A new index has ranked countries by the size of their armies and armed forces, with the USA, Russia and China predictably dominating in terms of raw military power.
This is according to Global Firepower (GFP), an independent group which aims to provide an unbiased measure of global military strength using publicly available information.
The GFP list ranks 126 countries according to effective military strength, and makes use of over 50 factors to determine each nation’s Power Index score.
Military data is taken from the CIA World Factbook, public domain print and media sources and user contributions.
The USA in top spot commands an active frontline force of over 1.4 million people, with 1.1 million more in reserve – this on top of close to 55,000 military vehicles, 14,000 aircraft and a naval force of 500 vessels.
Russia has an active frontline of 770,000, with 2.5 million in reserve, and boasts a vehicle force exceeding the USA’s at over 61,000.
The country has fewer aircraft, however, at 3,500, and fewer naval vessels at 352.
The United States is the world’s biggest military spender, with a budget exceeding $610 billion. Russia is third at $84.5 billion, behind China’s $216 billion spend.
China – the third most powerful military according to GFP – exceeds both the USA and Russia in frontline soldiers (2.3 million, with 2.3 million in reserve) – but has fewer land and air vehicles.
The country has the strongest naval strength of the three super powers, at 670 vessels.
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||13 892||473|
|2||Russia||766 055||2 485 000||61 086||3 429||352|
|3||China||2 330 000||2 300 000||23 664||2 860||673|
|4||India||1 325 000||2 143 000||21 164||1 905||202|
|5||United Kingdom||146 980||182 000||6 624||936||66|
|6||France||202 761||195 770||7 888||1 264||113|
|7||South Korea||624 465||2 900 000||12 619||1 412||166|
|8||Germany||179 046||145 000||6 481||663||81|
|9||Japan||247 173||57 900||4 329||1 613||131|
|10||Turkey||410 500||185 630||13 849||1 020||115|
|32||South Africa||88 565||17 100||2 650||209||30|
GFP makes the following points about its data:
- It’s not a simple numbers game – a bigger military force doesn’t necessarily mean a more powerful militia;
- Nuclear capability is not taken into account;
- Current economic health is taken into account;
- Current political/military leadership is not taken into account.
Land-locked countries are not penalised for a lack of naval forces
South Africa’s military strength
South Africa was ranked as having the 32nd most powerful military force on the index.
It is ranked third in Africa, below Egypt and Algeria, and ahead of Nigeria (4th) and Ethiopia (5th).
South Africa’s military budget was R40.2 billion in 2013/14, and R42.8 billion was budgeted for the 2014/15 financial year.
According to the GFP data, the country has an active frontline personnel totalling 88,565 people, with 17,100 in reserve.
This is out of approximately 14 million individuals who are fit for service.
The GFP notes that South Africa has a war-ready labour force of 18.5 million people.
“War s as much a battle of logistics – moving man and marching from points all over – as it is direct combat,” the group said.
“Labour force reflects possible wartime industry strength.”
Looking at military strength by vehicles, South Africa has the following stats:
- Total land units: 2,650
This is largely made up by 2,265 armored fighting vehicles (AFVs). Also included are 196 tanks, and 50 multiple-launch rocket systems.
- Total aircraft: 209
This is including 17 interceptors and 12 attack helicopters.
- Total naval strength: 30
This includes 4 frigates, 3 submarines and 9 defense craft.