Published on: 11/16/2015

Top 29 Most Powerful Armies In The World Right Now

User Image Web Editor Last updated on: 5/5/2016, Permalink

The world is increasingly becoming a more military place, it feels like we have entered a new modified cold war filled with groups who have no country and no flag. In the past couple of years it is has become clear that the strongest armies in the world are not the ones with the largest number of guns. What do you think makes the best kind of army? Is it all about advanced technologies, special training, powerful allies. . . or something else?

1. The United States of America

Active Military (Wikipedia): 1,369,532

When you are talking about who the most powerful army in the world is, then you are always talking about technology, experience and money.

Generally considered to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there is a huge amount of investment going into their Air Force, Navy, and Army. According to several studies, as of 2014 the army of the United States of America is one of the strongest armies in the world, if not the strongest – and that comes down to money. The yearly budget that the United States of America government has allocated to their army is more than six hundred and twelve BILLION dollars. Yup, you read that right: more than six hundred and twelve billion dollars. It is hard to match the global firepower of a country that spends that much on an army! This is probably because, despite not having a single battle on their own soil for tens if not hundreds of years, American troops are currently deployed in nearly one hundred and fifty countries.

2. Russia

Active Military (Wikipedia): 766,000

Russian Army

Ah, Russia. Although it has only technically been Russia the last two decades or so, the power and the history of the USSR still overshadows almost everything that it does.

Once considered the most powerful army in the world, the military power of Russia is still making huge changes in the way that politics happens around it. After all, it is hard to argue with a country that has over eight thousand nuclear warheads, the most any country in the world owns! It has been pretty difficult to ignore the radical time that Ukraine has been having for the last few months – although Russia has never officially got involved in the military rebellious conflict that has been happening in Ukraine, almost every single person in the world is pretty convinced that they have been supplying global firepower to Ukrainian rebels, and perhaps even sending their own troops over the border. And other countries that share a border with Russia should be getting more concerned; since the year 2008, Russia has increased its military spending by almost a third – and it was spending quite a lot to begin with! Although President Vladimir Putin would never outwardly state that Russia had any plans to take over any other countries, it has always struggled to escape its USSR history – and having one of the strongest armies in the world at your disposal, taking over other countries must get pretty tempting.

3. China

Active Military (Wikipedia): 2,285,000

We have all seen the video footage of the lines and lines of soldiers parading, and that is the key to China’s incredibly military power: in fact, some have even called the Chinese army the strongest military in the world. Why? The answer is simple. It is a numbers game. You have to remember that China is the most populous country on the entire planet. That means that they have far more people at their disposal to join the army. China isn’t all about quantity and not quality, the military has been working on advanced aircraft carriers and stealth jet fighters, combine all that with the numbers and they might not stay 3rd for long!

4. India and Pakistan

Indian Active Military (Wikipedia): 1,325,000 vs. Pakistan Active Military (Wikipedia): 617,000

If there is two countries in the world that are desperate to modernise their military, it’s Pakistan and India. This has been proved time and time again, India is the second most populous country in the world, and contains a huge number of businesses that are committed to technology and research. And India could very easily become a world player because of their global firepower – analysts estimate that they have between eighty and one hundred nuclear warheads. It doesn’t take much to realise that being able to hit Pakistan and China with ballistic missiles makes you one of the strongest armies in the world. Many people just hope that India’s difficult relationship with Pakistan will not ever cloud their military judgement.

5. The United Kingdom

Active Military (Wikipedia): 198,810

It may not be called the United Kingdom for very long! The independence debate that is currently raging about the British Isles at the moment will be decided through a vote on whether or not Scotland is going to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom on the 18th of September. Whether or not Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom may not seem to have actual relevance – or anything to do with at all – the question of whether nor the United Kingdom is one of the strongest armies in the world, but in fact, a change in the structure of the company could have huge repercussions on their global firepower.

6. France

Active Military (Wikipedia): 222,215

In 2013, France decided to ‘freeze’ military spending, which meant that it chose not to increase the spending along with the rate of interest. This actually meant that in real terms, one of the strongest armies in the world cut their military spending. France also got rid of one in ten people, as they were trying to raise a little bit of extra cash so that they could buy fancier equipment – in the world of the military global firepower is often seen as more important than actual people. Although these changes do not sound very extreme, they are actually pretty huge. It means that France now only spends around 1.9% of its GDP on its military, which is way below the spending target that NATO has set for its member countries to strive for.

