Articles

These are the 25 most powerful militaries in the world

An all-out fight may be the only real way to compare military strength, but fortunately, the world hasn't had many opportunities lately.


Despite an increasingly tense situation in the South China Sea, continued fighting in Ukraine, and proxy wars throughout the Middle East, warfare between nation-states has mostly taken a backseat to peacekeeping missions and fights against terror groups.

Still, a simple evaluation of pure military power can be interesting, so we turned to the Global Firepower Index, a ranking of 106 nations based on more than 50 factors — including each country's military budget, manpower, and the amount of equipment each country has in its respective arsenal, and its natural resources.

Related: How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

It's important to note the index focuses on quantity while ignoring significant qualitative differences. For example, North Korea's 70 submarines are old and decidedly low-tech compared to what the US and others have. The index doesn't take into account nuclear stockpiles, which are still the ultimate trump card in geopolitics. And it doesn't penalize landlocked nations for lack of a standing navy.

We've created a chart to compare the top 25 militaries according to the Global Firepower Index. The ranking was released in April (before events like the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine in August, ISIS's blitz through Iraq, and the flare-up between Israel and Hamas) and involves a complex set of data that is subject to ongoing adjustments and corrections.

Skye Gould/Business Insider

Here Are The Key Findings From The Index:

America's investment in being the world's leading military force.

The US leads the world in military spending at nearly $600 billion a year. China is in a distant second, at nearly $160 billion — less than one-third of America's overall spending.

Also read: Here's who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now 

According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US has reduced its defense budget by 7.8% chiefly because of America's gradual withdrawal in overseas military operations, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, President Donald Trump's proposed budget would effectively reverse that downward trend.

The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Russia, meanwhile, has increased its arms spending and continues to modernize its military equipment and implement higher quality training for its personnel.

Aircraft carriers are key, but few countries have even one.

Aircraft carriers contribute greatly to a country's overall military strength. These massive vessels allow nations to project force far beyond their borders and across the entire face of the globe. They're essentially mobile naval and air force bases.

Aircraft carriers can also carry unmanned aerial systems — drones — which significantly change the global surveillance game.

US Navy photo

The US's absolute monopoly on super-carriers significantly boosts its forward operating power. The US has deployed an aircraft carrier toward the Persian Gulf to bolster its sea and air power before possible strikes against ISIS in Iraq. It also has others keeping a close on the Korean peninsula.

Russia has previously deployed an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean to support the Assad government in Syria.

North Korea's submarines are pretty much useless.

At first look, it seems North Korea is amazing when it comes to submarine warfare, but there's a little more to the story.

Pyongyang does command one of the largest submarine fleets on earth, but most of its vessels are unusable.

The North Korean Sang-O submarine ran aground in South Korean waters near Gangneung, in 1996. | Public Domain photo

A third of North Korea's subs are noisy diesel-powered Romeos, which have been obsolete since 1961. These submarines have a weapons range of only four miles, whereas a modern US submarine has a range of 150 miles. The Hermit Kingdom's fleet is unsophisticated but still durable, according to the Pentagon.

In a fight with a more sophisticated adversary, North Korean subs would be toast.

A previous version of this article was written by Amanda Macias.

GEAR & TECH

6 of the most notable pre-M16 military guns

Throughout history, the U.S. Military has used a wide variety of guns to win its battles. Prior to the M16, there were several weapons used across the service throughout some of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen.

Here are some of those weapons:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
International

China and the US could end up in a war – here's what would happen

It's unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it's not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

Here are the best military photos for the week of April 20th

The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.

Keep reading... Show less
History

5 ways troops accidentally 'blue falcon' the rest of the platoon

Every now and then, the pricks known as 'Blue Falcons' come and ruin things for everyone else. They break the rules and make everyone else suffer. They rat out their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. They even damage the reputation of others to make themselves look better.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

Why I'm thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.

Keep reading... Show less
History

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as "drop tanks," these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they're hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.

Keep reading... Show less

The hilarious ways Chinese police are combating jaywalkers

China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it has turned to spraying them with water.

In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians' feet with water mist.

Keep reading... Show less