The Most Powerful Armies In The World

The Most Powerful Armies In The World

Ever wondered how your country would fare in a major standoff? Now you can know for sure. Global Firepower uses over 50 individual factors to determine a given nation’s PowerIndex* score, with categories ranging from military might and financials to logistical capability and geography. We compiled the top 50 most powerful armies in the world, along with some fascinating facts and trivia about each one.

*A PowerIndex perfect score is 0.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by skeeze from Pixabay

50. Iraq

PowerIndex: 0.7911
Population: 40,194,216
Active personnel: 165,000
Military budget: $1,730,000,000 USD

Even more interesting that Iraq’s defense spending is where the funding comes from; since 2014, the US has provided the Iraqi army with over $25 billion in training and equipment.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Levi Clancy on Unsplash
Sinjar, Iraq

49. Denmark

PowerIndex: 0.7878
Population: 5,809,502
Active personnel: 16,000
Military budget: $4,760,000,000 USD

Denmark’s military motto is “Some things are worth fighting for.” We assume one of them is Denmark, though the country has been involved in a number of international efforts steadily since 2002.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by SvitlanaRom from Pixabay
Copenhagen, capital of Denmark

48. Philippines

PowerIndex: 0.7852
Population: 105,893,381
Active personnel: 125,000
Military budget: $3,470,000,000 USD

This beautiful country with its amazing food and welcoming people has one of the most powerful militaries in the world. Its motto is “Serving the people. Securing the land.”

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Luca Bucken on Unsplash
Manila, capital of the Philippines

47. Chile

PowerIndex: 0.7668
Population: 17,925,262
Active personnel: 77,000
Military budget: $4,250,000,000 USD

The red and grey banners of the Chilean army flies the motto, “Always victorious, never defeated.” About a fifth of its active personnel are conscripts doing mandatory military service for a set amount of time.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash
Santiago, Chile

46. Bangladesh

PowerIndex: 0.7066
Population: 159,453,001
Active personnel: 160,000
Military budget: $3,800,000,000 USD

The Bangladeshi army’s motto is “In war, in peace, we are everywhere for our country.” It’s one of the youngest armies on this list; it emerged in 1971, during the war to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan’s rule.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by suyab ahmed on Unsplash
Sylhet, Bangladesh

45. United Arab Emirates

PowerIndex: 0.7265
Population: 9,701,315
Active personnel: 64,000
Aircraft strength: 538
Combat tanks: 434
Naval assets: 75
Military budget: $22,755,000,000

Despite having such small numbers in terms of manpower, the UAE armed forces have proved so effective in various international and local military campaigns that they’ve earned themselves a nickname, “Little Sparta.” They might be small, but they’re formidable.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Arsalan Cheema on Unsplash
Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

44. Malaysia

PowerIndex: 0.6523
Population: 31,809,660
Active personnel: 110,000
Aircraft strength: 170
Combat tanks: 74
Naval assets: 61
Military budget: $4,000,000,000

The Malaysian army’s motto is “Strong and loyal.” I was formed through the unification of smaller forces after the cessation of British colonial rule in 1957.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by CK Yeo on Unsplash
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

43. Argentina

PowerIndex: 0.6521
Population: 44,694,198
Active personnel: 83,515
Aircraft strength: 227
Combat tanks: 370
Naval assets: 49
Military budget: $4,200,000,000

“Born with the fatherland in 1810” — the Argentinian army’s motto is educational, if not very inspiring. 

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash
Buenos Aires, Argentina

42. Nigeria

PowerIndex: 0.7007
Population: 203,452,505
Active personnel: 120,000
Aircraft strength: 129
Combat tanks: 253
Naval assets: 75
Military budget: $2,155,000,000

The Nigerian army’s motto is “Victory is from God alone.”

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Ovinuchi Ejiohuo on Unsplash
Total Jikwoyi, Abuja, Nigeria

41. Venezuela

PowerIndex: 0.6449
Population: 31,689,176
Active personnel: 343,000
Aircraft strength: 260
Combat tanks: 390
Naval assets: 49
Military budget: $745,000,000

The official colors of the Venezuelan army are red and blue, and its motto is “Forger of liberties.” Venezuela is one of the 12 countries in the world that have compulsory military service.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Jose Gil on Unsplash
Merida, Venezuela

40. Peru

PowerIndex: 0.6841
Population: 31,331,228
Active personnel: 90,000
Aircraft strength: 273
Combat tanks: 146
Naval assets: 60
Military budget: $2,560,000,000

The Peruvian army’s motto would make a great name for an action movie: “Until the last cartridge has been fired.”

