The ranking of the world’s most powerful armies in 2023 has been released

Romania ranks 47th in the Global Firepower ranking of the world’s most powerful armies, positioned between Chile (46) and the Czech Republic (48). Its total military personnel stands at 132,000 (including 50,000 reservists), with 146 aircraft (including 30 fighter jets and 61 helicopters), 413 tanks, 15,836 armored vehicles, and 45 ships.

The ranking lists the following as the top most powerful armies in the world:

  1. USA
  2. Russia
  3. China
  4. India
  5. UK
  6. South Korea
  7. Pakistan
  8. Japan
  9. France
  10. Italy
  11. Turkey
  12. Brazil
  13. Indonesia
  14. Egypt
  15. Ukraine
  16. Australia
  17. Iran
  18. Israel
  19. Vietnam
  20. Poland
  21. Spain
  22. Saudi Arabia
  23. Taiwan
  24. Thailand
  25. Germany

Furthermore, according to the report, the countries with the weakest armies are Bhutan (145), Benin (144), and the Republic of Moldova (143).

The Global Firepower ranking of military power in 2023 assesses the armies of 145 nations, considering various factors such as the volume and sophistication of equipment, finances, geography, and resources.

It evaluates factors like the volume of military equipment and troops each country possesses, as well as their financial situation, geography, and available resources. The ranking, however, may have imperfections due to available information and particularly ignores a country’s nuclear attack capabilities.

Global Firepower claims to employ over 60 factors to generate a PowerIndex, where a score closer to zero indicates a stronger military. However, the methodology of weighing these factors against each other or the inner workings of its “internal formula” is not explicitly explained by Global Firepower.

Below is an overview of the top 10 armies in the world according to this ranking, along with some information about each nation.

It’s worth noting that comparing armies is subjective, and creating a precise ranking of global military power is nearly impossible, given the multitude of factors needed for a comprehensive analysis. Nonetheless, it remains an intriguing thought experiment.

Alex Kokcharov, a risk analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, told Business Insider that the ranking reflects “more perceptions than the actual picture.” He noted that a lot of information isn’t available from open sources.

Dr. Matthew Ford, a former West Point member and associate professor at the Swedish Defense University, made a similar observation. He stated that data doesn’t account for factors like the training and education of soldiers, their intelligence capabilities, or the efficiency of the command structure.

Taking these limitations into account, here’s how the top 10 countries stand in this attempt to classify global military power, published annually for nearly two decades:

Italy: Global Firepower ranked Italy in the top 10 in areas including the aircraft fleet, total number of helicopters, total number of attack aircraft, and total number of aircraft carriers.

It stated that Italy had 404 helicopters, including 58 attack helicopters, and two aircraft carrier warships in January 2023. A GlobalData report earlier this year forecasted an increase in defense spending from $31.6 billion to $38.5 billion between 2024 and 2028.

It awarded Italy a PowerIndex score of 0.1973.

France: Global Firepower placed France at ninth in the overall ranking. The European nation was in the top 10 in areas including the total fleet of helicopters and the number of cruisers, as well as the total strength of the transport fleet.

France is also one of the few nations that operate more than one aircraft carrier – Charles de Gaulle. It also possesses nuclear weapons.

Global Firepower stated that France had 438 helicopters, including 69 attack helicopters, and 10 cruisers in January 2023, granting it a PowerIndex score of 0.1848.

France traditionally had a strong presence in the Sahel region of Africa, where it had multiple colonies.

In recent years, it began to reduce its presence there, although around 5,000 French soldiers are still stationed in bases across Africa. Meanwhile, Russia and China vie for influence.

Japan: Japan maintains a robust military despite renouncing the ability to wage war following its defeat in World War II.

Japan’s constitution severely limits its ability to use force abroad, and its military is known as the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

Global Firepower ranked Japan in the top 10 in terms of the strength of its aircraft fleet, total helicopter strength, and strength of its fleet of armored fighting vehicles.

As an island nation, Japan has the most significant ports and ranks second (after the USA) in terms of the power of its aircraft fleet for special missions, with four helicopter carriers ranking second in this category as well. In recent decades, Japan has only invested about 1% of its GDP in defense, but it has started to change its stance.

In 2016, Japan relaxed restrictions on how its military could be used to allow limited participation in overseas missions considered “collective self-defense”.

The move was prompted by its close neighbors, North Korea and China, appearing more belligerent.

Recently, it announced intentions to increase defense spending to 2% of GDP, giving it the world’s third-largest defense budget.

Global Firepower stated that Japan had over 1,400 military aircraft and over 111,000 vehicles as of January 2023, with a PowerIndex score of 0.1711.

Pakistan: Pakistan climbed from ninth in the overall ranking in 2022 to seventh in the 2023 list.

While Pakistan had over 3,700 tanks, 1,400 military aircraft, nine submarines, and 654,000 active military personnel in January 2023, Global Firepower stated that its rise was also due to this year’s ranking focusing more on natural resources and shared borders.

