The World’s Strongest Militaries Aren’t All Created Equal

Many military powers claim to be the best, but there is a stark difference between the strongest and the rest. Not every country has the same resources, and a strong military can be extremely expensive.

There are a ton of metrics that go into determining which military is the strongest, so it’s not just about manpower or technological advances. While some countries strive to be peacekeepers, others are willing to flex their military muscle.

Netherlands

With a population of just 17 million residents, the country of the Netherlands maintained a decent sized military that includes 42,705 active personnel and 10,500 reservists.

With a decent sized military force, the country is able to maintain a small number of fighter jets, attack aircraft, 29 attack helicopters, and support transport. The country’s military features 144 battle tanks and relies on armored fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery for much of its ground support. The Netherlands does not operate an aircraft carrier but features frigates, four corvette warships, patrol craft, and four submarines for additional naval support. The countries military budget is $12.6 billion.

Czech Republic

With 10.6 million people in the country, the Czech Republic features a very small military with only 29,050 members of which 22,000 are part of the areas active military.

The Czech Republic features a small number of fighter jets, attack helicopters and air support vehicles that include 31 fighter jets and 24 attack helicopters which are maintained by a handful of military employees. Most of the country’s efforts are focused on 123 combat tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and self-propelled and towed artillery. This landlocked country which is positioned between Germany and Slovakia does not have a navy force. The countries total military spend each year is $1.16 billion.

Argentina

The country of Argentina is home to nearly 44 million people but only 75,000 active military personnel support the countries programs with 52,720 waiting in the country’s reserves.

The country features 86 fighter jets and a small group of other attack aircraft alongside five attack helicopters. More robust is the country’s ground support which includes 430 combat tanks, armored fighting vehicles, rocket projectors and both self-propelled and towed artillery. Argentina is also home to a small number of navy support vehicles including destroyers, patrol craft, nine corvettes, and three submarines. Argentina’s annual military budget is $5.6 billion per year.

Canada

Although Canada is considerably larger than the United States in terms of land mass, the country has just 1/10th of the population. And of the 36 million people who live in Canada, just 79,000 are active military personnel. But despite those numbers, Canada ranks among the strongest militaries in the world.

In addition to having 111,000 total military personnel, they have roughly 426 air crafts, 181 tanks, and four submarines. Despite its powerful tools and technologies, Canada takes a peaceful approach. In fact, the country was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 in recognition of the efforts over the years to help restore peace to war-torn countries. Canada’s annual military budget is $21 billion per year.

Norway

With just over five million people in the country of Norway, the area features a small military with just 26,500 active employees and 46,000 waiting in the reserves.

While the country is small they do operate 57 fighter jets that operate alongside a small subset of attack aircraft, and transport systems. The country does not operate any attack helicopters. The country’s focus on its land support includes 136 combat tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and some self-propelled and towed artillery. Norway’s small navy includes frigate support, mine warfare vessels, and patrol craft and support for six submarines. Norway has a military budget of $6.2 billion.

Taiwan

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With China constantly threatening to invade Taiwan, it’s no surprise the island state has worked hard to increase its military’s strength. The state has 300,000 active soldiers and 1,675,000 soldiers in reserve, plus 815 air vehicles, 102 naval ships, and 2,005 tanks.

Military trainees go through strenuous tests before completing military programs. Trainees in the Marine Corps, for example, have to crawl along 50 meters of jagged coral and rocks in the “Road to Heaven” test in Zuoying. Taiwan spends $19.2 billion on its military on an annual basis.

Up next: this country spends $4.1 billion on military expenditures every single year.

Switzerland

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If everyone could just be Switzerland this list would be unneeded. The country is home to 8.2 million people and only 21,000 serve in the country’s active military. An additional 120,000 people are part of the country’s military reserves.

The Swiss maintain a small airborne military that does not include any attack helicopters. The country is home to a small number of fighter jets and attack aircraft that are supported by an equally small subset of air transport devices. The Swiss army is mostly comprised of 224 combat tanks and a larger number of armored fighting vehicles. Given its location, Switzerland does not maintain any type of naval force. $4.1 billion is spent on military expenditures every single year.

Peru

For a country with just 30 million people, the military at Peru is rather sizeable with 100,000 active personnel and 268,000 reservists waiting to serve at a moments notice.

Peru features an active air force that includes combat fighter jets, along with attack helicopters, attack aircraft, and air support. The country’s ground support offers 300 combat tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and support from towed and self-propelled artillery along with rocket projectors. The country also offers a small naval source comprised of frigates, patrol craft, corvettes, and six submarines. The military’s budget is just north of $820 million per year.