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash
Lima, Peru

39. Romania

PowerIndex: 0.6461
Population: 21,457,116
Active personnel: 70,000
Aircraft strength: 143
Combat tanks: 943
Naval assets: 48
Military budget: $5,050,000,000

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by CALIN STAN on Unsplash
The Carpathian Mountains of Romania

38. Mexico

PowerIndex: 0.5574
Population: 125,959,205
Active personnel: 277,000
Aircraft strength: 484
Combat tanks: 0
Naval assets: 189
Military budget: $7,000,000,000

Mexico’s army motto is a simple, “Always loyal,” and much of their attention is focused on eliminating their rivals, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, which boasts even larger numbers than they do, with around 300,000 members.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

37. Colombia

PowerIndex: 0.6045
Population: 48,168,996
Active personnel: 295,000
Aircraft strength: 469
Combat tanks: 0
Naval assets: 453
Military budget: $10,600,000,000

The National Army of Colombia champions “Homeland, honor, loyalty.” In terms of pure manpower, it’s the largest army in the Americas after the US and Brazil.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Daniel Vargas on Unsplash
Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia

36. The Netherlands

PowerIndex: 0.5919
Population: 17,151,228
Active personnel: 35,500
Aircraft strength: 168
Combat tanks: 18
Naval assets: 63
Military budget: $12,419,000,000

The Royal Netherlands army dates back to the creation of one of the first standing armies in the world, in 1572. Since WWII they have been engaged primarily in peace-keeping missions abroad.

Oh, Amsterdam!

35. Myanmar

PowerIndex: 0.5691
Population: 55,622,506
Active personnel: 406,000
Aircraft strength: 276
Combat tanks: 434
Naval assets: 187
Military budget: $2,650,000,000

The Myanmar military doesn’t have its own slogan, but the country as a whole does have a motto, “Happiness through harmony.” It stands to reason that the purpose behind having one of the world’s most powerful armies in to maintain that harmony.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Harish Shivaraman on Unsplash
Sule Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

34. Czech Republic

PowerIndex: 0.5531
Population: 10,686,269
Active personnel: 25,000
Aircraft strength: 95
Combat tanks: 116
Naval assets: 0
Military budget: $2,969,000,000

The Army of the Czech Republic is the youngest on this list, beginning in its current form in 1994. It used to be one of the few countries in the world with compulsory military service, but abolished conscription in 2004.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by Pexels from Pixabay
Prague, capital of the Czech Republic

33. Greece

PowerIndex: 0.5311
Population: 10,761,523
Active personnel: 200,000
Aircraft strength: 566
Combat tanks: 1,355
Naval assets: 116
Military budget: $4,844,000,000

The motto of the Hellenic Army is “Freedom stems from valor.” The line comes from Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War in 411BC, a reminder that the Greek military has been around for a long, long time.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Jonathan Gallegos on Unsplash
Santorini, Greece, at sunset

32. Sweden

PowerIndex: 0.5304
Population: 10,040,995
Active personnel: 30,000
Aircraft strength: 204
Combat tanks: 126
Naval assets: 63
Military budget: $6,326,923,600

An interesting bit of history of the Swedish Armed Forces is that after WWI they downsized their military drastically, perhaps optimistically assuming that they were home free when it came to any more major world wars. Yeah, not so much; when WWII came around, they scrambled to rearm themselves in time to defend the country.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash
Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden

31. Norway

PowerIndex: 0.6103
Population: 5,372,191
Active personnel: 24,000
Aircraft strength: 150
Combat tanks: 52
Naval assets: 62
Military budget: $7,179,000,000

“For peace and freedom” is Norway’s military motto.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Lukas on Unsplash
Ballstad, Norway

30. Switzerland

PowerIndex: 0.5459
Population: 8,292,809
Active personnel: 21,000
Aircraft strength: 169
Combat tanks: 326
Naval assets: 0
Military budget: $5,000,000,000

