43 of the most powerful armies in the world

43 of the most powerful armies in the world

Are you scared of World War 3 breaking out? Well, as long as your country has a powerful army then you shouldn’t be too worried. After all, they’ve likely got it covered. Unless it’s a Nuclear War, in which case we’re all doomed. Sorry! Want to know which armies would likely hold their own in a fight? Here are the most powerful armed forces in the world right now.

United States of America

Of course, we were going to kick off with one of the biggest armed forces units in the world. According to Wikipedia, there are currently over 1.3 million active military personnel in the US, as we speak. It’s not just the huge number of people enlisted. However, it’s also down to the amount of money and technology this army has. The US Army has some of the most advanced equipment in the world, along with one of the biggest budgets. These are the kind of guys you don’t really want to mess with. Their yearly budget is thought to be in the region of $612 billion, which is larger than any other country on this list. American troops are currently in over 150 different countries, either in battle or restoring the peace. It makes complete sense that an army of this size, with this budget, and in that many countries, makes it onto the top of our list.


In stark contrast, the Russian Armed Forces only have 766,000 active military personnel compared to almost double that in America. However, they’ve still managed to secure second place on our list. Again, it’s all to do with that technology and that budget. Russia is renowned for creating some of the most advanced warfare systems in the world. After all, it was them who invented the tank. You know we started off by talking about the threat of Nuclear War? Yeah, well Russia has over 8,000 nuclear warheads stored away. That we know of! You can see why so very few countries are keen to get involved in any conflicts with Putin and his Russian army. President Vladimir Putin has been steadily increasing the military budget, to keep in line with his main competition; namely, The West. Of his recent escapades of flying spy planes over the UK has any bearing, then we should all be pretty nervous about Russia.


We’re going back to armies that have sheer numbers and force behind them. According to Wikipedia, China currently has nearly 2.3 million active military personnel… That we know of! Actually, China is more likely to have around 750 million people enlisted in their armed forces, however not all of them are active. Don’t forget that China is the most populous country in the world, so it makes sense they would have one of the biggest armies. If they even had the most basic weaponry, their sheer size would be enough to take down most countries in the blink of an eye. Not including any nuclear warheads or weapons of mass destruction. This is probably why everyone is fairly polite to China, as can you imagine if this country roped in everyone that was enlisted? They’d take down the planet!
Luckily, they’re a pretty important peacekeeping member of the UN, so war is far from their mind.

The UK

The United Kingdom has a much smaller number of active military personnel than many others on this list, so why does it feature so high up? The answer is simple: they’re well trained. Many of the tactics and training methods used by the US Army have been ‘borrowed’ from the UK. It’s thought that is just under 200,000 active military personnel in the British Armed Forces, which is around a tenth of China’s. However, they say that good things come in small packages. Britain also has a rather daunting nuclear deterrent sitting off the coast of Scotland, named Trident. That should put most people off from messing with the Brits.


You might be surprised to see India so high up on the list, their main concern is to keep the peace, but that doesn’t mean that you should mess with them. First off, until 1947 they were still part of the British army and were trained under British command. Since 1950 they have grown and changed to make them one of the top armies. According to Wikipedia in 2015-2016 the Indian Forces received over $50 billion for defence purposes. If that isn’t impressive enough, the size of the force is just as impressive. There was an estimated 1.3 million active personnel in the forces and another 2.1 million on reserve in 2010. Good thing that’s all for defence and not offence.


Despite only being founded in 1947 when the British gain independence to the country, the Pakistani forces have grown to be the seventh largest force in the world. One of the reasons they are so far up the list is because they have close ties with China. For over 50 years these two countries have worked together to develop weapons systems and China is the biggest weapon supplier to Pakistan. The stats on Wikipedia have listed the amount of active personnel at 617,000 which how it gains the title of seventh largest force but there is another 550,000 in reserve. They are also the only Muslim country that allows women to serve on active duty and they actively take on the Taliban. You go girls!


The President himself is the top commander of the French Forces and ensures that the military takes part in NATO peacekeeping missions on a regular basis. He is also the guy who can push the big button for a nuclear attack. The annual budget for the forces is around $35.5 billion according to Wikipedia. They put this to good use by ensuring the safety of civilians across the world in war zones and nuclear deterrent programmes. In recent years the forces have been upgraded with new equipment and changed it around to make deployment to war zones. Thankfully all of France’s efforts are for peace and preventing the spread of war.