Mexico

Despite Mexico’s population of nearly 124 million people, the country’s military is relatively small with only 273,000 active personnel and 110,000 reserve members.

Mexico features 58 fighter jets and a handful of other attack fighters. The country is focused on transport aircraft and it also lacked attack helicopters. Mexico’s army is comprised of 567 combat tanks and only a handful of armored fighting vehicles. The country does operate some towed and self-propelled artillery. While Mexico does not own an aircraft carrier, the country’s military is responsible for operating and maintaining frigates, mine warfare vessels, patrol craft, and seven corvettes warships. Mexico spends $10.07 billion per year on military assets.

Malaysia

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The population of Malaysia is nearly 31 million and the military force includes 110,000 active personnel and 310,000 reserve personnel. Malaysia maintained a small fleet of 44 fighter jets and a handful of attack helicopters which are assisted by a limited amount of air support and trainer aircraft.

The country is more focused on 64 combat tanks and armored fighting vehicles alongside towed artillery and rocket projectors. Malaysia doesn’t operate any aircraft carriers but is supported by sea thanks to a handful of frigates, four corvettes, two submarines, patrol craft, and mine warfare vessels. The country’s military budget is $4.69 billion annually.

Myanmar

With a population of nearly 57 million the country of Myanmar has a relatively small military with 406,000 active personnel and 110,000 people in the reserves.

In terms of air power, Myanmar features 128 fighter jets, various attack aircraft, 10 attack helicopters, and support transports. The country’s ground support is much stronger with combat tanks, armored fighting vehicles and a larger number of self-propelled and towed artillery options. The country also offers rocket projectors which are lacking even in some military powers that are ranked higher than the country’s own armed forces. The country’s military expenditure is $7.07 billion per year.

Ukraine

With a population of 44.2 million, the military force of the Ukraine is impressive in its own right. The country is home to 1.2 million military personnel of which only 182,000 are active military. The country maintained a server of one million.

The Ukraine features an active airborne division that includes 188 fighter jets, alongside attack helicopters, transport craft, and trainer vehicles. The country’s ground support is much larger with a focus on 3,784 combat tanks and armored fighting vehicles alongside towed and self-propelled artillery. The country’s navy is nearly non-existent with only a handful of frigates, patrol craft, and mine warfare vessels and a single corvette warship. The military budget for the country is $2.07 billion.

Sweden

Sweden is a neutral country with a population of just 10 million people. With the support of allies around the world, the country has not placed an active emphasis on its military which features just 43,875 personnel of which 21,875 are active in the country’s armed forces.

Sweden’s military is mostly air focused with 138 fighter jets and attack helicopters that are supported by a small amount of air transport vehicles. The country also features a small group of 160 combat tanks and armored fighting vehicles but is not supported by towed or self-propelled artillery. Sweden’s navy doesn’t include any aircraft carriers but the country does operate a submarine division with five subs. Also featured in Sweden’s navy is nine corvettes. Sweden’s armed forces budget is $6.7 billion.

Greece

With a population of less than 11 million, Greece has a surprisingly large military that includes 413,750 members of which 161,500 serve in the country’s active military.

There are 308 fighter and attack aircraft in Greece and the country operates 29 attack helicopters alongside some transport aircraft and trainers. Ground support is a main focus of the Greece military which operates 1,244 battle tanks, and a good number of armored vehicles, and self-propelled and towed artillery and rocket projectors. Despite its proximity to open waters, the country does not operate any aircraft carriers, although it does feature 11 submarines that help protect the region. The country’s budget is $10.39 billion per year.

Spain

There are nearly 49 million people living in Spain but this friendly country has not built up the military strength of some countries with smaller populations. There are only 170,000 military personnel of which 124,000 serve in active full-time roles.

Spain has a small air force that features 151 fighter and attack jets along with six attack helicopters, and transport aircraft. The country also operates combat tanks that number 552, along with armored fighting vehicles, and self-propelled and towed artillery. Despite its small size, the country also operates an aircraft carrier, four submarines, and patrol aircraft. Its navy also features mine warfare vessels and frigates. Spain spends $25.5 billion annually to maintain its military machine.

Algeria

Algeria features a population of just over 40 million people with a military of just under 800,000 people. The country’s active military is 420,000 strong with the rest of the military server in reserve roles.

Algeria is home to combat fighter planes and 134 attack helicopters. The country focuses much of its efforts on a ground support including 1,105 combat tanks which are supported by armored fighting vehicles and both ground-to-ground and ground-to-air support. Algeria doesn’t operate any aircraft carriers and focuses on four submarines and eight corvette warships. The countries military budget is $4.99 billion per year.

