It’s always fun to sit around and war game which country could beat up which, and it’s even better when you have hard facts to back up your decisions.
Below is a summary of the top ten militaries in the world, according to Global Firepower, which tracks military power through publicly-available sources. We’ve scrapped Global Firepower naval comparisons since they track naval strength by number of ships, making a patrol boat equal to a supercarrier. This list of the largest navies by weight is being used instead.
Below the spreadsheet we’ve added a breakdown of each military power.
1. United States of America
No real surprise here. The U.S. spends $577 billion per year, nearly four times more than China’s $145 billion defense budget. The U.S. is behind both India and China on all measures of manpower, but it makes up for it with vastly superior airpower and a carrier fleet larger than any other country’s entire navy.
America’s Cold War rival still packs a major punch. Its high ranking is fueled strongly by superior armor numbers. Russia also fields a large navy and is the world’s largest oil producer. Russia is fourth for number of military personnel, but its numbers are padded by short-term conscripts. Though it isn’t calculated by GFP, Russia’s special operations forces and propaganda arms have been proving themselves in Ukraine where Russia is a major destabilizing force.
China has the second largest military budget, third largest fleet of aircraft, second largest tank force, and the world’s largest number of military personnel. China’s special forces also took 3 of the top 4 spots at 2014‘s Warrior Games in Jordan. Though China technically has a draft, it is rarely used.
India’s ranking is largely due to its large labor force and large number of service members. It also has a large fleet of aircraft and tanks as wells as a respectable navy. It suffers though due to a large amount of oil consumption vs. a very small amount of oil production. Interestingly, India’s Border Force is the only modern military force that maintains a camel-mounted regiment.
5. United Kingdom
Despite a small tank force, low number of aircraft, and low number of military personnel, the United Kingdom maintains a spot in the top five with the world’s fifth largest navy and fifth highest military budget. The British military is also aided by geography as it’s hard for an invading force to attack an island.
France doesn’t post up the most impressive numbers of ships, planes, and tanks, but what equipment it has is modern and very capable. Mirage and Rafale jets, Tiger helicopters, LeClerc main battle tanks, and the only nuclear-powered carrier outside the U.S. provide the main muscle behind the French military. France also manufacturers much of its own military supplies, meaning it has the ability to create more equipment in a protracted war.
7. South Korea
Though South Korea has the sixth largest military by population, the sixth largest fleet of aircraft in the world, and the eighth largest navy, it has a relatively small budget and armored corps. Its largest threat is North Korea which, despite having the largest navy by number of ships, is weak because of antiquated equipment and undertrained personnel.
Germany got a decent rank on Global Firepower and a great one at National Interest due to a strong economy, military spending, and good training. However, news coming out of Germany suggests its position may be weaker than it appears on paper. It consumes much more oil than it produces, and imports come from Russia, its most likely adversary. Germany’s ability to weather an oil shortage is also decreasing as it moves away from coal and nuclear power. Also, it’s facing a major problem with its standard rifle.
Japan would be ranked higher if its people had a greater appetite for war. The sixth largest military spender, it has the fifth largest air fleet and the fourth largest navy. Still, a lackluster ground game drags it down and its constitution limits the military’s ability to project force worldwide.
An expanded military industry bodes of good things to come for Turkey’s military. It has a large military population and tank force. It is upgrading its navy. The Turkish preparations for war are becoming more urgent as ISIS stands at its doorstep.