In today’s world, the militaries of many countries are allied. With coalitions, partnerships, and plenty of combined force usage, the idea of a singular country fighting another is almost as foreign to us as a tank may have been to the armies of the American Revolution. However, many countries still take pride in being among the best around, without the strength of allies lent to them.
On this page, we will be taking a look at the top 10 most powerful militaries in the world. To determine the rankings, we took into account various factors such as overall military force, recruitment, potential draft pool, technological and logistic capacities, and finally, territory as a determination of invasion defense capacity (though this measure will be somewhat muted given the modern nature of war). Due to the deterrent nature of such weapons, the world’s nuclear arsenal is not included in the list.
Most Powerful Militaries in the World 2023 – Strongest Armed Forces
Turkey has one of the greatest military forces in the eastern Mediterranean. In fact, they’re the second-largest standing military force in NATO with an estimated strength of 775,000 paramilitary and military personnel.
That’s not all, the Turkish Naval Forces also operate a wide variety of ships including 12 submarines, 10 corvettes, and 16 frigates. They also have more than 13,000 armored vehicles, 3,000 tanks, 1,100 towed artillery, and 950 self-propelled guns.
9. The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom still has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, partially due to their diversity in recruitment pools. Not only calling forth troops from North Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Britain, the British Armed Forces also carry a significant number of troops from as far off as Canada, Kenya, and Nepal, the birthplace of the Gurkha’s, a force with one of the fiercest reputations in history.
With a budget nearly as big as its territorial reach at around $60 Billion a year, the United Kingdom’s military is one of the most well-funded militaries on the planet. One surprise with the British Navy is that, while once considered the ruler of the sea, the current navy is under 100 ships, making it smaller than expected.
Still, they have a considerable fleet of sophisticated aircraft, submarines, and ships, including 4 ballistic missile submarines, 26 patrol vessels, 2 amphibious transport docks, 12 frigates, and 6 guided-missile destroyers.
The Italian Armed Forces encompass the Italian Air Force, Italian Navy, and Italian Army. There’s also a fourth branch called the Carabinieri, which acts as the country’s military police; they are involved in operations and missions overseas as a combat force.
As of 2023, the army has nearly 7,000 armored vehicles and 200 tanks. They also have 8 submarines, 13 frigates, 2 aircraft carriers, 4 destroyers, and 59 attack helicopters. In terms of personnel, there are currently 175,000 individuals in active service.
While often made fun of as the “White Flag Army”, France has a remarkably powerful military. Having the 2nd largest force in the EU, the 10th largest budget for it worldwide, and (though not counted here) the third-largest nuclear arsenal worldwide makes it quite the powerful force.
Of particular renown is the French Foreign Legion, whose candidates come from all over the world to prove themselves to be some of the toughest soldiers in the world, often refusing to give an inch until their last man has fallen. The forces of the French military (active and combined) reach just over 400,000 and nearly 1,300 aircraft, there are plenty of soldiers for France who don’t believe surrender is an option. Another of these groups is the famous GIGN, which acts both as a specialized counter-terrorist force, as well as a special police service for particularly bad situations within the country.
6. South Korea
South Korea has for the last half-century been a critical point in the world in terms of military contention. As a result, many nations have lent aid to South Korea to help them develop arms and security against their northern neighbor and adversary.
With nearly 2,500 tanks, 1,500 aircraft, and a navy of 166 ships, Korea is particularly well-armed for any form of vehicle-based assault. Not to mention that their training is often aided by the United States and other NATO allies.
Beyond its own borders, South Korea has often aided in peacekeeping missions as well as naval transports near the Horn of Africa.
Japan is ranked fifth globally in terms of m military power. Their Self-Defense Forces consist of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
As of today, the armed forces have 341 Type 90 MBTS, 280 Type 74, and 53 Type 10 in service, most of which are produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Their navy is also nothing to scoff at with more than 50,000 personnel.
In December 2020, the government also doubled its defense budget to a record-breaking 5.34 trillion yen.
Making it just shy of the #3 spot, India took what was taught to them by the British Military and greatly expanded upon it.
Holding no conscription, India at the time of writing, has by far the largest volunteer army of any nation in the world, and has proven time and time again they know how to use it.
With a budget of over $53 billion and an air force of over 2,000 aircraft followed by a navy holding just shy of 300 ships, India does everything big. India has also been the single largest contributor to peace-keeping missions on behalf of the UN and is one of three countries routinely allowed into foreign territorial waters to handle piracy issues, having earned the reputation of both skilled and well-disciplined sailors.
While many other countries rely on their scientists to develop defensive technology with lesser acknowledgment of an even exchange for this research, India has routinely put using the military for scientific inquiry into the spotlight, including a wide variety of both expedition voyages and high-flying research studies.
It should come as no surprise that the Chinese military is near the top of our list. Given the extremely large recruitment pool required, at least in theory, nearly all of the Chinese population could be seen as a recruitment pool if demand is required, though, for most measures, an active force of around 2.5 million is usually considered a good estimate.
With nearly 3,000 aircraft and 700 ships to its name, China is a major force to be reckoned with. However, more concerning for those who may have tense relations with China is their cyberwarfare division which has often been the ire of other militaries and even civilian companies. A prime example is that in 2010, Google suffered a hack that was later blamed on PLA unit 61398, which nearly caused Google to exit relations with the country.
Russia has maintained its hold on the second strongest force among militaries year after year. With a drive for near-constant development in terms of both small arms and larger equipment, it is clear that Russia puts a high priority on manufacturing some of the strongest weapons on the planet, and learning from previous developments.
With a force of around 2 million soldiers, 350 ships, and nearly 10 times that many aircraft, it’s no surprise that historically Russia has been a force of concern for most of the world. These numbers are likely bolstered by the reputation Russia has on the ability to run black operations within countries to gain force-multiplying advantages in key strategic areas. Similar to China, Russia also has a well-cultivated military hacker community, which has become the sometimes scapegoat, sometimes nightmare of military personnel in the west for years, a logical extension of what the KGB was able to accomplish in previous generations.
1. The United States
Topping off our list of most powerful militaries in the world is the United States.
While they’re not the largest manned military in the world, they do have a considerable amount of aircraft and naval vessels, which more than makes up for it. They also possess cutting-edge technology and the world’s most extensive nuclear arsenal. That’s not all, they’re also pursuing and testing several advanced hypersonic systems.
Compared to other countries, the budget allotted to the military is also overwhelming. In 2022, the Department of Defense upped it to $722 billion for the fiscal year 2022, which is a $17 billion increase from FY21. Like most militaries, the budget covers overseas contingency operations, the State Department, Homeland Security, as well as the VA.