Pakistan shares borders with Afghanistan, China, India, and Iran, placing it in a tense area of the world.

Global Firepower ranked Pakistan in the top 10 in areas including the total population available for military service, total active military workforce available, and the total strength of the aircraft fleet, with a PowerIndex score of 0.1694.

South Korea: South Korea’s military might isn’t surprising, given its decades-long tensions with North Korea.

Since 2021, North Korea has conducted about 90 strategic missile tests, with South Korea being its most evident target in an actual conflict.

Historically tense and hostile, relations between North Korea and the United States have deteriorated in recent years, as the US deployed a missile defense system and 29,000 troops in South Korea under a mutual defense pact.

Global Firepower ranked South Korea in the top six in terms of the strength of its aircraft fleet, the strength of its fleet of armored fighting vehicles, and its helicopter strength. The report also stated that the Asian nation had over 133,000 vehicles and 739 helicopters, including 112 attack helicopters, as of January 2023. South Korea was granted a PowerIndex score of 0.1505.

UK: Global Firepower stated that the UK’s position was bolstered by its strengths in terms of workforce and air power, as well as its strong financial position.

“It is also one of the few powers operating more than one aircraft carrier,” it added. Its carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, are among the newest in the world.

It also possesses nuclear weapons deployed through its submarine fleet.

Dr. Ford told Insider that he finds it “odd” that the UK is fifth in Global Firepower’s ranking, as its military doesn’t have the “massed armed forces” that China, Russia, India, and the US have.

The UK is the third-largest donor to Ukraine, after the US and the EU, committing $4.6 billion in military aid since the war began. It continues to be a significant contributor to NATO, honoring its commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense and aiming for 2.5% by 2030.

Global Firepower ranked the UK in the top 10 in areas including the total number of available ports and commercial terminals, as well as the total strength of the aerial tanker fleet, awarding the country a PowerIndex score of 0.1435.

India: India’s strength lies in the size of its population. Global Firepower ranked India second in terms of available workforce, total active military workforce available, and paramilitary strength.

According to the report, India’s available workforce was over 653 million people, 47% of the country’s population, as of June 2023. It also stated that India had nearly 1.5 million active military personnel.

India has been engaged in military confrontations with China over their common border. While China claims about 90,000 square kilometers of territory in northeastern India, India claims that China occupies 38,000 square kilometers of its territory in the Aksai Chin plateau.

Global Firepower awarded India a PowerIndex score of 0.1025.

China: China has rapidly increased its military power in recent years as it takes on a more assertive role in global affairs.

Global Firepower ranked China first in terms of available workforce and naval fleet power.

China has a “distinct advantage in terms of economic and workforce strength and has strongly emphasized the growth (primarily through indigenous means) of naval, air, and land warfare capabilities,” Global Firepower said in its latest ranking.

If this trend continues, the report added, China “will become the primary global military adversary of the United States.”

Tensions are escalating around Taiwan, and China has also fueled regional tensions by claiming the South China Sea as its territory and establishing a military presence on many of its small islands.

According to Global Firepower, China has a military force available of over 761 million people as of April 2023, along with 50 destroyer warships and 78 submarines, among many other military assets.

Global Firepower awarded China a PowerIndex score of 0.0722.

Russia: Despite its army’s reputation being tarnished by the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia maintained its second place in the Global Firepower ranking.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “highlighted key limitations of Russian military capabilities despite its quantitative advantage in terms of workforce and material (military) over its neighboring Ukraine,” stated Global Firepower. It added that China is closing in on second place.

Global Firepower ranked Russia second in areas including the total power of the aircraft fleet and the total power of the transport fleet. It stated that as of October 2023, Russia had over 4,100 military aircraft.

Russia has faced a series of military setbacks since launching the invasion into Ukraine, losing significant amounts of equipment – notably tanks.

Its failure to quickly conquer Ukraine – a much weaker opponent – has caused many to reassess their opinion of its military capability. In December 2023, Russia was largely on the defensive in Ukraine, keeping enemies at bay with a formidable network of trenches and minefields but starting to launch more attacks than in previous months.

Despite its ground losses, Russia’s air forces and navy have largely avoided damages. It also possesses the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Global Firepower awarded Russia a PowerIndex score of 0.0714.

USA: The US military maintained its unquestionable position at the top of the ranking, although China’s efforts have narrowed the gap over the years.

Global Firepower stated that the US remained in the first place because it “displays impressive figures in key categories of materials, finances, and resources.”

The US received a PowerIndex score of 0.0712. The nation is a global leader in technology, according to the report.

The US tops many categories in the Global Firepower ranking, with 92 cruisers and 11 aircraft carriers in its fleets. Its airpower includes 13,300 aircraft and 983 attack helicopters as of July 2023, comfortably placing it at the forefront worldwide.

It also boasts by far the largest defense budget, over $750 billion, more than triple that of third-placed China.

In response to Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the US deployed an additional 20,000 troops to Europe, bringing the total to over 100,000 soldiers across the continent.


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