However, being the strongest military in the world clearly doesn’t depend on how much money you spend. Despite all of this, France’s army is still one of the best in the world, and French troops are deployed in far off countries such as the Central African Republic, Senegal, and even Mali.

7. Germany

Active Military (Wikipedia): 182,620

Compared to its economic prowess in the world, Germany is slightly falling behind in the ‘strongest military in the world’ stakes. Instead of powering ahead, reports suggest that Germany’s military strength has actually got weaker in the last few years, making it an unlikely candidate for the most powerful army in the world award. In 2011, mandatory military service was removed, and there are still fewer than two hundred thousand active personnel.

So what does Germany have? Advanced tanks, fighter jets and a whole lot of german efficiency!

8. Turkey

Active Military (Wikipedia): 664,049

We have all seen the headlines, following the advancement of ISIS. They have been using violence to really terrify those around them, and that means that countries that border other countries where IS has a strong presence are in great danger. Instead of scaremongering, or causing their people to panic, Turkey have decided to meet the problem head on, and invest almost 10% more in 2015 than they did in 2014 for their global firepower and army.

9. South Korea

Active Military (Wikipedia): 655,000

South Korea gets a pretty raw deal. Like so many other countries that have been split into two or more pieces because of internal strife and conflict, the foundational problems are still there. They haven’t gone away; they are now just across a border. Poor old South Korea only shares a border with one other country, and that delightful neighbour is – you’ve guessed it – North Korea, with potentially the most powerful army in the world at their disposal. All of this means that South Korea has to take their military extremely seriously, and you have never seen serious until you have seen them.

Becoming one of the strongest armies in the world is considered by many to be the only way to ensure that North Korea will not simply invade them again in the future. But no matter how much global firepower you have, you cannot kill an idea.


10. Japan

Active Military (Wikipedia): 247,764

Japan is not a country that is generally know for its army. After all, there must be many more countries that are ahead of the queue to claim the title of the strongest military in the world, right? However, after all of the passive aggressive arguing with China, Japan has started up to up the ante so that they can withstand any movement that could be made by the strongest military in the world.
When Japan surrendered at the end of WW2, it signed a peace treaty that stated that it would limit itself by never creating an offensive army. This was to make sure that a world war including Japan could never happen again, but many people believe that it was just the United States of America’s way of making sure that they didn’t compete with them. This means that Japan is not permitted to own any nuclear warheads, and all of the active personnel in the Japanese army are not technically in the army. Confused? Us too, but at least it makes it pretty certain that Japan will never have the most powerful army in the world.

11. Israel

Active Military (Wikipedia): 176,500

One of the most amazing and probably surprising things about Israel’s army is not their global firepower, and not even the fact that they are one of strongest military countries in the world despite only being the size of a large city, but instead a decision that has made it probably the most powerful army in the world: and that is its treatment of women.

Ever since the country of Israel was created in 1948, it was formed on a totally equal basis – and that meant that women had the same rights and responsibilities as any other male citizen. This meant that just as every man would have to take part in military service once they reached a certain age, so would every single woman. There are only three countries in the entire world that have this mandatory policy, and the other two – Norway and Eritrea – have never seemed to capture the public’s attention in the way that Israel has. Perhaps that is because Israel is considered by many to be a highly conservative society. That, however, has not stopped women from doing their bit during National Service, and it has certainly not prevented them from becoming official and full members of one of the strongest militaries in the world. Exact figures are often very hard to come by, but as of 2011, just over half of the officers in the Israel Defence Force were female, and a third of the entire email were women. As the Military Service law says: “The right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men.”

12. Egypt

Active Military (Wikipedia): 438,500

In the last few years, the country of Egypt has kind of fallen apart in the eyes of many in the West. But despite all of the changes in government and administration, the strongest military in the world has kept on going quite swimmingly.

