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25 Most Powerful Militaries in the World in 2023

In this article, we look at the 25 Most Powerful Militaries in the World in 2023. To skip our detailed analysis and head directly to the world’s best militaries, go to the 10 Most Powerful Militaries in the World in 2023.

A lot has happened over the last couple of years. Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban. Azerbaijan has seized parts of the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenian control. Regular military skirmishes between China and India are reported in the bordering regions of Ladakh and Aksai Chin. Worst of all, Russia’s war on Ukraine has now gone past 450 days with no end in sight. These events have forced defense experts to dive deeper into the changing dynamics of modern warfare.

Determinants of Military Strength

Results in recent conflicts have shown that having a big military is not alone the most significant criteria to gauge a military’s strength. Manpower, logistics, fleet size and sophistication of tanks, aircrafts, fighter jets, and naval warships are just as important determinants. Other key factors include the professionalism of soldiers, training level of pilots, battle hardness of the armed forces, and arms manufacturing capabilities of the nation. Nuclear deterrence is another key competitive edge that some countries hold over others. This deterrence is based on the assumption that another country will avoid escalating a war to protect its own security. There are geographic advantages as well in the war theater. The United States has over 750 overseas military bases across more than 80 countries, which gives them the capability to conduct raids against enemy targets anywhere in the world.

Defense Industry

Currently, the U.S. alone accounts for nearly 40% of the defense spending worldwide. China, Russia, and countries in the Middle East are also heavily spending billions of dollars on military expenditure per annum. Global military spending increased from $1,139 billion in 2001 to $2,113 billion in 2021 – a rise of nearly 50% in two decades. A report released by the Statista Research Department declared Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) as the largest armament manufacturer in the world in 2021. The American company recorded revenue worth $65 billion from defense related sales that year. The top five leading armament manufacturers in the list were all American companies. Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) was followed by Raytheon Technologies Corporation (NYSE:RTX) at second, with defense sales revenue of over $41 billion. The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) took third spot with $35 billion in revenue. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE:GD) were listed fourth and fifth, with defense revenues of $31.5 billion and $30.8 billion respectively. Aviation Industry Corporation of China was the largest armament manufacturer outside of the U.S., recording $42 billion in revenue.

Military Technology Frontiers

The U.S. continues to maintain air superiority over Russia and China due its fifth-generation fighter jets. These jets include major technologies developed during the 21st century, such as “stealth” which differentiates them from previous generations of jets. These new and advanced fighter jets come with special paint and other features which make it hard for the enemy radars to detect them. In 2005, the U.S. became the first country to launch a fifth-generation fighter jet, with Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT)’s F-22 Raptor. The F-35B Lightening II was introduced in 2015 by Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) to give the U.S. further edge in aerial battles. