Top 25 World’s Largest Armies

If history has taught us anything, it’s that we never learn from it. Though we live in a brave new world, one 2,500-year-old Latin saying is still a universal truth.

“If you want peace, prepare for war.” De Re Militari, 450 B.C.

You’d think the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction has to stop the endless cycle of war. But even without nukes, some countries have enough fire-power to cause an extinction-level scenario. But which army would win in the war to end all wars?

A superior arsenal doesn’t imply victory but, in the age of unmanned drones and high-tech equipment, neither does raw manpower. So, to determine which armies are truly superior, we had to consider all the important variables.

We used the number of deployed/reserve troops, defense funding capacity and military equipment quality as determining factors. Each of them accounts for 30% of a nation’s military rating. The deciding factors, worth 10%, are oil production and missile-defense capabilities.


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Here are the results – follow along with the slideshow to see all 25 of the world’s largest armies.

25. Ukraine

When Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, Ukraine launched a mass military overhaul. Just one year later, its active army personnel has tripled and defense spending went up by 250%.

  • Active Personnel: 1,160,000
  • Defense Budget: $4,880,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 14,000
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 625
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 234

When it succeeded from the USSR, Ukraine had the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal. Experts estimate that, if Ukraine continues restoring its military at this rate, it can reclaim ‘superpower status’ by 2020.

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24. Sweden

Though the Swedish military maintains neutrality in most foreign conflicts, no one can downplay its aerial advantage. Swedish interceptors and stealth aircrafts are simply unmatched. And, considering the country’s small size, its air force alone is more then enough, when it comes to defense.

  • Active Personnel: 124,000
  • Defense Budget: $6,215,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 2,600
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 0
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 228

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23. Iran

Just 10 years ago, Iran was considered to be among the world’s largest military forces. But, due to strict economic sanctions, its army has shrunk just as much as the economy. However, thanks to a recent alliance with Russia and a U.S.-led economic package deal, Iran’s past glory should be restored sooner than later.

  • Active Personnel: 2,345,00
  • Defense Budget: $6,300,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 5,450
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 1,474
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 479

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22. North Korea/Brazil

North Korea shares the title of #22 with Brazil. The isolated communist state rules by fear, which requires more foot soldiers then they could equip. However, even with bows and arrows, 5,000,000 soldiers are a force to be reckoned with. Especially in this case, when each one underwent North Korea’s notoriously rough military training.

  • Active Personnel: 5,200,000
  • Defense Budget: $7,500,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 14,800
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 2,400
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 944

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Brazil is, without a doubt, the dominant military power of South America. A blooming economy has allowed it to equip a two-million-strong fighting force with some of the best modern equipment available. Plus, Brazil now boasts one of the world’s largest naval forces, including a new Aircraft Carrier and five stealth submarines.

  • Active Personnel: 2,130,00
  • Defense Budget: $31,900,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 2,260
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 180
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 735

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21. Vietnam

Vietnam persevered in a state of constant military conflict for generations. As a result, its economy suffered but its military has seen exponential growth each year. Though the personnel is under-equipped, Viet ground troops are among the most experienced in the world. Plus, they have more manpower than any other country of comparable size.

  • Active Personnel: 3,450,00
  • Defense Budget: $3,365,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 7,220
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 1,100
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 289

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20. Thailand

Due to being surrounded by unstable neighbors, Thailand must always maintain a sizable active fighting force. Over the past decade, the nation’s navy underwent a huge technological overhaul. In addition to that, Thailand’s aerial fleet is among the largest in the region.

  • Active Personnel: 550,00
  • Defense Budget: $5,390,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 3,950
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 13
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 551

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19. Poland

As one of the largest EU nations, Poland maintains a modern, well-equipped army. After Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014, the Polish government made a huge effort to expand military capabilities. Though they still have much less active personnel then Russia, their troops receive superior training and use top-of-the-line equipment.

  • Active Personnel: 630,00
  • Defense Budget: $9,360,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 4,070
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 240
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 461

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18. Egypt

Egypt is engaged in a constant struggle with internal extremist groups. As such, they’ve spent a large part of their budget on a small sector of their military – the special forces. Of course, Egyptian naval forces are still among the largest in the African region. Not too mention their unmatched fleet of armored vehicles.

  • Active Personnel: 1,270,000
  • Defense Budget: $9,360,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 21,600
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 240
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 1,110

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17. Pakistan

Similarly to what happened in China, Pakistan’s economy has boomed due to a rapid industrialization. While internal political conflicts persist to this day, the country demonstrated its modern warfare capability during numerous peace keeping missions and disaster relief operations. If Pakistan’s military budget keeps growing at its current rate, it’ll make the top 10 list by 2018.

  • Active Personnel: 1,135,000
  • Defense Budget: $7,000,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 8,900
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 134
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 923

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16. Italy

Italy’s navy makes it a key NATO member. As such, they focused their military budget on maintaining the best naval technologies and maintaining the most impressive fleet in the region. A lack of mandatory service means motivated, well-trained troops. And the relatively large defense budget implies world-class military technologies.

  • Active Personnel: 362,000
  • Defense Budget: $34,000,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 7,790
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 21
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 785

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15. Taiwan

Taiwan is still focused on retaining its independence. As such, they retain the greatest greatest ratio of active troops to total population. Taiwan has a very effective balance of defensive and offensive troops. On top of that, they aren’t subject to any sanctions or military restrictions, so a $10 billion dollar budget goes a long way.

  • Active Personnel: 1,972,000
  • Defense Budget: $34,000,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 7,840
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 72
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 815

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14. Canada

Canadian has a long history of war neutrality. However, the nation’s leadership understands that it must be ready to protect it. The world’s widest procurement programs and best technological upkeep are responsible for Canada’s war-free past. And, as an active NATO member, its military has consistently demonstrated their professionalism during peace-keeping missions in the Mideast region.