With a strong reputation for peace, it might come as a surprise that the Swiss have one of the most powerful militaries. Its motto is “Honor, unity, modesty,” which seems to fit the bill in this case.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by TeeFarm from Pixabay
Just one of Switzerland’s many priceless views

29. South Africa

PowerIndex: 0.5405
Population: 55,380,210
Active personnel: 66,300
Aircraft strength: 226
Combat tanks: 195
Naval assets: 30
Military budget: $4,278,000,000

The green-and-black-clad soldiers of the South African armed forces are called “Wielders of the sword,” though these days they’re carrying more technologically advanced weaponry. That helps them rank among the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by KYLE CUT MEDIA on Unsplash
Clifton Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

28. Algeria

PowerIndex: 0.4659
Population: 41,657,488
Active personnel: 130,000
Aircraft strength: 551
Combat tanks: 880
Naval assets: 201
Military budget: $13,000,000,000

The Algerian army formed in 1962, after the liberation war, making it one of the youngest armies on this list. For that reason, it’s even more impressive that it’s already one of the most powerful armies in the world.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Daoud Abismail on Unsplash
Alger Centre, Algeria

27. Ukraine

PowerIndex: 0.4457
Population: 43,952,299
Active personnel: 255,000
Aircraft strength: 297
Combat tanks: 2,026
Naval assets: 25
Military budget: $5,400,000,000

Since 2018, the Armed Forces of Ukraine has had a new motto, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” This replaces the old “Wish you health, comrade!” that soldiers used to say to each other during the Soviet Era. It’s anyone’s guess whether they meant it or not.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Denys Rodionenko on Unsplash
Kyiv, capital of Ukraine

26. Taiwan

PowerIndex: 0.4396
Population: 23,545,963
Active personnel: 165,000
Aircraft strength: 744
Combat tanks: 1,180
Naval assets: 117
Military budget: $10,725,000,000

The Taiwanese Armed Forces, otherwise known as the ROC, or Republic of China Armed Forces, has a motto of “Forever loyalty.” Citizens have to serve a mandatory term of four months as part of their mandatory military service.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by Pexels from Pixabay
Taipei, capital of Taiwan

25. North Korea

PowerIndex: 0.3718
Population: 25,381,085
Active personnel: 1,280,000
Aircraft strength: 949
Combat tanks: 6,045
Naval assets: 984
Military budget: $1,600,000,000

North Korea has universal conscription for citizens, which means that all men, and many women, will serve a mandatory three years in the country’s armed forces.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Random Institute on Unsplash
Using the metro in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang

24. Canada

PowerIndex: 0.3712
Population: 35,881,659
Active personnel: 71,500
Aircraft strength: 385
Combat tanks: 80
Naval assets: 64
Military budget: $22,500,000,000

Canada’s military motto is also a lyric from its national anthem: “We stand on guard for thee.” Not to be confused with the RCMP, which only has jurisdiction inside the country.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Mike Benna on Unsplash
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada

23. Thailand

PowerIndex: 0.3571
Population: 68,615,858
Active personnel: 360,850
Aircraft strength: 570
Combat tanks: 841
Naval assets: 292
Military budget: $7,100,000,000

The official color of the Thai army is a traffic-stopping red, and its motto is “For the Nation, Religions, Monarchy, and People.” Despite low spending, they’re among the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay
The beauty of Thailand

22. Vietnam

PowerIndex: 0.3559
Population: 97,040,334
Active personnel: 482,000
Aircraft strength: 293
Combat tanks: 2,615
Naval assets: 65
Military budget: 5,500,000,000USD

The Republic of Vietnam’s military motto is “Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom.” Have to say we agree wholeheartedly with that one. 

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Ammie Ngo on Unsplash
Hạ Long, Vietnam

21. Poland

PowerIndex: 0.3397
Population: 38,420,687
Active personnel: 118,000
Aircraft strength: 457
Combat tanks: 1,069
Naval assets: 87
Military budget: 12,000,000,000

“God, honor, fatherland,” is the Polish navy’s austere motto. It’s also the only military in the world to give a two-finger salute, instead of the more common one using all the fingers of the right hand.