Because of Egypt’s geographical location, it is able to take part in both Arabic affairs and African, which the United Nations has used time and time again. For Egypt, the cost of being one of the strongest armies in the world is a huge amount of responsibility for what goes on in their region. In many other countries, that huge amount of power all in the hands of the strongest military in the world would go to someone’s head. But for Egypt, that doesn’t happen. That is because the Egyptian Constitution states that the Armed Forces belong to the People.


13. Brazil

Believe it or not, the country of Brazil has the second largest army in Latin America – and they use the most powerful army in the world in order to keep the countries around them happy. Not in a ‘we’re going to take you over’ way, but more of a kind of stabilising way. For example, ever since 2004, Brazilian armed forces have been stationed in Haiti in an attempt by the United Nations to bring what they call a ‘Stabilisation Mission’. With the help of the army, they country is now able to follow any deforestation that occurs, and try to prevent illegal poachers from taking anything precious and natural away from the land. Brazil may not have the strongest military in the world, but we kind of love it, all the same.


14. Canada

Canada has an absolutely huge army, along with a Navy to die for (hopefully not literally), and an Air Force out of this world. Well, not really. They do have about two hundred tanks, but that is probably to get about in the snow rather to use in battle.

15. Poland

They don’t have any nuclear warheads, or aircraft carriers, although they do contribute troops to UN peacekeeping missions.

16. Indonesia

Indonesia is unlike other Asian countries in many ways. Many Asian countries are wary of the influences of the West, and try to make sure that their children and the next generation do not take too much notice.
Indonesia, on the other hand, is all about the West. Cooperation with some of the strongest armies in the world, of course, always sounds like a good idea. But Indonesia is not looking for powerful friends because they are weak.
If anything, it is the opposite. With their global firepower, Indonesia could easily be a major player on the world’s stage, and they have more than one hundred million pairs of feet on the ground, but instead they have chosen to use the most powerful army in the world to ensure that terrorists are brought to justice.

17. Australia

Australia is a pretty huge country – and in fact, you could argue that it is almost an entirely separate continent in its own right (sorry New Zealand). However, despite all of that, very few people would argue that it has the strongest military in the world

18. Iran

Anyone who knows anything about Iran knows that its military is something to be feared, but also to be slightly confused about. After all, Iran as an actual country has not been around for that long (Well Persia is very old but the current Iran you knows was formed in 1979), and yet it is claimed by many people that weapons of global firepower and mass destruction are hiding within its borders, just out of sight. Officially, of course, they do not have any. Just like other neighbouring countries that have some of the strongest armies in the world, Iran as a country as often been feared as an unknown entity, that no one is quite sure what to expect.

19. Syria

It has been rather difficult to escape Syria in the news over the last few years, and yet it is still appearing every now and again, on our televisions and on our radios. When the civil war began, the army was initially sent out to protect the people and to destroy the rebels: after all, the government argued, who could defeat the most powerful army in the world? Tragically, in a way, they were right. The rebels could not defeat the official army with global firepower – but they didn’t need to. The cause of the rebels became more and more popular, and soon one of the strongest armies in the world was divided between those that were loyal to the cause of the rebels and those that were loyal to the cause of the government.


20. Switzerland

For most people, Switzerland has been neutral for as long as they can remember – and that would be about right. But for a country that is all about neutrality, not get involved in other people’s problems, and saying no to the huge amount of global firepower that they could get their hands on, Switzerland is a decent militarized country.


21. Sweden

In all of our searching and all of our reading, we have never found a country with a more hilarious military system than Sweden. Not even Norway, and they are giving knighthoods to penguins! Two stories will perfectly illustrate our point. Firstly, a couple of years ago a young Swedish guy came across a military uniform that was for sale. Rather liking the snappy style of the most powerful army in the world – as he thought – he bought it. It wasn’t until he got home that he realized that the sergeant grading was still on the uniform. That meant that if he wanted to, he could go into a military compound in the uniform, and he would probably pass by completely unnoticed. And so he did! With the uniform on and a stiff upper lip (already, so we’re guessing about the stiff upper lip), this guy attending a live fire exercise for three whole days before officials realised that no one had any idea who he was. And as if that story was not amazing enough, it was revealed a couple of years ago that the Swedish research department for the armed forces, not happy with the global firepower that they already had, was seriously considering training moose to carry soldiers into battle. You could see their point: it would be hard to argue that Sweden wasn’t one of the strongest armies in the world if they could charge at you through deep snow on a moose.


