on patrol in Afghanistan.

Budget: $15.7 billion
Active frontline personnel: 92,000
Tanks: 181
Total aircraft: 420
Submarines: 4

Canada ended up at the bottom of the list because of the country’s small number of active personnel, its lack of aircraft carriers and attack helicopters, and its small number of tanks and submarines. But Canada has still taken part in US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is a member of the NATO military alliance.

Canada is also a partner in the US F-35 program, although it may decline the purchase of F-35s depending on the outcome of elections in October.

No. 19. Indonesia

No. 19. Indonesia

Beawiharta Beawiharta/REUTERS

Indonesian soldiers arrive at Talang Betutu airport in Palembang to reinforce firefighter teams in south Sumatra Province on September 10, 2015.

Budget: $6.9 billion
Active frontline personnel: 476,000
Tanks: 468
Total aircraft: 405
Submarines: 2

The Indonesian military placed above Canada because of its high numbers of active personnel and relatively large number of tanks. The military, however, suffers from a lack of carriers and aircraft, as well as a small number of submarines.

No. 18. Germany

No. 18. Germany

Fabian Bimmer/REUTERS

German special forces.

Budget: $40.2 billion
Active frontline personnel: 179,046
Tanks: 408
Total aircraft: 663
Submarines: 4

The German military ended up low on the list because of its lack of power-projection platforms. Germany does not have an aircraft carrier and has relatively few submarines, which, according to the Credit Suisse methodology, drops its ranking.

But Germany does have a fair number of attack helicopters. Recently, the country has started considering offering military support to Eastern European NATO members.

No. 17. Poland

No. 17. Poland

Roman Baluk/Reuters

Polish servicemen take part in military exercises outside the town of Yavoriv near Lviv on September 19, 2014.

Budget: $9.4 billion
Active frontline personnel: 120,000
Tanks: 1,009
Total aircraft: 467
Submarines: 5

Poland edges out Germany in the list because of its larger number of tanks and a more fleshed-out submarine fleet. Poland has alsodrastically increased its military spending in reaction to Russia’s seizure of Crimea and the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

No. 16. Thailand

No. 16. Thailand

Surapan Boonthanom/REUTERS

A Thai solider keeps guard from a military helicopter after arriving in southern Thailand’s Narathiwat Province on March 2, 2007.

Budget: $5.39 billion
Active frontline personnel: 306,000
Tanks: 722
Total aircraft: 573
Submarines: 0

Thailand’s military is currently in control of the country following a coup in May 2014. The military is a major player in maintaining Thai unity, and Thailand receives strong scores from Credit Suisse for its number of active personnel, its number of tanks, and its possession of an aircraft carrier.

Thailand also scores well as it has an aircraft carrier, although it does not have an aircraft fleet to complement the vessel.

No. 15. Australia

No. 15. Australia

Hugh Gentry/REUTERS

An Australian army soldier with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment makes his way up a beach after landing in an amphibious assault vehicle from the USS Peleliu while participating in an assault exercise at Marine Corps Base Hawaii during the multinational military exercise RIMPAC in Kaneohe, Hawaii, on July 29, 2014.

Budget: $26.1 billion
Active frontline personnel: 58,000
Tanks: 59
Total aircraft: 408
Submarines: 6

Australia’s military is comparatively small — it receives bottom scores on the report for the number of active personnel and the number of tanks. It also receives near-bottom scores for the number of aircraft it has in its fleet.

Credit Suisse boosts Australia’s ranking because of its attack helicopters and submarines though.

No. 14. Israel

No. 14. Israel

Ariel Schalit/AP

Israeli soldiers secure the Israel-Lebanon border on January 28, 2015.

Budget: $17 billion
Active frontline personnel: 160,000
Tanks: 4,170
Total aircraft: 684
Submarines: 5

In absolute terms, Israel has a small military. But with mandatory military service, a large percentage of the Israeli population is militarily ready. With a past history of being surrounded by aggressive neighbors, Israel also has a large tank, aircraft, and attack-helicopter fleet.

Israel also has qualitative military advantages. It has space assets, advanced fighter jets, high-tech armed drones, and nuclear weapons.