Lodz, Poland

20. Spain

PowerIndex: 0.3321
Population: 49,331,076
Active personnel: 124,000
Aircraft strength: 512
Combat tanks: 327
Naval assets: 77
Military budget: 15,100,000,000USD

Spain’s armed forces don’t have an official motto, but the unofficial one is “Everything for the Motherland.” We prefer the promise of that of the Rescue Swimmers regiment: “Dead or alive, you come with us.”

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash
The sunset from Gibralfaro Castle, Málaga, Spain

19. Australia

PowerIndex: 0.3225
Population: 23,470,145
Active personnel: 60,000
Aircraft strength: 464
Combat tanks: 59
Naval assets: 48
Military budget: $26,300,000,000

“Duty and honor” apparently sums it up for the Aussie army, whose values champion “courage, initiative, respect, and teamwork.”

Brisbane, Australia

18. Israel

PowerIndex: 0.3111
Population: 8,424,904
Active personnel: 170,000
Aircraft strength: 589
Combat tanks: 2,760
Naval assets: 65
Military budget: $20,000,000,000

The Israel Defense Force’s motto is a bit of a mouthful: “As the bat emerges from the darkness, As the blade cuts through with silence, As the grenade smashes in rage.” Pretty ironic since the zip-lipped soldiers of the army are known as the “people of silence.”

Tel Aviv, Israel

17. Saudi Arabia

PowerIndex: 0.2973
Population: 33,091,113
Active personnel: 478,000
Aircraft strength: 879
Combat tanks: 1,062
Naval assets: 55
Military budget: $67,600,000,000

Saudi Arabia is one of the few monarchies left in the world, and the Saudi military is technically owned by the king. Lucky for him, it’s among the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Yasmine Arfaoui on Unsplash
Nabawi Mosque, Madina, Saudi Arabia

16. Indonesia

PowerIndex: 0.2544
Population: 262,787,403
Active personnel: 400,000
Aircraft strength: 46
Combat tanks: 313
Naval assets: 282
Military budget: 7,600,000,000

Indonesia’s army motto is in Sanskrit, and can be translated in two ways: “Great bird, no opponent,” or “Unmatchable bird with noble goals.”

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
The island of Bali, Indonesia

15. Pakistan

PowerIndex: 0.2364
Population: 207,862,518
Active personnel: 654,000
Aircraft strength: 1,372
Combat tanks: 2,200
Naval assets: 100
Military budget: 11,400,000,000USD

The motto for the army of Pakistan is “Faith, piety, and fight in the path of God.” Their official colors are green and white, displayed prominently in their logo of two crossed scimitars.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Mehtab Farooq on Unsplash
Hunza Valley, Hunza, Pakistan

14. Iran

PowerIndex: 0.2282
Population: 83,024,745
Active personnel: 523,000
Aircraft strength: 509
Combat tanks: 2,056
Naval assets: 398
Military budget: $19,600,000,000

Iran’s military motto is “And Our Soldiers, They Verily Would Be the Victors.” Quite a boast from one of the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Foroozan Faraji on Unsplash
Shiraz, Iran

13. Germany

PowerIndex: 0.2186
Population: 80,457,737
Active personnel: 182,650
Aircraft strength: 712
Combat tanks: 245
Naval assets: 80
Military budget: $50,000,000,000

The German army’s motto runs “To protect, help, moderate, and fight,” in that order. The current iteration of the German armed forces was inaugurated in 1955.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Kai Pilger on Unsplash
Cochem, Germany

12. Italy

PowerIndex: 0.2093
Population: 62,246,674
Active personnel: 175,000
Aircraft strength: 860
Combat tanks: 200
Naval assets: 249
Military budget: $27,800,000,000

Italy’s army has a no-nonsense motto, “The safeguard of the republic shall be the supreme law.” Fun!

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Anders Jildén on Unsplash
Vernazza, Italy at sunset

11. Turkey

PowerIndex: 0.2189
Population: 81,257,239
Active personnel: 355,000
Aircraft strength: 1,055
Combat tanks: 2,622
Naval assets: 149
Military budget: $19,000,000,000

The Turkish army motto makes a lot of sense: “Peace at home, peace in the world.” Their official colors are gold and maroon, making their soldiers look a little like they’ve just been inducted into Gryffindor. Dumbledore’s army was also one of the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Anna on Unsplash
Istanbul, Turkey

10. Brazil

PowerIndex: 0.1988
Population: 208,846,892
Active personnel: 334,500
Aircraft strength: 715
Combat tanks: 437
Naval assets: 112
Military budget: $27.8BN

