Asymmetric Dialogue

25 most powerful militaries in the world in 2018

Summary With its National Defense Strategy released earlier this year, the US detailed its shift from small-scale operations like counterinsurgency and toward a potential fight with a rival like Russia or China.

With its National Defense Strategy released earlier this year, the US detailed its shift from small-scale operations like counterinsurgency and toward a potential fight with a rival like Russia or China.


Navy sailors russia
Russian sailors at a farewell ceremony for the departure of the nuclear-powered cruiser "Peter the Great" to at-sea military exercises, in the town of Severomorsk, March 30, 2010.
Lev Fedoseyev/Reuters
Countries around the world have made similar moves, refocusing on large-scale conflict.
Amid those changes, head-to-head comparisons of military strength are hard to come by. Global Firepower's 2018 Military Strength Ranking tries to fill that void by drawing on more than 55 factors to assign a Power Index score to 136 countries — adding Ireland, Montenegro, and Liberia to last year's list.
The ranking assesses the diversity of each country's weapons and pays particular attention to their available manpower. Geography, logistical capacity, available natural resources, and the status of local industry are also taken into account.
While recognized nuclear powers receive a bonus, their nuclear stockpiles are not factored into the score. Landlocked countries are not docked for lacking a navy, but countries with navies are penalized if there is a lack of diversity in their fleets.
NATO countries get a slight bonus because the alliance theoretically shares resources, but in general, a country's current political and military leadership was not considered (though financial health and stability is).
The top power index score is 0.0000, which is "realistically unattainabile" for any military according to Global Firepower. The closer they are to this number, the more powerful their miltary is.
Per these criteria, these are the 25 most powerful militaries in the world:

25. Canada

25. Canada
Royal Canadian army sappers await attack after constructing makeshift barricades near Alvdal in central Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture, November 4, 2018.
Rob Kunzing/NATO
Power Index rating: 0.4356 (NATO member)
Total population: 35,623,680
Total military personnel: 88,000
Total aircraft strength: 413
Fighter aircraft: 60
Combat tanks: 80
Total naval assets: 63
Defense budget: $16.4 billion

24. Taiwan

24. Taiwan
Taiwanese submarines at a navy base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, March 21, 2017.
Reuters
Power Index rating: 0.4331
Total population: 23,508,428
Total military personnel: 1,932,500
Total aircraft strength: 843
Fighter aircraft: 286
Combat tanks: 2,005
Total naval assets: 87
Defense budget: $10.725 billion

23. Algeria

23. Algeria
Algerian soldiers at the Tiguentourine Gas Plant in In Amenas, 994 miles southeast of Algiers, January 31, 2013.
REUTERS/Louafi Larbi
Power Index rating: 0.4296
Total population: 40,969,443
Total military personnel: 792,350
Total aircraft strength: 528
Fighter aircraft: 97
Combat tanks: 2,405
Total naval assets: 85
Defense budget: $10.57 billion

22. Poland

22. Poland
Polish soldiers during a military exercise with the US 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division near Drawsko-Pomorskie, November 13, 2014.
Kacper Pempel/Reuters
Power Index rating: 0.4276 (NATO member)
Total population: 38,476,269
Total military personnel: 184,650
Total aircraft strength: 466
Fighter aircraft: 99
Combat tanks: 1,065
Total naval assets: 83
Defense budget: $9.36 billion

21. Australia

21. Australia
An Australian soldier crosses a beach during an assault exercise as part of multinational exercise RIMPAC, in Kaneohe, Hawaii, July 29, 2014
Hugh Gentry/REUTERS
Power Index rating: 0.4203
Total population: 23,232,413
Total military personnel: 79,700
Total aircraft strength: 469
Fighter aircraft: 78
Combat tanks: 59
Total naval assets: 47 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: $26.3 billion

