Global Firepower (GFP) has compiled a list of the most powerful military forces in the world in 2016, which includes South Africa.
The list uses over 50 factors to determine a country’s Power Index score, with military data taken from the CIA World Factbook, public domain print and media sources and user contributions.
The group notes that the index is not a simple numbers game – a bigger military force doesn’t necessarily mean a more powerful militia.
Similarly, while current political and military leadership is not taken into account, the current economic health of a country is.
Land-locked countries are not penalised for a lack of naval forces.
As of February 2016, the list includes 126 countries where data was available, including South Africa.
The USA, maintains its rank as the strongest military power in the world, followed by Russia, China and India. The UK rounds off the top five, with France, South Korea, Germany, Japan and Turkey filling the top 10 positions.
The top 10 countries have not changed since 2015; however there is a notable decrease in the USA total military strength in terms of land and air vehicles.
- Biggest active military force: China
- Biggest military reserve force: South Korea
- Biggest land vehicle force: Russia
- Biggest air force: USA
- Biggest naval force: China
South Africa’s position has the 32nd largest military force in the world is also unchanged from 2015, with the only changes to the force being 435 more active frontline soldiers, and the addition of 12 more air vehicles.
Here is a table breaking down the military strength of the top 10 countries in the world, and how South Africa compares.
World’s top 10 military powers
|#||Country||Active Frontline||Reserve||Land Vehicles||Air Force||Naval Vessels|
|1||United States||1 400 000||1 100 000||54 474||13 444||473|
|2||Russia||766 055||2 485 000||61 086||3 547||352|
|3||China||2 335 000||2 300 000||23 664||2 942||673|
|4||India||1 325 000||2 143 000||21 164||2 086||202|
|5||United Kingdom||150 000||182 000||6 642||879||66|
|6||France||205 000||195 770||7 888||1 282||113|
|7||South Korea||625 000||2 900 000||12 619||1 451||166|
|8||Germany||180 000||145 000||6 481||676||81|
|9||Japan||250 000||57 900||4 329||1 590||131|
|10||Turkey||410 500||185 630||13 849||1 007||115|
|32||South Africa||89 000||17 100||2 650||212||30|
South Africa’s military force
South Africa’s military force is ranked as the third strongest in Africa, below Egypt (18th) and Algeria (27th), but ahead of Nigeria (41st) and Ethiopia (46th).
The country is listed as having an active military force of 89,000 personnel, with 17,100 in reserve. There are 14.2 million South Africans “fit” for service (meaning all citizens aged between 16 and 49).
The country’s military forces are broken down as follows:
- Tanks: 195
- Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs): 2,265
- Self-propelled Guns (SPGs): 43
- Towed Artillery: 97
- Multiple-Launch Rocker Systems (MLRSs): 50
- Fighers/Interceptors: 17
- Fixed-wing Attack Aircraft: 17
- Transport Aircraft: 109
- Trainer Aircraft: 67
- Helicopters: 96
- Attack Helicopters: 12
- Frigates: 4
- Submarines: 3
- Coastal Defense Craft: 26
- Mine Warfare: 4