The Brazilian army’s mascot is a jaguar. A friendly jaguar, to go along with its motto, “Strong arm, friendly hand!” We like the addition of the exclamation mark.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by Pexels from Pixabay
The skyline of Sao Paulo

9. Egypt

PowerIndex: 0.1889
Population: 99,413,317
Active personnel: 440,000
Aircraft strength: 1,054
Combat tanks: 4,295
Naval assets: 316
Military budget: $11.2BN

There’s a lot to unpack in the Egyptian army’s motto, “Victory or martyrdom.” It’s one of the countries that have compulsory military service for citizens. The result is one of the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash
Isn’t that a pretty picture of Egypt?

8. United Kingdom

PowerIndex: 0.1768
Population: 65,105,246
Active personnel: 192,660
Aircraft strength: 733
Combat tanks: 227
Naval assets: 88
Military budget: $55.1BN

The British army, despite its sterling reputation for etiquette, is historically one of the most powerful armies. You’ll find hints of this in their motto, “Death or glory,” and even more so in the navy’s motto, “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.”

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by Tony Baker from Pixabay

7. France

PowerIndex: 0.1702
Population: 67,364,357
Active personnel: 268,000
Aircraft strength: 1,229
Combat tanks: 528
Naval assets: 180
Military budget: $41.5BN

France’s army motto is a classic, “Honor and fidelity.” Here’s a bit of history trivia for you: a French soldier is colloquially known as a poilu, meaning, literally, a hairy person.

6. South Korea

PowerIndex: 0.1488
Population: 51,418,097
Active personnel: 580,000
Aircraft strength: 1,649
Combat tanks: 2,614
Naval assets: 234
Military budget: $44BN

This country’s army motto is actually kind of sweet: “A strong friend, Republic of Korea Army.” Sort of how you would sign off on a letter to a pen pal, but it’s one of the world’s most powerful armies.

A checkpoint on the South Korean edge of the DMZ

5. Japan

PowerIndex: 0.1441
Population: 126,168,156
Active personnel: 247,160
Aircraft strength: 1,561
Combat tanks: 1,004
Naval assets: 155
Military budget: $49BN

Officially known as the Japanese Self-Defences Forces, Japan’s army hasn’t had an official motto since WWII, when it was “All the world under one roof.” Pretty good saying when you have world domination in mind.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by FranckinJapan from Pixabay

4. India

PowerIndex: 0.0953
Population: 1,296,834,042
Active personnel: 1,444,000
Aircraft strength: 2,123
Combat tanks: 4,292
Naval assets: 285
Military budget: $61BN

The Indian army’s main motto is “Service before self.” But all 33 of its regiments have their own mottos, including the optimistic; “Victory everywhere” and the hardcore; “It is better to die than live like a coward.” Worthy of one of the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by JK on Unsplash
Riding the rails in Goa, India

3. China

PowerIndex: 0.0691
Population: 1,384,688,986
Active personnel: 2,183,000
Aircraft strength: 3,210
Combat tanks: 3,500
Naval assets: 777
Military budget: $237BN

The Chinese army’s motto is simply, “Serve the people.” Can’t argue with that. Nor with the fact it’s one of the world’s most powerful armies.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldPhoto by Zhiwen Cai on Unsplash

2. Russia

PowerIndex: 0.0681
Population: 142,122,776
Active personnel: 1,013,628
Aircraft strength: 4,163
Combat tanks: 12,950
Naval assets: 603
Military budget: $48BN

The Russian army does not currently have a motto, although in the days of the Soviet Union it was the less-than-rousing “Exhortation, organization, and reprisals.” If they’re in the market for a new one, might we suggest “In Putin we trust?”

1. United States

PowerIndex: 0.0606
Population: 329,256,465
Active personnel: 1,400,000
Aircraft strength: 13,264
Combat tanks: 6,289
Naval assets: 490
Military budget: $750BN

The US Army’s motto is “This we’ll defend”. Its colors are black, gold, and white. And, it has a birthday: June 14. The US has the highest defense budget in the world, ensuring its military is armed, ready, and dangerous no matter what situation presents itself.

The Most Powerful Armies In The WorldImage by skeeze from Pixabay