South Korea

After the Korean Civil War in 1948, the South Korean forces were heavily damaged but have grown to be one of the largest armies in the world. One of the reasons that this force is so formidable is the number of people that are available for service. Conspiration still happens for men between 18 to 35 years, but this age is increased to 45 years if war breaks out. Over the years they have taken part in different peacekeeping missions across the world but the main purpose of the forces is to keep North Korea on its side of the border. The forces have been secretive about some of their weapons but they claim to have a big enough stick to keep the North at bay.

North Korea

Kim Jong-un is the supreme leader of North Korea and he has been concerned with moving his country forward with bigger and better firepower. In the past, a lot of the weapons and tanks have come from the former Soviet Union and China. At one point the country had fake weapons planted around the place to make the force seem bigger than it was. But if you have been watching the news for the last few years you will have heard that North Korea has gotten larger and scarier with nuclear and chemical weapons to play with. Hopefully, they don’t get bored and decide to play with them.


The German forces have a colourful history and have been a player in two world wars as the bad guys. Since 1955 they have changed how they run things after over 10 years of being demilitarised and relying on the Allied powers for protection. The German forces have been carefully watched over the years and they now have a force of 180,000 active personnel. This might be a small number but they have one of the largest budgets for the military and are one of the top ten funded armies in the world. Because they have had a problem with invading other countries in the past the Germans are only allowed their forces for disaster control and defence.


Japan is another country that was a bad guy in the past and was left with no army after the Second World War. After the dust had settled America and Japan signed a treaty to ensure Japan would only have an army for defence. After Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, Japan had no desire to head to war again with any country or have any weapons of mass destruction. There are over 240,000 active personnel in the forces but there are over 53,000,000 that can be called for duty if needed, blimey! The biggest concern for the country is North Korea so if they plan on doing anything with all those people, it will be directed in that direction first.


The armed forces in Turkey have several different uses. They are one of the few world forces that include their police and their coast guard as part of their force. The coastguard is considered part of the Navy and is used to patrol the waters for illegal activity as well as search and rescue. There are around 500,000 active service members but if you include reserve force there is over 1 million military service personnel. Besides the numbers of soldiers that are available, there is also the firepower available. Turkey has 90 nuclear bombs which they can use in times of war. Thankfully they Turkish forces need permission and clearance from NATO to use them.


Israel has an unusual past and present. The current forces were founded from past militant groups and the current force has a conspiration for women and men. Because of the situation in the Middle-East, the Israeli forces are trained to battle in heat and desert conditions with a focus on terrorist activities. The Israeli government makes sure that most research on weapons and training is done in the country so it is perfect for the troop’s needs. There was an estimated 174,000 active personnel in the forces in 2000. What they lack in numbers, they make up for in defence systems including the Arrow missile defence system. Whoever wants to start a war with these guys will have to through that and a host of other gadgets too.


This is another army which was formed until strange circumstances. After the National revolution, the army was formed from rebel groups who specialized in guerrilla warfare. These guys are not to be messed with! There was an estimated 450,000 active personnel serving in the forces and an annual budget of $8 billion. The forces have a unique position in the country as they are used to patrol and uphold the laws as well as take part in peacekeeping missions. One of the main reasons why you don’t want to mess with this country is the warfare plans it has. They have stayed true to their roots and still teach soldiers guerrilla warfare tactics.


Hailing from the land of things that want to kill you, the Australian armed forces are probably the safest thing there. There is an estimated 10 million active personnel that take part in peacekeeping missions across the globe. When they aren’t keeping the peace they are focused on defending the country from invaders. Although whoever wants to invade a country where nearly every animal wants to eat you is beyond us. The budget has gone up in recent years from $25 billion Australian dollars to $31.5 billion and they plan to keep increasing it over the next 21 years. Better not mess with these guys if that is the plan.


When you think of the Canadian forces you probably think of the guys in red with big hats who ride horses. These guys are not to be messed with! For a start these guys are incredibly well trained but what did you expect when moose are a problem? Canada is part of the British Commonwealth and has the bonus of receiving training from the British army which makes up for the lack of personnel. There is around 119,000 active personnel in the Canadian forces and they have only sent 700 on deployment, that was all they needed. They also benefit from training from America who they work with to maintain border security.


