From the early days of human development and the march toward civilization, men have created armed forces with the purpose of protecting their communities and borders. As technology kept improving and warfare modernized throughout history so did the militaries of these communities which gradually became city-states, kingdoms, and empires, eventually morphing into the modern nation-state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In an era when war and military might and strategy are more dependent than ever on technology, the competition between the world’s largest militaries focuses less on active personnel and more on equipment and contemporary warfare technologies than it used to just decades ago.
This explains why small countries like Taiwan or Israel, for example, rank so high in terms of military strength compared to other nations of hundreds of millions that lack war tech and weaponry. The list of the 25 Most Powerful Militaries In the World that follows proves how drastically the rules and tactics of war have changed in recent history and how superior technology and weapons can alter the fate of battles.
Featured image by: Infinite_Eye / Shutterstock.com
NOTE: Ranking derived from globalfirepower.com.
Officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea is known for its oppressive government and its antagonistic relationship with a good portion of the world. It currently holds 4,200 tanks, 944 aircraft, and a naval force of 967. In spite of these numbers, North Korea’s weaponry is considered to be aged and obsolete with limited capabilities. For example, out of the 70 submarines it currently has, 20 are rusty Romeo-class submarines with 1950’s technology.
The Royal Saudi Armed Forces consists of the Saudi Arabian Army, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Navy, the Royal Saudi Air Defense, the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), and paramilitary forces, together totaling over 230,000 active-duty members. It’s one of the richest militaries in the world and is in charge of protecting the country’s vast wealth.
The unstoppable rise of China has forced Australia—as well as most countries in the Asia-Pacific region—into a continuous upgrade and modernization of their military force, which, despite its small size, is considered one of the best and most effective in the world.
Despite being one of the most peaceful and friendly countries throughout its history, Canada’s military is among the most powerful in the world. Currently, Canada an extensive arsenal of military weapons including 181 tanks, 426 Aircraft, and a total naval strength of 63.
The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran total about 545,000 active personnel and is without a doubt one of the most powerful and dominant forces in the Mid East.
The military is the foundation of unity and peace in Thai society. Thailand has an impressive number of active personnel and tanks in the world. A more fascinating fact is that Thailand has an aircraft carrier but does not have an aircraft fleet (Since their AV-8S Matadors were withdrawn from service in 2006).
Under the constant threat of the gigantic Chinese army that has plans to invade and occupy the country, Taiwan has focused its military development in terms of defense operations. That’s why, for such a small island, Taiwan has more helicopters (307) than most countries, and its number of tanks (2,005) and aircrafts (815 total) is quite impressive in relation to its size.
The unrest and tension in Ukraine has forced the Polish government to spend outrageous amounts of money lately, and as a result the country’s military and warfare equipment has improved dramatically within only a few years.
The Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) is the country’s defense force and is regarded as one of the most prestigious and sacred things in the local culture, especially after the brave (and victorious, in most historians’ eyes) resistance it exhibited fighting against superpowers such as France and the US in the twentieth century. It’s an integral part of the country’s culture and is considered one of the most powerful in Asia.
Despite its small size both in area and population and its very short history, Israel can proudly claim that its defense forces (IDF) has been one of the most active (if not the most active) in the world during the past five decades. Due to constant tension in the area Israel has developed an incredibly powerful and modernized military force that is considered one of the greatest in the world.
Boasting of the second largest armed forces in the Americas (after the United States) and the largest in Latin America, Brazil comes in at number 15 in world militaries. It currently has 330,000 active-duty troops and officers with 486 tanks, 735 total aircraft, and 110 Naval units. Though South America is a relatively peaceful continent, Brazil borders 10 countries and as such requires significant amount of man power.
Enjoyed reading about the world’s most powerful militaries? Then you’ll enjoy going deeper into the world’s most powerful military via these surprising facts about the United States Military.
The Indonesian Army was formed during the Indonesian National Revolution, when it engaged in guerrilla warfare with an informal militia. With approximately half a million military personnel and the accompanying modern technology, it is considered one of the most powerful militaries in Asia.
The Pakistan Armed Forces are the 13rh largest in the world and one of the most powerful militaries overall with their technology and warfare equipment constantly improving. Furthermore, the Pakistan Armed Forces contribute the most to the United Nations peacekeeping efforts, with over 10,000 personnel deployed overseas in 2007.
The Egyptian Armed Forces are not only the largest in Africa and the Middle East but also one of the largest in the world with 470,000 active duty personnel. Furthermore, it’s one of the most ancient since it was established in 3200 BC.
Sharing a border with its dangerous and unpredictable northern neighbor has forced South Korea to spend a crazy amount of money on military equipment and weapons, which makes the country’s military one of the most modernized and powerful in the world. Currently, it boasts of 625,000 active duty personnel with 2.381 tanks and 1,451 total aircrafts.
The Italian Armed Forces is composed of the Italian Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Carabinieri (which serves as the narion’s military police). As of late 2014, the Italian military is the third largest in the European Union and the fifth among NATO nations with nearly 320,000 total active personnel.
The reform of the German military is the most radical overhaul of the Bundeswehr in its history. New challenges such as international terrorism and global cooperation require a smaller, more flexible troop structure that won’t have as defensive a role as it has had in the past few decades.
The Turkish armed forces collectively rank as the second largest standing military force in NATO, after the US Armed Forces, with an estimated strength of 495,000 personnel, according to a 2011 NATO estimate. Turkey is also one of five NATO member states which are part of the nuclear sharing policy of the alliance, together with Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
The Japan Self-Defense Forces, or JSDF as they are known, are the unified military forces of Japan that were established after World War II. Even though they have been inactive for the better part of the past fifty years, recent tensions in the area, particularly with North Korea, have reignited the debate over the status of the JSDF and its relation to Japanese society.
Despite its relatively small size compared to countries like the USA, Russia, and China, and the fact that British government plans to reduce the size of its armed forces by 10% until 2018, the once dominant United Kingdom continues to have one of the most powerful militaries in the world.
France might not be the great military power it used to be, however, it’s still within the top ten most powerful militaries. Highlights of its involvement include the war on terror in Mali, Afghanistan, Libya, and currently against ISIS.
With over 1.3 million active personnel, it is the world’s third largest military force and the world’s second largest volunteer military. It currently ranks as the fourth most powerful military in the world overall.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the official name for the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China. It is the world’s largest military force, with the strength of approximately 2.3 million personnel, which is only 0.18 percent of the country’s population.
Massive modernization and an impressive procurement program by Putin during the past two decades have made the Russian military one of the most powerful in the world. In two instances (Ukraine and Ossetia) in which the Russian military was called upon to prove their might, they didn’t fail to impress.
Despite its recent geopolitical misadventures and its withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States armed forces remains the most powerful in the world with the world’s largest defense budget.