Saudi Arabia

With a population of just over 28 million, Saudi Arabia offers a relatively small military presence with 256,000 personnel of which 231,000 are active military.

To maintain its presence in the Middle East the country operates 287 combat fighter aircraft, most of which have been acquired from the United States military complex. Attack helicopters and fighter jets are among the countries forces. 1,055 combat tanks and additional armored vehicles are the primary ground force mechanics for the country’s military, although they also operate towed and self-propelled artillery. The Saudi Arabia military is largely non-existent with only a few patrol craft and four corvette warships. Saudi Arabia spends $39.2 billion on defense each year.

North Korea

North Korea has a military presence of 6.4 million people which is incredibly large for a country with a population of 25 million. At any given time 945,000 active military personnel are working for the North Korean government.

North Korea’s capabilities keep growing with the recent realization that the country has developed nuclear capabilities. The country is home to 661 fighter jets, and a handful of attack helicopters, and other forms of air power. The country also operates 3,500 combat tanks, and utilizes self-propelled artillery, and rocket projectors, among other technologies. North Korea features a growing Navy but lacks aircraft carrier technology, although it does feature 13 frigates and 70 submarines. The country’s annual budget is unknown but is believed to be an astounding 22% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Australia

Fun fact: in the 1930s, the Australian military waged war on the emu population of West Australia and lost. But despite this embarrassment, Australia has one of the strongest militaries in the world today.

Australia and the United States are similar in size, yet Australia’s military is comparatively tiny. In fact, the country has just 58,000 active members and an additional 44,240 left in reserve along with 408 air vehicles, 59 tanks, and 52 ships ready for battle. In many areas, Australia’s military is much weaker than other countries, but thanks to the land down under’s attack helicopters and submarines, it gets high rankings. $26.9 billion is spent on Australia’s military every single year.

Iran

There are nearly 83 million people living in Iran and the country has a relatively large military with 934,000 personnel of which 534,000 serve in the country’s active military.

Over the past several decades Iran has built a rather robust military that includes 407 fighter planes, 100 attack helicopters, and trainer aircraft. The country is also home to 2,895 combat tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and towed artillery. While Iran has an active Navy, the country lacks aircraft carriers and instead relies on 28 submarines, mine warfare vessels, patrol craft, and two corvette warships. Concerns over the growth of the Iran military has been a regular topic of discussion among world leaders. Iran spends $10 billion per year on its growing military force.

Thailand

Thailand, formerly known as Siam, is the 20th most populous country in the world. Located in the middle of the Indochinese peninsula, Thailand is broken up into several small islands as well as a large number of provinces.

Thailand’s armed forces have more 400,000 full-time personnel plus thousands of more reservists along with 772 tanks, 551 aircraft vehicles, and 81 sea vessels. In recent years, Thailand’s military has taken part in a number of international peacekeeping missions such as Iraq and East Timor. The country also plans to send nearly 1,000 troops to help citizens in Darfur and Sudan. Thailand spends $5.2 billion for its annual military expenses.

Poland

Poland was the first country to be invaded by Germany during the time of World War II. After World War II Poland was on the rebound and very determined not to let history repeat itself.

Now, Poland is one of the most powerful military nations today. The country has 120,000 active members in their armed forces and some additional 515,000 reserves. Poland also has 1,009 tanks, 461 air vehicles, and 83 naval vessels. Adding to its strength are the four branches make up the Polish military: Navy, Special Forces, Land Forces, and the Air Force. The country’s yearly military budget is $12 billion.

Brazil

The country of Brazil features a population of nearly 206 million people with a reserve army made up of 1.6 million personnel. The countries armed forces offer an active population of just 335,000 which is comparably small based on the population of the country.

While the active military size in Brazil is small, the country is home to an array of 224 fighter aircraft that operate alongside 13 attack helicopters and numerous general transport vessels. Military personnel is also responsible for maintaining a fleet of 581 combat tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and rocket projectors. Brazil maintains a single aircraft carrier, seven submarines, and five corvette warships. With a labor workforce of more than 110 million, the country is also capable of scaling its wartime capabilities very quickly. $27 billion is spent on Brazil’s military needs annually.

Vietnam

Vietnam is a massive country that is home to 95.2 million people. The country’s active military personnel total 5.5 million people with nearly 500,000 active men and women serving in the countries various military branches.

The countries military features an estimated 189 fighter jets and a handful of attack helicopters. Vietnam is also home to 1,829 combat tanks and armored fighting vehicles. The countries navy includes eight submarines, mine warfare vessels, and five corvette warships. Throw in a labor force of nearly 55 million people and the country’s ability to scale during wartime is impressive. Vietnam’s military budget is $6.2 billion.