The Republic of China Armed forces should not be confused with China’s army, these guys are Taiwan’s defence force. Up until the 1970’s, their main goal was to take back mainland China, yikes! Now they are more concerned with keeping China out. There is around 290,000 active personnel but because of conscription, there is nearly 6 million that are available in the event of war. The forces also have had a nuclear programme to fall back on after they were developed in secret. Thankfully they are good friends with America and have backed down the nuclear programme but that doesn’t mean that they can’t bring it back.


The Italian forces cover the national police force too who are given military training. Including the police force, there is over 200,000 active personnel, that’s nearly half a million trained military in the country. The annual military budget is currently around $40 billion but this is set to increase as Italy begins trials for advanced equipment. One of the experiments is to make an exoskeleton suit to make soldiers fasters and stronger in combat which will be rolled out as soon as they are perfected. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie but this how the Italians plan on fighting wars in the future. Italians in super suits with fancy weapons, better not insult mama’s pasta sauce then!


Not only is the Egyptian army one of the oldest in the world, they are one of the largest. There is currently around 500,000 active personnel in the services but there are a massive 41 million other people who can be called upon because of conscription. If that number doesn’t make your head spin then maybe the motto “Victory or Martyrdom will make you shake in your boots. These guys are trained to fight to win or die trying! And if that doesn’t scare you, they have one of the most advanced chemical weapons programmes in the world and are not afraid to use them. Best not cross these guys, they mean business!


Poland has had a rough time over the last few centuries so it’s not surprising that they have worked hard to upgrade everything so that no one will try to invade them again. They currently have around 120,000 active personnel but also have 515,000 in reserve in case they have a security crisis. One of the main objectives is to keep the country safe from invaders and have modernized their equipment since 2011. There was talk of Poland reducing the amount of personnel but they have increased the military budget over the years to $9.65 billion to make the forces even bigger. We don’t think that anyone will want to invade them again anytime soon.


It’s not surprising that Thailand has around 306,000 active personnel, they have a lot on their plate! For a start one of the main jobs is to protect the Royal family of Thailand, apparently, there is a lot of people that don’t like them. They also have the job of protecting the public and drug control in the country. They do all of this with a small budget of $5.7 billion. They receive great training to make sure that the forces are at their best. That is a good thing seeing as they have been battling with terrorists since 2004 and have received training from the US to help combat the problems in the area.


One of the reasons that the Vietnamese army is so scary is because very little is known about them. There is over 415,000 active personnel but that number could be a lot higher. The annual military budget is around $7.8 billion which they use to manufacture their own equipment including Scud-B tactical ballistic missiles. These guys don’t care much about human rights either and are known for being a bit horrible to their prisoners of war. And let’s not forget that they kicked America’s butt during the Vietnam war. Why? Because these guys are fearless and believe in themselves. Best not to cross these guys because we have no idea what they actually have up their sleeves.


Brazil as the most powerful army in Latin America due to the size and amount of equipment it has at its fingertips. There is around 318,000 active personnel with another 1,340,000 in reserve. They have an impressive annual budget of around $31.5 billion a year. Although the forces are large they don’t have much to do, everyone loves Brazil and they have no threats from other countries. They don’t tend to take part in international conflicts but instead focus on national rebellions and helping other areas of the government. If they ever choose to take part in international conflicts they will be a force to be reckoned with.


Iran is one of those countries that has had problems with other countries over the years and with the recent problems in the Middle East, it’s not surprising that they want to stay ahead of the game. They have an annual budget of $10.2 billion and over 500,000 active personnel to help patrol the borders. Although they have a “no first strike” policy they should not be messed with. After previous wars that used chemical weapons left civilians suffering, Iran has decided not to use chemical weapons in warfare again. Instead, they are using their research to find cures and vaccines to reverse the horror of previous wars.


Sweden might seem like a nice country and you wouldn’t think they would need a big military. But one of the reasons Sweden are so nice to the rest of the world is because their army is so bad-ass no one wants to mess with them! There is over 50,000 personnel in the forces and that includes the reserves. The annual budget is around $5.77 billion for the troops and they have plenty of military training schools to make sure that troops are at the top of their game. The Swedish are so confident with themselves they have changed their stance to neutral in the event of international war.


