South Africa’s military power vs the world in 2016

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.

The list does not take nuclear capability into account – while reliance on natural resources – in terms of use and production – is taken into account.

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:

Land systems 

  • Tanks: 195
  • Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs): 2,265
  • Self-propelled Guns (SPGs): 43
  • Towed Artillery: 97
  • Multiple-Launch Rocker Systems (MLRSs): 50

Air power 

  • Fighers/Interceptors: 17
  • Fixed-wing Attack Aircraft: 17
  • Transport Aircraft: 109
  • Trainer Aircraft: 67
  • Helicopters: 96
  • Attack Helicopters: 12

Naval power 

  • Frigates: 4
  • Submarines: 3
  • Coastal Defense Craft: 26
  • Mine Warfare: 4

More on military

South Africa’s military strength vs the world

The world’s biggest military spenders in 2015

The most and least stressful jobs in 2016

Latest news

Partner Content

Show comments

Follow us

Recommended