22. The Netherlands

When children learn about the Second World War, they are often reminded, several times, that Switzerland remained neutral all the way through the war. This is a commonly known fact. What is not so commonly known, however, is that there was another European country that demanded that its army, despite many thinking that it was the most powerful army in the world, should not get involved. That country is the Netherlands. The Netherlands was neutral all the way through the First World War, avoiding the carnage that Belgium, another neutral country, had to suffer through, but in the Second World War, all of that changed. Mainly because Hitler decided to invade in 1940. The Netherlands were simply not prepared for war on that sort of scale, or any sort of scale for that matter. The Germans’ global firepower was too much for them, and the Netherlands was defeated in May 1940. Despite that terrible experience that the entire country had to go through, the Netherlands emerged from the Second World War even more determined to be neutral again. They didn’t want to get involved with the strongest armies in the world, they just wanted to be left alone. That all changed in 1948, when they signed the Treaty of Brussels and helped to create NATO in 1949. since then, the Netherlands have had men and women sent all over the world.

Dutch Army

23. Mexico

Unusually for such a well developed country as Mexico, their armed forces are not combined into one large group, but instead are two distinct and completely independent groups. This can often make it difficult when you are thinking about whether or not Mexico has the most powerful army in the world, because technically it doesn’t. It just has two very strong armed forces, but they do not work together, and have no real desire to. On the one hand, you have the Mexican Army, which confusing includes the Mexican Air Force (don’t ask us why, we have no idea). On the other hand, you have the Mexican Navy. There is absolutely no common personnel that these two groups share, and the only thing they have in common, apart from their names and the country that they serve, is that the President is technically in charge of both of them. Though we’d like to see the President try. Unlike most of the strongest military in the world, the Mexican armed forces are not that interested in waging wars, stocking up on global firepower, and bullying their neighbours. They don’t even have any tanks. Instead, a third of their time, effort, and money is centred on and invested in defences against natural disasters. Under the code of the Mexican armed forces, “The Army should always be ready to help the civil population in case of disaster.” Which is rather nice, actually. It’s good to see one of the strongest armies in the world dedicated to its own people.


24. North Korea

There are very few countries that have stayed at war for as long as North Korea. The war originally broke out between two main groups in Korea, one based – you guessed it – in the North, and supporting the Communist Party that reigned supreme in the USSR and many other countries, and another group based in the South, that supported the old ways. The war last for around three years in the 1950s, and it only carried on for so long because the strongest military in the world at the time – the USSR and China together – supported the Communist rebels in the North. When it became clear that not even the most powerful army in the world could win the battles, an armistice was signed . but a peace treaty was never written, and that means that technically, North Korea and South Korea are still at war! Although North Korea does not have much to boast about with regards to its military, it does hold one world greatest record: North Korea has the biggest number of submarines. They have almost eighty! It may seem a little strange that they have invested so heavily in just one kind of global firepower, but you have to remember that South Korea only has one border: with them. The rest of it is surrounded by the ocean, so if you wanted to spy on them, then submarines would be your best bet.

Korean North

25. Singapore

The government of Singapore was so impressed with the military capabilities of Israel that when, in 1960, the British removed their military stations from Singapore – effectively leaving it completely defenceless – they decided to call in some Israeli advisors from the strongest military in the world, and get their help. The Israeli advisors argued that in order to become the most powerful army in the world – or at least in the area where Singapore was – they needed to bring in conscription. Singapore agreed, but instead made several changes to the way that it was organised in Israel. In fact, there are two main differences. Firstly, National Service is gendered: only male citizens are required to take part in National Service, whereas women are not. Secondly, there is almost no excuse whatsoever for not taking part. By the time that a boy reaches sixteen years and six months old, he must report to the government to organise his National Service. Believe it or not, there are currently sixteen people in jail in Singapore for refusing to do their National Service; there is a three year prison attached to refusing. All sixteen of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses. But at the end of the day, you cannot train one of the strongest armies in the world without being a little bit brutal, and Singapore has had to be incredibly strict in the way that it deals with people that refuse to comply with its rules.