No. 13. Taiwan

No. 13. Taiwan


A trainee leopard-crawls along a 50-meter-long path of jagged coral and rocks as part of the Taiwan marines’ frogmen “Road to Heaven” test in Zuoying, Kaohsiung, on January 19, 2011. The test is the final stage of a nine-week intensive amphibious training program.

Budget: $10.7 billion
Active frontline personnel: 290,000
Tanks: 2,005
Total aircraft: 804
Submarines: 4

Threatened by China, which continues tohave plans for how to invade and retake the country, Taiwan has focused its military development on defensive plans. As such, the island has the fifth-highest number of attack helicopters on the list. It also has a fairly large fleet of aircraft and a number of tanks.

No. 12. Egypt

No. 12. Egypt

Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Armored personnel carriers and tanks in the Egyptian military.

Budget: $4.4 billion
Active frontline personnel: 468,500
Tanks: 4,624
Total aircraft: 1,107
Submarines: 4

The Egyptian military is one of the oldest and largest armed forces in the Middle East. It receives substantial financial aid from the US and has the fifth-largest tank fleet in the world. It has over 1,000 M1A1 Abrams tanks, many of which sit in storage and have never been used.

Egypt also has a relatively large aircraft force.

No. 11. Pakistan

No. 11. Pakistan

Thomson Reuters

Pakistani soldiers stand guard as people, who fled the military offensive against militants in North Waziristan, receive food supplies from the army in Bannu.

Budget: $7 billion
Active frontline personnel: 617,000
Tanks: 2,924
Total aircraft: 914
Submarines: 8

The Pakistani military is one of the largest forces in the world, in terms of active personnel. Credit Suisse also credits the country with having large tank, aircraft, and attack-helicopter fleets.

In addition, Pakistan is thought to be building nuclear weapons at a fast-enoughrate that it could have the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal within the following decade.

No. 10. Turkey

No. 10. Turkey

Umit Bektas/REUTERS

Turkish army tanks take up position on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa Province on October 6, 2014.

Budget: $18.2 billion
Active frontline personnel: 410,500
Tanks: 3,778
Total aircraft: 1,020
Submarines: 13

Turkey’s armed forces are one of the largest in the eastern Mediterranean. Although lacking an aircraft carrier, only five countries on Credit Suisse’s list have more submarines than Turkey.

In addition, the country can lay claim to animpressively large tank fleet as well as numerous aircraft and attack helicopters.

Turkey is also a committed member of the F-35 program.

No. 9. UK

No. 9. UK

Shamil Zhumatov/REUTERS

British army Cpl. Birendra Limbu of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles shows his rifle to Afghan children as he secures an area near an Afghan National Police checkpoint outside the town of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province on July 13, 2011.

Budget: $60.5 billion
Active frontline personnel: 146,980
Tanks: 407
Total aircraft: 936
Submarines: 10

Although the UK is planning to reduce the size of its armed forces by 20% between 2010 and 2018, it can count on being able to project its power around the world.

The Royal Navy is planning to put the HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier that has a flight deck measuring 4.5 acres, into service in 2020, carrying 40 F-35B joint-strike fighters across the globe.

No. 8. Italy

No. 8. Italy

Ints Kalnins/REUTERS

An Italian air force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter patrols over the Baltics during a NATO air-policing mission from Zokniai air base near Siauliai on February 10, 2015.

Budget: $34 billion
Active frontline personnel: 320,000
Tanks: 586
Total aircraft: 760
Submarines: 6

The Italian military placed high on Credit Suisse’s report because of the country’s possession of two active aircraft carriers. These carriers, in addition to the country’s relatively large submarine and attack-helicopter fleets, drastically boosted Italy’s ranking.

No. 7. South Korea

No. 7. South Korea

Cpl. Matthew J. Bragg/US Marine Corps

Members of South Korea’s special forces participate in military training.

Budget: $62.3 billion
Active frontline personnel: 624,465
Tanks: 2,381
Total aircraft: 1,412
Submarines: 13

South Korea has been left with little choice but to have a large and capable military in the face of potential North Korean aggression. With those realities in mind, South Korea has a number of submarines, attack helicopters, and active personnel.