Israel

After 2,600 years, Israel became a nation once again on May 14, 1948. Since then, tensions have been high between the small country and the surrounding enemy nations. Because of these, Israel has beefed up its military and now has one of the strongest militaries in the world.

Although small, the country’s military is mighty. They have 160,000 active members in their military, and they have 630,000 in reserve along with 691 air vehicles, 4,170 tanks, and 66 ships. The Israel Defense Forces require every 18-year-old male and female to serve and work to protect the borders and the citizens of the country. Israel spends $16 billion per year on its military.

Indonesia

Indonesia is an island nation situated between the Pacific and Indian oceans and has the distinction of being the largest island country in the world with a chain of more than 17,000 islands. The nation has over 258 million people and their military has approximately 476,000 active soldiers and 400,000 reserve soldiers.

The military professionals work to fight against terrorism, protect the country’s borders, and carry out the task of world peace. Despite being surrounded by water, Indonesia has just two submarines along with its 420 air vehicles, 171 ships, and 468 tanks. The country’s military budget is $8.01 billion.

Pakistan

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has one of the largest military forces in the region. The military is made up of 620,000 active soldiers and 515,000 in reserve, along with a variety of tools and technologies including 923 air vehicles, 74 ships, and 2,924 tanks.

Pakistan’s army differs from other armies in the world in lots of ways. The Pakistani military thinks independently of its government, leaders, and citizens, meaning it essentially functions as its own country. The Pakistani military is also the only country in the Islamic world to have a female in a Major General position. Pakistan spends $7.8 billion per year on its military forces.

South Korea

Since the turbulent times of the 1960s, there has been tension between North and South Korea. These countries are known for the demilitarized zone with soldiers always on guard. The main threat to South Korea is North Korea and both of these countries have been included in the news for over the past 7 months now. There is a concern now that it seems like North Korea is capable of getting long-range missiles.

The North Korea situation is what made South Korea a military power. South Korea has 625,000 active soldiers and 2,900,000 in reserve. They also have 2,381 tanks, 166 ships, and 1,451 military-related tools. The South Korean military budget is $41.1 billion per year.

Italy

Italy is one of the most recognizable countries on a map. We all know that the geography of Italy is that of a peninsula, and it has a very distinct shape that looks like a boot. Italy is on the southern end of the Mediterranean and it has a border on the northern end by France, Austria, Slovenia, and Switzerland. Italy also has another nation within its borders which is known as the Vatican City. The Vatican City has its own separate military.

Italy’s military is considered so strong largely thanks to its aircraft carriers, of which is has two Italy has 320,000 active soldiers and 42,000 in reserve. They also have 174 ships, 586 tanks, and 785 aircraft vehicles. Italy’s annual military budget is $38.2 billion.

Egypt

Egypt’s military is one of the oldest and largest armed forces in the world, so it’s not surprising it is also one of the strongest.

Egypt’s military is made up of more than 470,000 active soldiers and 800,000 in reserve. The country also includes 245 naval vehicles, 4,624 tanks, and 1,133 airplanes. This, coupled with the substantial financial aid from the United States, has helped Egypt win numerous wars and protects its borders in recent years. Egypt ponies up $5 billion in military costs each year.

Germany

In 1940, Germany had more than 3.5 million men along with thousands of tanks and artillery available to carry out attacks. But these numbers dwindled after the world wars and in 1955, the modern German military, also known as Bundeswehr, was created.

While the numbers aren’t quite as stark today, Germany is still considered one of the strongest and most well-equipped groups in the world. The country has 60,000 troops and more than 325,000 active personnel, 408 tanks, 676 air crafts, and five submarines. In recent years, the German military has actually been working to reduce its size. The country no longer requires men to join the army when they turn 18 and has adopted a volunteer-style similar to the United States. Germany spends $49 billion on military expenses every single year.

Turkey

Located above the nation of Lebanon, the nation of Turkey is rich in history and in war. Today, the country’s military is one of the strongest in the world. Turkey has been involved in combat in recent years with Syrian Opposition and Iraq, which continues even today. Their military is comprised of 410,500 active soldiers and 185,630 on reserve. The country has 1,007 air vehicles, 115 ships, and 3,778 tanks.

Turkey has specific rules about joining the military. Joining the military is mandatory for all Turkish males between 20 and 41-years-old unless you are handicapped or mentally ill. Those who wish to go to college can postpone their service but still have to complete a military program once they have received their degree. Turkey’s military costs total $25 billion per year.

