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 twenty 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.
Budget: $601 billion
Active frontline personnel: 1,400,000
Total aircraft: 13,892
Possession of over 7000 nuclear weapons, 13000 weaponised aircraft and a spending of over $612 billion a year on defence makes the United States the most powerful army in the world in overall rankings.
Budget: $84.5 billion
Active frontline personnel: 766,055
Total aircraft: 3,429
Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s military is growing again. 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. Today, the Russian defense budget stands at $76.6 billion.
Russia currently has 766,000 active front-line personnel with a reserve force of 2,485,000 personnel. These troops are backed up by 15,500 tanks, the largest tank force in the world. Russian soldiers generally receive relatively mediocre training, however, and their equipment, like that tank force, is aging.
Budget: $216 billion
Active frontline personnel: 2,333,000
Total aircraft: 2,860
China has the 3rd most powerful army, with an active personnel that is 2.2 million people strong. They also employ around 9000 tanks, and receive massive central funding.
Budget: $41.6 billion
Active frontline personnel: 247,173
Total aircraft: 1,613
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 in the list. Japan also has four aircraft carriers, although these vessels are only equipped with helicopter fleets.
Japan also has the fourth largest attack helicopter fleet behind China, Russia, and the US.
Budget: $50 billion
Active frontline personnel: 1,325,000
Total aircraft: 1,905
India’s defense spending is expected to rise as it pursues a modernization drive. Currently, it is estimated that India only spends $50 billion on its budget, and it is slated to become the fifth highest spender by 2020. It is already the world’s largest importer of military goods.
India has ballistic missiles with a range capable of hitting all of Pakistan or most of China. Indian military strategy has been dominated by its long-simmering conflict with Pakistan, although there have also been minor wars between China and India in the past.
Budget: $62.3 billion
Active frontline personnel: 202,761
Total aircraft: 1,264
France has around 230,000 active personnel in their armed forces. They also possess 300 nuclear warheads, more than 1000 fighter jets and spend a hefty $43 billion a year on all that fighting power.
7. South Korea
Budget: $62.3 billion
Active frontline personnel: 624,465
Total aircraft: 1,412
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 seventh largest air force in the world.
8. United Kingdom
Budget: $60.5 billion
Active frontline personnel: 146,980
Total aircraft: 936
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 at 4.5 acres, into service in 2020, carrying 40 F-35B joint strike fighters across the globe.
Budget: $18.2 billion
Active frontline personnel: 410,500
Total aircraft: 1,020
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 an impressively large tank fleet as well as numerous aircraft and attack helicopters.
Turkey is also a committed member of the F-35 program.