26. Norway

There will always be slightly strange people within the military. For some reason, the idea of getting your hands on global firepower than could destroy another country seems to attract some strange people. However, Norway is one of those countries that has not ended up with someone slightly odd high up in the command of a most powerful army in the world – oh no. They invited him in. Or you could say they invited penguin. Because Sir Nils Olav, the Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Royal Guard, is a penguin. A King Penguin, in fact, which is how it all started off. Back when Edinburgh Zoo was first opened in 1913, the country of Norway presented the zoo with its very first ever King Penguin – by the Norwegian Royal Guard. Almost fifty years later, in 1961, when the Norwegian Royal Guard came back to visit, a member called Nils suggested that they adopt one of the penguins to be their mascot. King Olav V of Norway loved the idea, and the penguin was named Nils Olav in the two men’s honour. The current penguin called Nils Olav is actually the third of that name, and was knighted in front of adoring crowds in 2008. The honour had the direct approval of the current king of Norway, Harald V, who gave a statement to be read out during the ceremony. It said that Nils Olav, the penguin, was “in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood’. Norway may not have the strongest military in the world, but they definitely have the coolest!

27. Malaysia

The army of Malaysia is a funny one; holding two completely contradictory ideals at the same time. Officially, the foreign policy is Malaysia makes it obvious that they hope never to have to need to use their army, making it the most powerful army in the world that will probably never be used! Many people think this is crazy, but hear them out. Just like other countries around the world, Malaysia has chosen to be considered ‘neutral’. That means that officially, Malaysia does not have any particular ties with any other country, and cannot get dragged into a war that they don’t care about. It also means that they attempt to get on peacefully with all countries. All countries in the world, regardless of location, political system, and some would argue, human rights records. However, whilst holding all of these admirable ideals, Malaysia has also never recognised Israel, arguably the strongest military in the world, as a country. Which some would consider a little rude. Instead, Malaysia is a strong believer in the State of Palestine. Whether or not you agree with them, it is hard to ignore the fact that despite their amazing global firepower potential, Malaysia is a strong peacekeeping presence in many other countries, including Lebanon, as well as other United Nations peacekeeping missions. It may not make you one of the strongest armies in the world, but it certainly helps.


28. South Africa

South Africa is still known all around the world today for something that it is incredibly ashamed of: apartheid. Since Nelson Mandela took a stand against injustice and discrimination, the country has been attempting to recover, and in many ways, it has. Before apartheid was over thrown, the army was called the South African Defence Force, and it was primarily a tool to use against those that the government did not like. If you rebelled against the government, tried to avoid the ridiculous laws and rules, or heaven forbid, not be white, then you were in for trouble. Who is going to argue with the strongest military in the world? Some of the most disturbing images and videos of the time when South Africa was under apartheid are of members of the South African Defence Force hurting innocent people. But when Nelson Mandela was finally able to begin again, in 1994, all of that changed. The military was re-created in 1994 as a protector of the people, not as its controller. The new constitution in effect totally changed the way that South Africans saw one of the strongest armies of the world, because now it was there to help them, not to harm them.
ZA Army

29. Portugal

When we say ‘colonial power’, which countries do you think of? Most people will immediately think of the British Empire, and others will imagine Spaniards crossing over the ocean, using their global firepower to take land and gold from the Incas. Others will imagine the strongest armies of the world converging in Africa, arguing over who gets which portion. Still others cannot imagine a more powerful army in the world than that of Ancient Rome, the army that ruled almost all of the known world during its time. But almost nobody mentions Portugal. Almost everyone has forgotten that for countries such as Angola, Guinea, and Mozambique, the Portuguese army was the strongest military in the world for many years, and it kept them as colonies right into the 1970s. From 1961 until 1974, wars raged in these countries as the locals demanded their right to self-rule, and the Portuguese hung desperately onto their empire power. But in many ways, it is remarkable that they were able to keep going for so long. Portugal is hardly a big country, and they were trying to ensure that their army was successful in not one, not two, but three different and separate wars. You can be the strongest military in the world, but sometimes the odds are just against you. Now, of course, those three countries are completely independent and allowed to run themselves, but even within the last thirty years, the story of one of the last colonial wars has already been forgotten.

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