Japan

Japan is another nation that has seen its fair share of wars. The country is known for its role in World War II. Japan has a distinction of having what is known as a Self-Defense Force. The Self-Defense Force means that Japan can fight any nation no matter what the circumstances are.

Tensions are high near Japan as it is caught in the middle of the North Korea nuclear armament conflict. Japan has 250,000 soldiers that are active and 57,900 that are in reserve. They also have 131 ships, 1,590 air attack vehicles, and 678 tanks. Japan spends $51.4 billion per year on its military needs.

United Kingdom

The British Army is one of the most powerful in the world. From the Spanish Armada to the Nazi Luftwaffe, it has existed for centuries in order to defend the kingdom from threats.

Queen Elizabeth II not only serves as the Queen of the United Kingdom, but she is also the Commander in Chief of the nation and has the Secretary of State for Defense who advises her on military matters. Currently, the United Kingdom has 150,000 active soldiers and 182,000 in reserve. In addition to this, they also have 879 air vehicles, 407 tanks, and 66 naval vessels. The UK’s military budget is $62.7 billion.

France

The nation of France has been at war nearly since the beginning of time. They have been involved in nearly every international conflict for over several thousand years. The nation went through some changes since World War II but they are currently back on their feet again and have been so for some time.

You can look in nearly every history book about France and see that it has been involved in numerous wars. Sometimes these wars were to defend themselves and sometimes they tried to conquer other nations. Currently, France has a population of 66,553,766. They have 205,000 soldiers that are active and 195,770 in reserve. They have 1,282 air vehicles, 113 ships, and 423 tanks. France burns through $62.5 billion each year to support its own military efforts.

India

Located in South Asia, India is the seventh largest country in the world. There are numerous amounts of people who reside in India and the population is so large that is it is only second next to China in population.

With a nation the size of India, one would think that India has a large military. This should come as no surprise since the population of India is 1,251,695,584. Out of those billions of people, there are 1,325,000 active soldiers and 2,143,000 reserve military personnel. India has 2,086 air vehicles, 6,464 tanks, and 202 ships. India’s massive military budget totals $42.84 billion.

China

With a staggering 2.3 million active personnel and 1.2 million in reserve, China has the world’s largest military. China can also boast about having one of the largest military budgets in the world too on top of 2,942 air vehicles, 9,150 tanks, and 673 naval vehicles.

China’s nuclear capability is kept secret but is estimated that the country has as many as 260 nuclear warheads and 50 long range missiles—two numbers which are only going to rise. China spends a crazy $166 billion per year on its military.

Russia

Russia’s military has been ranked as the second-most powerful in the world. In the last few years alone, Russia has beefed up its military efforts, particularly when it comes to nuclear war. It is believed that Russia has more than 7,300 nuclear weapons, surpassing the United States’ 6,970 nuclear weapons. Although it looks like the chances of a nuclear conflict between Russian and the United States are slim, both countries are continuing to expand their nuclear forces.

When it comes to land mass, Russia is the largest country in the world, spanning nine time zones—so it’s not surprising that the Russian army has 766,055 members that are active and 2,485,000 that are in reserve. Beyond nuclear weapons, the country’s military has numerous powerful tools and technologies, including 3,547 air vehicles, 15,398 tanks, and 352 ships. Russia’s second rating military costs $93.76 billion to maintain and grow.

The United States of America

It may come as no surprise, but the United States of America is ranked as the strongest military in the world. This is largely thanks to the U.S. military budget, which is bigger than any other country’s military budget at $581 billion dollars per year. In comparison, China has the second largest military spending budget at $155.6 billion dollars per year.

It’s clear to see that America’s investment in being the world’s leading military force is working. advanced tools and also a huge spending budget when it comes to the military. The United States currently has a population of 321,368,864. The US has 1,400,000 soldiers that are active and 1,100,000 are that are in reserve. The US also has 13,444 aircraft vehicles, 8,848 tanks, and 473 sea vessels. The United States leads the pack with a mind-boggling $682 billion spent on its military every single year.

The U.S. Military on Guam

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In the middle of the Pacific sits Guam, a tiny island that has been a U.S. territory since 1898. The U.S. has a naval base and an air force base on the island and is in a strategic position to defend the mainland U.S. from any missile strikes coming from Asia.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is particularly threatened by the U.S. military presence on the island and expressed his anger in July of 2017 when U.S. B-1 bombers took off from Guam and flew over South Korea as a show of force. While Jong Un and the regime practices launching their ballistic missiles, they are consistently reminded that the U.S. can reach their country by air and sea in a timely response.