The World’s Most Powerful Armies

So, you want to know who the most powerful armies in the world are? Think America has it on lock down? We will see… But first let’s mention one army that didn’t make the list, but should be noted. The single fastest growing army in the world, perhaps unsurprisingly, belongs to the country of Afghanistan with defense spending that has increased 557 percent since 2003. They possess a landlocked military (and thus no navy since there is no need for one) and a standing army of 200,000 (rounded up) active military personnel with a projected increase to around 260,000 in the next year or so.

Source - Wikipedia
Source – Wikipedia

Source – Wikipedia

The countries roughly 12 billion dollars in annual military defense spending in conjunction with their relatively young age of enlistment (age 16 is considered fit for military service) are the primary factors for the regions booming industrial complex. Not to mention the obvious tension in the region and the United States intervention and then recent pull out of Afghanistan.

Think that’s a bit scary? They didn’t even make the top 20. Wait until you see the top 5.

20. Switzerland

With a standing army of over 200,000 soldiers, mandatory military service (for males only, female conscription is non-existent) and a sizable number of soldiers of fortune, Switzerland is certainly a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

Though the country has the reputation for pacifism this is anything but the truth as starkly shown by their cement reinforced civilian housing, a practice that was started after the aftermath of World War II and was designed to survive fire bombings as well as their extremely sophisticated military armaments such as the Cougar Attack Helicopter and the Mowag Piranha armored assault and multipurpose transit vehicle, capable of land and aquatic warfare.

19. Syria

Syria currently commands around 220,000 soldiers a navy, regular army and air force. Much like Switzerland, Syria has a policy of compulsory enlistment into the military and very strict penalties for desertion.

The countries spends around 3.3 billion dollar annually on defense which is around five percent of their total GDP (gross domestic product). They would undoubtably be higher on this list were it not for the tensions caused within the army by the sunni/alawite split within the country.

18. Iran

Trumping Syria is the army of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This country has been described by several high ranking military officials from various neighboring countries as “the strongest military in the middle east,” a reputation and respect that is well deserved. They boast nearly 600,000 active regular operating personnel and over 1 million and a half of reserve troops with around a total of eleven million fighters primed and ready for mobilization if need be.

Though Iran has long been considered as having relatively inferior military tech in comparison to most of the other military powers in the world they have begun rigorously manufacturing their own fighter jets such as the HESA Saeqeh Fighter Jet.

17. Australia

It might come as a surprise to many that Australia has the seventeenth most powerful army in the world. Though their military is relatively small (given the limited space of the country this is no surprise) their real strength comes from their technological sophistication and armament advancement.

Australia has long had the reputations for innovative architecture and this tradition of technological progression has been carried on in their military which consists of around 80,000 full time military personnel. In addition to their standard army Australia also commands a powerful navy and air force.

16. Indonesia

Ranking 16th in the world of power, Indonesia is, like Australia, another country that many people not well versed in international affairs do not tend to think of as a militaristic state. However, Indonesia possesses a absolutely massive land based, standing army with over 412,000 active military personnel as well as extremely rigorous philosophy which is implemented into the regular soldier’s training regimes called Total People’s Defense.

The Total People’s Defense is both a philosophical guide as well as a tactical one on how to handle various military incursions into the homeland; it also strongly encourages the fostering of bonds between the active military personnel and the layman or villagers.

15. Poland

Coming in just above Indonesia is the Polish Armed Forces which boast a considerably powerful navy, air force and standing army consisting of around 120,000 active personnel with around 520,000 reserve forces ready to be called upon should the need arise.

Poland also has large support from it’s NATO allies such as the well resourced United States of America and the battle tested forces of the Israelis as well as South Korea and Finland. All of these pooled resources truly make Poland a force to be reckoned with.

14. Canada

Another strong US ally who ranks in at 14th is the Armed Forces of Canada. They are also another nation who are incorrectly but regularly viewed as possessing little military might given their generally peaceable policies which are focused primarily on homeland defense and the defense of their allies (specifically the United States given that it is the countries closest ally).

However, this is not the case as Canada possesses armed forces on land, air and sea with around 120,000 military personnel, though only around 700 hundred of that number are currently deployed in any real life military exercise. They also spend a massive quantity of their annual GDP on military investments of personnel and armaments, totaling a sum of over 20 billion annually.


Brazil stands in modern days as a extremely battle tested nation, having fought in both world wars (as part of the Western Bloc), the Cold War and several in-land incursions into their territory, most of which were violent rebellions which they faced during the same time as the major wars.

Given these facts their combat experience is one of the biggest factors which contribute to the nations military might. In addition to this the country also has greatly increased military spending and controls a active army of nearly 30,000 troops operating over land, sea and air.

12. Egypt

Egypt controls the largest army in all of Africa and the Middle East. Indeed Egypt’s military, consisting of well over half a million able bodied fighters makes them one of the largest active armies (strictly speaking in terms of personnel) in the entire world. Egypt also follows a strict procedure of conscription (usually for a year to 3 years) for all person’s whom are deemed fit for military service by the military officials themselves.

They also have a great deal of combat experience given the tenuous nature of their political structure and the heated and rebellious sentiments of their people which has lead to many uprisings and politically and religiously motivated incursions within the country (such as the Arab Spring). The country in addition to all of this is also backed by several prominent and powerful military industrial organizations in the region such as AOI (the Arab Organization for Industrialization) as well as MMP (the Ministry of Military Production).