The country also has numerous tanks and the sixth-largest air force in the world.

No. 6. France

No. 6. France

Stringer ./REUTERS

French soldiers patrol in the Terz valley, about 37 miles south of the town of Tessalit in northern Mali on March 20, 2013.

Budget: $62.3 billion
Active frontline personnel: 202,761
Tanks: 423
Total aircraft: 1,264
Submarines: 10

The French military is relatively small, but highly trained, professional, and capable of force projection.

The country has the nearly new aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, and France routinely engages in military deployments throughout Africa to help stabilize governments and fight against extremism.

No. 5. India

No. 5. India

Adnan Abidi/Reuters

India’s Rapid Action Force personnel inside their base camp in New Delhi on November 6, 2014.

Budget: $50 billion
Active frontline personnel: 1,325,000
Tanks: 6,464
Total aircraft: 1,905
Submarines: 15

India is one of the largest military powers on the planet. It has the most active manpower of any country aside from China and the US, in addition to the most tanks and aircraft of any country besides the US, China, or Russia.

India also has access to nuclear weapons. It’s expected to become the fourth-highestmilitary spender on earth by 2020.

No. 4. Japan

No. 4. Japan

Yuya Shino/REUTERS

Japanese tanks and helicopters participate in a military-training exercise.

Budget: $41.6 billion
Active frontline personnel: 247,173
Tanks: 678
Total aircraft: 1,613
Submarines: 16

In absolute terms, the Japanese military is relatively small. Nonetheless, the country is extremely well-equipped.

According to Credit Suisse, it has the fourth-largest submarine fleet on the list. Japan also has four aircraft carriers, although these vessels are equipped only with helicopter fleets.

Japan also has the fourth-largest attack-helicopter fleet behind China, Russia, and the US.

No. 3. China

No. 3. China


A Chinese soldier takes part in a drill during heavy snow in Heihe, Heilongjiang Province.

Budget: $216 billion
Active frontline personnel: 2,333,000
Tanks: 9,150
Total aircraft: 2,860
Submarines: 67

The Chinese military has grown rapidly in terms of size and capability in the past few decades. In terms of raw manpower, it’s the largest military in the world. It also has the second-largest tank fleet behind Russia and the second-largest submarine fleet behind the US.

China has also made rapid strides in its military-modernization program, now developing a range of potentially game-changing military technologies, including ballistic missiles and fifth-generation aircraft.

No. 2. Russia

No. 2. Russia

REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Russian soldiers on military armored-personnel carriers on a road near the Crimean port city of Sevastopol on March 10, 2014.

Budget: $84.5 billion
Active frontline personnel: 766,055
Tanks: 15,398
Total aircraft: 3,429
Submarines: 55

The Russian armed forces are the unquestioned second-strongest military power in the world. Russia has the world’s largest tank fleet, the second-largest aircraft fleet behind the US, and the third-largest submarine fleet behind the US and China.

The Kremlin’s military spending has increased by almost a third since 2008 and is expected to grow 44% more in the next three years. Russia has also demonstrated its ability to project force abroad with its deployment of soldiers to Syria.

No. 1. US

No. 1. US


The F-22 and F-35 flying together.

Budget: $601 billion
Active frontline personnel: 1,400,000
Tanks: 8,848
Total aircraft: 13,892
Submarines: 72

Despite sequestration and other spending cuts, the US spends more money — $601 billion — on defense than the next nine countries on Credit Suisse’s index combined.

America’s biggest conventional-military advantage is its fleet of 10 aircraft carriers. In comparison India, which is constructing its third carrier, it has the second-most carriers in the world.

The US also has by far the most aircraft of any country, cutting-edge technology like the Navy’s new rail gun, a large and well-trained human force — and that’s not even counting the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.



3 replies on “RANKED: The World’s 20 Strongest Militaries”

No the US goes 2nd and Russia first, because the most powerful military in the world means nothing if our idiot politicians won’t let them off the leash.

Also: Israel kicked Egypts ass three times, and you’re saying Egypt has the better military?

I agree Egypt should be lower on the list their military can’t even protect the US embassy from a mob.

You should do a plot of how strong a country’s military is vs what militaries hate said country.

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