20. Vietnam

20. Vietnam
Vietnamese soldiers march in a parade marking the 70th National Day at Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, September 2, 2015.
REUTERS/Kham
Power Index rating: 0.4098
Total population: 96,160,163
Total military personnel: 5,488,500
Total aircraft strength: 283
Fighter aircraft: 76
Combat 1,545
Total naval assets: 65
Defense budget: $3.365 billion

19. Spain

19. Spain
A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target as part of an exercise near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture.
Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps
Power Index rating: 0.4079 (NATO member)
Total population: 48,958,159
Total military personnel: 174,700
Total aircraft strength: 524
Fighter aircraft: 122
Combat tanks: 327
Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier
Defense budget: $11.6 billion

18. North Korea

18. North Korea
REUTERS/KCNA
Power Index rating: 0.3876
Total population: 25,248,140
Total military personnel: 6,445,000
Total aircraft strength: 944
Fighter aircraft: 458
Combat tanks: 5,243
Total naval assets: 967
Defense budget: $7.5 billion

17. Pakistan

17. Pakistan
A Pakistani Ranger gestures during a daily parade at the Pakistan-India joint checkpoint at Wagah border, on the outskirts of Lahore, October 23, 2011.
Mohsin Raza/Reuters
Power Index rating: 0.3689
Total population: 204,924,861
Total military personnel: 919,000
Total aircraft strength: 1,281
Fighter aircraft: 321
Combat tanks: 2,182
Total naval assets: 197
Defense budget: $7 billion

16. Israel

16. Israel
Israeli soldiers secure the Israel-Lebanon border, January 28, 2015.
Ariel Schalit/AP
Power Index rating: 0.3444
Total population: 8,299,706
Total military personnel: 615,000
Total aircraft strength: 596
Fighter aircraft: 252
Combat tanks: 2,760
Total naval assets: 65
Defense budget: $20 billion

15. Indonesia

15. Indonesia
Indonesian soldiers arrive in Palembang to reinforce firefighter teams in south Sumatra province, September 10, 2015
Beawiharta Beawiharta/REUTERS
Power Index rating: 0.3266
Total population: 260,580,739
Total military personnel: 975,750
Total aircraft strength: 478
Fighter aircraft: 41
Combat tanks: 418
Total naval assets: 221
Defense budget: $6.9 billion

14. Brazil

14. Brazil
Brazilian navy personnel patrol in an armored vehicle during an operation against drug dealers in Mangueira slum in Rio de Janeiro, June 19, 2011.
REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Power Index rating: 0.3198
Total population: 207,353,391
Total military personnel: 1,987,000
Total aircraft strength: 723
Fighter aircraft: 43
Combat tanks: 469
Total naval assets: 110
Defense budget: $29.3 billion

13. Iran

13. Iran
A soldier on an Iranian navy destroyer at Port Sudan in Sudan, October 31, 2012.
Reuters
Power Index rating: 0.3131
Total population: 82,021,564
Total military personnel: 934,000
Total aircraft strength: 505
Fighter aircraft: 150
Combat tanks: 1,650
Total naval assets: 398
Defense budget: $6.3 billion

12. Egypt

12. Egypt
Egyptian military police at the Almaza military airport where bodies of soldiers who died in attacks in north Sinai were given to relatives for burial, in Cairo, January 30, 2015.
Associated Press
Power Index rating: 0.2751
Total population: 97,041,072
Total military personnel: 1,329,250
Total aircraft strength: 1,132
Fighter aircraft: 309
Combat tanks: 4,946
Total naval assets: 319 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: $4.4 billion

11. Italy

11. Italy
An Italian soldier patrols the Lebanese coast from a helicopter, as the Italian aircraft-carrying cruiser Garibaldi patrols near Beirut, October 1, 2006.
REUTERS/Fadi Ghalioum
Power Index rating: 0.2565 (NATO member)
Total population: 62,137,802
Total military personnel: 267,500
Total aircraft strength: 828
Fighter aircraft: 90
Combat tanks: 200
Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: $37.7 billion