11. Israel

The Israeli Defense Forces, of IDF for short, is comprised of around 180,000 active military personnel. The country spends around 57.7 billion dollars in military defense finance which is around 5.2 percent of their GDP. Facing intense and violent assaults from the nation of Palestine, Israel has been forced to step up their defense or face expulsion from the region.

This, coupled with their intense arms and hand to hand training combat (focusing on the deadly and effective art of Krav Maga) and the alliance of both the United States, Germany and France makes them a extremely potent military force in the world.

10. Japan

Slightly more powerful than Israel and much more battle tested is the JSDF or Japanese Self Defense Forces, the primary military arm of the island country of Japan. Despite spending only one percent of the countries GDP on the military, Japan has a extremely powerful and large army whose prowess is only furthered by a long history of military excellence, which is founded on experience, great diligence and a almost dogmatic focus on dignity and discipline.

They possess (of a 2015 poll) approximately 250,00 active military personnel with approximately 56,100 military personnel in reserve should the need arise.

9. South Korea

It may surprise many people the South Korea has a larger and more powerful army than a nation with such a long history of conflict and military excellence as Japan, but South Korea has many points in it’s favor. First and foremost it has one of the world’s single largest standing armies, with a active personnel count numbering approximately 3,600,000, half of which are reserve forces.

Second, South Korea has a very diverse military with a standing land based army, a navy and a potent air force. Their massive deployment in over 15 countries around the world has furthered their combat experience and furthered their ties to their allies such as Italy, France, Germany, The United States and Turkey. In addition to all of this South Korea also has the fifteenth largest economy in the entire world.

8. Turkey

The Turkish Armed Forces feature a standing army of nearly 700,000 active military personnel with well over 400,000 in-active military personnel in reserve. Much like South Korea or America the Turkish Armed Forces are heavily involved in international peacekeeping and humanitarian aid around the world which has lent a great deal of political power and legitimacy to the nation.

Turkey has also taken increasingly drastic and financially momentous steps towards achieving complete self sustainability in regards to their military technologies as can be observed from their partnership with the U.S. based aerospace and defense technology corporation, Boeing. The Boeing partnership is aimed at producing a ground breaking, high altitude ballistic missile based defense system with which Turkey will further reinforce their countries already impressive military defenses.

7. Germany

The Bundeswehr (pronounced Bun-dis-vir), the collective front line arm of the German military boasts nearly 200,000 active troops with approximately 40,000 military troops held in reserve. In addition to having a prominent land based army Germany is also reaping the rewards of their booming economy. Because of this boon Germany has begun quickly hording large quanities of high end military equipment such as the Boxer MRAV transport and assault vehicle, NH90 Helicopters and Airbus A400M military transport planes.

German’s have something of a reputation for efficiency which is well earned, this coupled with their iron-clad desire to wholeheartedly protect their homeland at any cost (immortalized by the national military vow of the Bundeswehr) makes Germany the seventh most powerful military organization in the world.

6. France

France boasts a large standing army with 215,019 active troops, approximately 28,000 reserve forces and approximately 85,000 active paramilitary forces.

France is also one of the few countries in the world with self sustained nuclear arms capability which is a enormous deterrent to hostile would-be invaders.

5. The United Kingdom

Unsurprisingly, the long dominant army of The United Kingdoms, also referred to as the British Armed Forces, ranks fifth on the list.

With a active armed force numbering approximately 156,000 and a reserve force of 75,000 they certainly are not the largest army in the world, however they are one of the most technologically advanced, as can be seen by their impressive and terrifying submarine based, nuclear Trident ballistic missile defense and deterrent system.

4. India and Pakistan

Tied for fourth place are the armed forces of both India and Pakistan. Both nations possess enormous manpower and massive quantities of technologically advanced armaments. However, the nations are not uniformly equal.

For instance, whilst Pakistan easily wins out in terms of active personnel (Pakistan possesses approximately 600,000 active military personnel whilst India only has around 1,300,000) India wins out in terms of air dominance, with a huge air force of nearly 2000 combat aircrafts.


China easily has one of the largest reserve armies in the world in terms of sheer man power. Despite this only around 300,000 military personnel are active at any given time but with a massive 3,000,000 in reserve! China also spends enormous amounts of money on it’s military progression – indeed, in 2003 over 16 percent of the central funding for the entire country was spent on nothing but the military.

China is also exceedingly technologically advanced and boasts many unique military weapons and armaments such as the powerful Wu-yi battle cruiser, a extraordinarily fast and precise combat vessel.

2. Russia

Come in with the second most powerful army in the entire world is the Russian Armed Forces. Featuring a absolutely enormous military budget totaling up to a sum of 69.3 billion dollars and possessing a standing army of nearly 800,000 active personnel and a reserve force of 2,000,000.

Russia has proved time and time again in major conflicts that though simple manpower is not everything it is certainly a potent component. Not only that but Russia has a absolutely massive stockpile of tactical nuclear warheads, primed for use and held as deterrents.

1. The United States

Many would have guessed it, and yes, The Armed Forces of the United States of America has po the defacto, most powerful military in the entire world.

With over 1 million active military personnel and nearly 900,000 reserve forces as well as budget expenditure of nearly 650 billion dollars and a host of NATO allies and some of the most technologically advanced armaments on the planet make the United States the most dominant military force on earth.

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