South Africa’s military strength vs the rest of the world in 2018

Military website Global Firepower has released its list of most powerful armies for 2018, showing how countries around the world stack-up when it comes to military firepower.

A total of 136 countries featured on the 2018 list, with the ranking relying on over 50 different countries to determine a given nation’s PowerIndex.

However the ranking does not simply rely on the total number of weapons available to any one country, but rather focuses on weapon diversity within the number totals to provide a better balance of firepower available.

In addition nuclear weapons are not recognised directly (but receive an indirect score bonus), while geographical factors, logistical flexibility, natural resources and local industry influence the rankings.

The USA was named as the most powerful country with 1.28 million active military personnel, over 13,000 aircraft, more than 5,800 tanks and a defense budget of $615 billion.

This beats out second-place Russia which has 1 million active personnel, a total of 3,914 aircraft, 20,300 combat tanks and a defense budget of $47 billion.

Third place China has more active military personnel than both the USA and Russia (just under 2.7 million) but has fewer aircraft (3,035) than either country, despite having a defense budget of $151 billion.

India and France round out the top five.

# Country Active Frontline Reserve Combat tanks Air Force Naval Vessels
1 United States  1 281 900  801 200  5 884  13 362  415
2 Russia  1 013 628  2 572 500  20 300  3 914  352
3 China  2 183 000  510 000  7 716  3 035  714
4 India  1 362 500  2 844 750  4 426  2 185  295
5 France  205 000  183 635  406  1 262  118
6 United Kingdom  197 730  81 500  227  832  76
7 South Korea  625 000  5 202 500  2 654  1 560  166
8 Japan  247 157  63 300  679  1 508  131
9 Turkey  350 000  360 565  2 446  1 056  194
10 Germany  178 641  30 000  432  714 81

South Africa

Note: Some vehicles can fall under multiple classifications.

In 2018, South Africa was ranked 33rd, above notable European countries such as Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands, but behind all other BRICS countries – including Brazil in 14th.

According to the report, South Africa has just under 100,000 total military personnel comprising of 78,050 active personnel and 16,000 reserve personnel.

In addition, the report estimates that we have 14,100,000 citizens which would be fit for service should the country enforce conscription laws.

Air power

South Africa has a total aircraft strength of 209 assets.

This comprises of:

  • 17 fighter aircraft
  • 17 attack aircraft
  • 100 transport aircraft
  • 67 trainer aircraft
  • 94 total helicopters
  • 12 attack helicopters

Army/Land power

One standout of South Africa’s military remains its land capability.

This includes:

  • 195 combat tanks
  • 2,265 armored fighting vehicles
  • 43 self-propelled artillery
  • 97 towed artillery
  • 50 rocket projectors

Naval power

South Africa has a total naval strength of 40 assets. Notably the country currently has no aircraft carriers, destroyers or corvette-class vehicles.

Instead our navy comprises of:

  • 4 frigates
  • 3 submarines
  • 31 patrol craft
  • 2 mine warfare vessels

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South Africa’s military strength vs the rest of the world in 2018