  • Active Personnel: 142,000
  • Defense Budget: $15,200,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 3,360
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 0
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 426

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13. Australia

Each person serving in the Australian military is a $250,000 investment. The nation’s huge defense budget contrasts its low manpower more than anywhere, which implies the world’s highest level of technological capabilities.

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  • Active Personnel: 104,000
  • Defense Budget: $26,100,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 2,110
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 0
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 417

Australian offensive forces are limited to a small group of special-force troops and the third largest naval fleet on the planet. Their defense relies on advantageous geographical features and the  world’s fourth largest oil reserves.

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12. Indonesia

Indonesia has been vigorously expanding the military in an attempt to catch up to China. Like most Pacific nations, it is among the most likely targets for an (apparently) offensive China. The island nation has created a fleet of coastal defense warships and supplemented it with the latest mine warfare technologies.

  • Active Personnel: 874,000
  • Defense Budget: $6,900,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 1,560
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 76
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 420

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11. Israel

Ever since the young nation established its borders, Israel has been at war with each of its five neighboring nations. However, thanks to powerful allies, a large defense budget and a highly committed personnel, Israel emerged victorious every single time. Today, 1 out of every 9 Israelis are active military members – an ever-increasing ratio.

  • Active Personnel: 980,000
  • Defense Budget: $15,800,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 14,950
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 48
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 681

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10. Turkey

Turkey was the first to launch military tech-development programs when China showed their demand for upgraded armed forces. As a result, their troops have been provided with next-generation equipment and training. And now, after Russia’s threads of all-out war, Turkey attempts to double their manpower manpower by the end of the year.

  • Active Personnel: 595,000
  • Defense Budget: $18,180,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 12,600
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 811
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 1,007

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9. Japan

The military restrictions applied after World War II didn’t stop Japan from developing one of the world’s largest armies. The tiny island nation has a world-class air force, supported by three aircraft carriers and 17 modern submarines.

  • Active Personnel: 307,000
  • Defense Budget: $18,180,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 4,150
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 999
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 1,590

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8. Germany

It took Germany 25 years to restore its status as Europe’s largest economy. Since most Germans born after WWII are anti-war, the nation’s defense budget was kept to a minimum for decades. That all changed when Russia became a thread to Europe. 100 years after the first world war, Germany’s army is once again the best-funded military of the region. Due to a lack of manpower, they focus on developing an unmatched fleet of unmanned air crafts

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  • Active Personnel: 307,000
  • Defense Budget: $36,680,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 6,350
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 44
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 676

Out of 307,000, only half are currently serving – the rest are active reserve troops. So Germany makes up for a lack of quantity by equipping each soldier with over $20k worth of military equipment. It goes without saying that their special forces are equipped better then anyone else in the world.

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7. South Korea

South Korea has been pressured into developing such a large army by aggressive neighbors. Except North Korea, they feel threatened by China and India, who are on the lookout for a solution to their over-population problem.

  • Active Personnel: 3,515,000
  • Defense Budget: $33,200,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 12,700
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 214
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 1,451

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6. France

The size of French military has been steadily growing, not unlike the nations defense budget. Their Special Ops troops have taken the initiative in the fight against ISIS in Afghanistan and Libya.

  • Active Personnel: 405,000
  • Defense Budget: $35,000,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 69,700
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 44
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 1,282

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India is the world’s largest Democracy with the fastest-growing economy. Its military boasts the second largest amount of active-service troops as well as the world’s most powerful naval fleet. India will continue to expand its army for as long as China does, in fear of an invasion. China wouldn’t get into a full-our war. But they possibly promised to take back a few disputed territories back from India.

  • Active Personnel: 3,432,000
  • Defense Budget: $40,000,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 21,750
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 292
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 2,089

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4. United Kingdom

The only thing keeping the British military out of the top tree is a lack of raw manpower. As far as defense goes, the United Kingdom is the safest place i the world – it has more military capabilities per square mile than the rest of the world. The 150,000 troops are backed by $55 billion/year.

  • Active Personnel: 332,000
  • Defense Budget: $55,000,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 6,600
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 42
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 879

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3. Russia

Even while facing the worst economic crisis since 2008, Russia is increasing the defense budget faster than ever before. Though it won’t ever become the largest, the military is mostly made up of offensive troops. Of course, since fear of a nuclear holocaust is the only universal motivation for peace, Russia will only use those offensive troops against non-nuclear nations.

  • Active Personnel: 3,312,000
  • Defense Budget: $46,600,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 57,000
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 3,790
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 3,547

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2. China

China has one obvious advantage – a population of 1.3 billion. Its military is financed better then ever, though not good enough just yet. Most analysts believe it’s just a matter of time before China starts grabbing land, though most think they’ll out for buying/renting it. Either way, its military grows at an increasingly faster rate every single year.

  • Active Personnel: 4,612,000
  • Defense Budget: $155,600,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 24,000
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 1,770
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 2,942

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1. United States

That’s right – the American army is still number one. As a matter of fact, the U.S. defense budget is larger than Russia’s, China’s, India’s and the UK’s combined.

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  • Active Personnel: 2,500,000
  • Defense Budget: $581,600,000,000
  • Armed land vehicles: 54,500
  • Multi-launch Rocket Systems: 1,300
  • Aircraft (fighters, interceptors, attack copters): 13,790

Our forces are at war all over the Middle East and in some African countries. The strategy has always remained the same, so the air force is still the only part of U.S. military that plays an active role in the war on ISIS.

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2 thoughts on “Top 25 World’s Largest Armies”

    • Actually, Russia’s in third place and the U.S. of A. tops the list.
      I’m guessing you didn’t see all the slides;)

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