10. Germany

10. Germany
German Bundeswehr soldiers fire mortars during the Joint Air Warfare Tactical Exercise 2014 at an army training area in Bergen, May 20, 2014.
REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Power Index rating: 0.2461 (NATO member)
Total population: 80,594,017
Total military personnel: 208,641
Total aircraft strength: 714
Fighter aircraft: 94
Combat tanks: 432
Total naval assets: 81
Defense budget: $45.2 billion

9. Turkey

9. Turkey
Turkish army tanks and military personal in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 25, 2016
Umit Bektas/Reuters
Power Index rating: 0.2216 (NATO member)
Total population: 80,845,215
Total military personnel: 710,565
Total aircraft strength: 1,056
Fighter aircraft: 207
Combat tanks: 2,446
Total naval assets: 194
Defense budget: $10.2 billion

8. Japan

8. Japan
Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force tanks fire during an annual training session at Higashifuji training field in Gotemba, west of Tokyo, August 19, 2014.
Yuya Shino/REUTERS
Power Index rating: 0.2107
Total population: 126,451,398
Total military personnel: 310,457
Total aircraft strength: 1,508
Fighter aircraft: 290
Combat tanks: 679
Total naval assets: 131 (four aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: $44 billion

7. South Korea

7. South Korea
A South Korean army K1A1 battle tank fires during South Korea-US joint live-fire drills at Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, near the North Korean border, August 28, 2015.
AP
Power Index rating: 0.2001
Total population: 51,181,299
Total military personnel: 5,827,250
Total aircraft strength: 1,560
Fighter aircraft: 406
Combat tanks: 2,654
Total naval assets: 166 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: $40 billion

6. United Kingdom

6. United Kingdom
A British Parachute Regiment soldier prepares to load a helicopter during a simulated medical evacuation at the Hohenfels Training Area in Germany, June 17, 2016.
Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army
Power Index rating: 0.1917 (NATO member)
Total population: 64,769,452
Total military personnel: 279,230
Total aircraft strength: 832
Fighter aircraft: 103
Combat tanks 227
Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: $50 billion

5. France

5. France
Tanks drive down the Champs Elysees avenue during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, Friday, July 14, 2017.
Associated Press
Power Index rating: 0.1869 (NATO member)
Total population: 67,106,161
Total military personnel: 388,635
Total aircraft strength: 1,262
Fighter aircraft 299
Combat tanks: 406
Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: $40 billion

4. India

4. India
Indian soldiers, followed by Bhishma tank and vehicle-mounted Brahmos missiles in a Republic Day parade in front of the presidential palace in New Delhi, January 23, 2009.
AP
Power Index rating: 0.1417
Total population: 1,281,935,911
Total military personnel: 4,207,250
Total aircraft strength: 2,185
Fighter aircraft: 590
Combat tanks: 4,426
Total naval assets: 295 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: $47 billion

3. China

3. China
Soldiers from a special unit of the People's Armed Police in Xinjiang at a training session in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China.
Reuters/Stringer
Power Index rating: 0.0852
Total population: 1,379,302,771
Total military personnel: 2,693,000
Total aircraft strength: 3,035
Fighter aircraft: 1,125
Combat tanks: 7,716
Total naval assets: 714 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: $151 billion

2. Russia

2. Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects the Vice-Admiral Kulakov anti-submarine-warfare ship in Novorossiysk, September 23, 2014.
REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Power Index rating: 0.0841
Total population: 142,257,519
Total military personnel: 3,586,128
Total aircraft strength: 3,914
Fighter aircraft: 818
Combat tanks: 20,300
Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier out of service indefinitely)
Defense budget: $47 billion

1. United States

1. United States
US Marines practice "combat gliding" at Camp Wilson on Twentynine Palms, California, January 31, 2015.
US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kathryn Howard/Released
Power Index rating: 0.0818 (NATO member)
Total population: 326,625,791
Total military personnel: 2,083,100
Total aircraft: 13,362
Fighter aircraft: 1,962
Combat tanks: 5,884
Total naval assets: 415 (20 aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: $647 billion
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