It’s not surprising that the Ukraine has upped its forces recently when troubles started with Russia. From 2014 to 2015 they increased the amount of active personnel by 50,000 people so the force has around 250,000 able-bodied men for war. The budget for a force this size is pretty small at $5.5 billion a year, 3% of the countries budget. To put this into comparison, most countries only put around 1 or 2% of their budget into the army, so these guys really mean business. They also have a massive supply of surplus weapons hidden around the country so no-one knows for sure what they have hidden away.


Singapore has the unfortunate problem of being in a location that most countries want to invade. Whatever the other countries reason is, Singapore doesn’t care and have their army set up for defence. The forces have a large amount of manpower but most of this power comes from conscripts. There is an estimated 71,000 personnel but around 45,000 of them have been drafted for service. This means that over half the force has only received basic training. The defence of Singapore hangs on the US presence in the area and the country actively supports the US troops as part of that defence. The army might not be the strongest but they have big friends to hide behind.


Algeria is one of those dark horses when it comes to its military. Because of the location of the country, they are faced with problems from lots of places. Although they have been more concerned with internal conflicts after independence was declared. There is around 350,000 personnel in the forces including reserves. They also have an annual budget of $13.1 billion which they use to buy weapons from Russia and China. One thing that makes them so fierce is the level of training that they receive. Until the 1990’s the army was faced with guerilla warfare from internal terrorism so these guys know a thing or two about dealing with the bad guys.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest growing countries in the world with oil exports and glamorous living conditions for the wealthy. It’s not surprising then that the annual budget for the army is $52.9 billion, that’s 11% of the countries budget! They also have around 200,00 active personnel to help keep the peace in the area. The massive amount of spending on the military has made the country one of the most armed nations in the world. To top it all off, they regularly receive training from US troops to keep their men in top shape when they have to face the rebel forces in the area.

Czech Republic

It is widely believed that the Czech Republic army is overstretched and underfunded but what they lack in other areas, they make up for in passion. The budget for the army does not even reach the $1 billion mark and with over 21,000 active personnel it is definitely a stretch. One of the problems is the lack of growth in the economy but there are still tanks and armoured vehicles that were left over from previous conflicts. Thankfully they don’t have any neighbouring countries looking to invade them at the moment and have been more concerned with peacekeeping missions. Thankfully if they ever had problems they have the backup from NATO.


Switzerland relies on two things to stop other countries from invading them. One, the reputation of how well trained their army is. And two, how difficult the country would be to invade. Switzerland still relies on conscription for most of its manpower and only 5% of the military are trained for active service. Because of the country’s neutral stance when it comes to war there has been talk of doing away with most of the armed forces and reducing the numbers to a minimum. But don’t take this as a sign of weakness. The country still spends $4.83 billion a year on the army and every conscript has to keep their equipment in case there is a war.


Mexico definitely has its share of problems in the country with drugs and the cartel. There is over 280,000 active personnel in the forces but the annual budget is around $11.6 billion. That’s not much when you are battling drug lords! Since 2012 the country has spent $3 billion in upgrading equipment to help battle the problems in the country. At the moment the army has a policy not to interfere with problems outside the country and they haven’t been involved in an international war effort since the 1960’s. The army still operates a conscript policy but most of the conscripts do not receive the proper training and most only get to the firing range once during their training.

South Africa

As far as armies go the South African forces are very new after being formed in 1994 after the national elections. Since 1999 they have spent $4.8 billion on new weapons and changing the structure of the forces to suit the country’s needs. The current budget for the forces is around $4.8 billion per year. There is around 78,000 active personnel who have the job of dealing with guerrilla forces in the country that still exist and helping the police force keep the peace. When they are not doing this, they are helping the UN with other peacekeeping missions in Africa and security during the elections.


The Norwegian armed forces are another old army, they date back to the 9th century! With a history this long it’s surprising that they aren’t higher up the list. But doesn’t matter how old the army is, it’s the experience and the training of the troops that counts. The forces only have 24,000 active personnel and another 45,000 in reserve. But with conscription still active in the country, there could be as many as 2 million soldiers if war broke out. Along with an annual budget of $7.2 billion for the forces, if they ended up in war, they could be a force to be reckoned with!


Austria is a country that doesn’t need to spend a lot of money on it’s military, Arnold Schwarzenegger hails from there, that’s threat enough! There is around 25,000 active personnel and around half of them are conscripts. Thankfully for the conscripts they only need to complete 6 months service but having a high turnover makes the training less intense. The main concern for the country is defending the borders and keeping the country neutral. Because they don’t get involved in international conflicts, they don’t need to worry about big spending and lots of manpower. But the 12,000 troops that aren’t conscripts are highly trained and very dangerous individuals.


Malaysia and its armed forces have been hit with a number of setbacks over the years. Despite having around 110,000 personnel and an annual budget of $5.4 billion, the forces have not been able to grow as they had planned. It has only been in recent years that the army has begun to modernise equipment and improve training. They are also one of the greenest armies in the world after they decided to change to biodiesel for equipment, rather than buy oil from the Middle-East. Since 2007 they have really begun to upgrade equipment after one of their helicopters crashed. They had planned a whole new fleet by 2014 but their budget wouldn’t stretch that far.


The armed forces of the Netherlands is a completely professional military who have the job of protecting the country. Before 2003 it was the responsibility of every citizen to defend the country but since then, things have changed and it is now left to the 47,000 professionals. The reserves for the forces are slightly different than other countries, these guys are retired military who are still fit enough for active duty! These guys go through such intense training that it is impossible for a woman to pass the basic training for the marines. Thankfully they are part of NATO so we will never have to go up against these guys in battle.


If there was ever an army that needed all the help it could get, it is the Afghan forces! Since the War on Terror began the forces have been ripped apart and put back together again. Since 2002 they have been getting their training from US and British troops and building up the own manpower. As of 2014, the forces had around 900,000 active personnel who actively take on the Taliban forces in the country. Although they have an annual budget of $11.6 billion for the forces, most of this comes from aid. When that dries up they might have problems fighting the war by themselves.


Burma has one of the biggest armies in the world with over 492,000 active personnel, this makes them the 9th biggest army in the world. Like a lot of the countries that had British forces occupying them for years, when the British left they took their army with them and the home nation was not left with much. What was left in the 1940’s was a small army with little or no training. Since then the country has worked hard to build its forces up and they are now in a position that they don’t need international assistance. Because the army is still growing and improving the country spends around 4% of its budget on improving the forces, that’s around $2.4 billion.


Colombia is another country that has suffered a lot of different problems within its own borders. The police service actually receives military training rather than standard police training to help keep the peace. This means there is around 444,000 active personnel that are fit and trained for war! The annual budget for this massive force is $9.1 billion a year and the US has helped out a lot. Drug cartels are a massive problem in the country and to stop them from flooding drugs into other countries, the US helps the Colombian forces with training and weapons. These guys have a dangerous job going up against the cartels!


If there was a winner for the country that has focused a lot of time and energy on its army, then Morocco would be the winner. The forces currently have around 195,000 active personnel and an annual budget of $3.37 billion a year. But this all adds up to nothing in the grand scale of things. Although the troops receive excellent training, they rarely take back in operations and this lack of experience is one of their downfalls. They also have a big problem within the ranks of corruption and some of the troops have low levels of standard education.If they ever get the corruption sorted they will be an incredible force.


Syria has become a battleground in recent years and the forces have had problems dealing with it. There is around 150,000 active personnel in the ranks but these are all conscripts with basic training. There has been talk of reducing the forces by half as people continue to flee the country. The country also has an annual budget of $3.3 billion to help fight the rebels in the civil war but this might not be enough as soldiers keep fleeing the country so they don’t have to fight. Even people who have completed their required mandatory service are being recalled for duty. This force definitely has its work cut out to help regain balance and peace again.

Sudan and South Sudan

This group of forces have been lucky enough to have received training from British forces and have troops that are loyal to their wages and not politics. The forces have an impressive 109,000 active troops and another 85,000 in reserve. After the troubles in the area in the 1980’s the army made use of the former rebels to build up a large force again. The South Sudan forces have around 180,000 troops and have been working hard in recent years to prevent child soldiers from joining the ranks. Together, these two forces would be a huge force against other countries but they may never resolve their differences to pull it together.

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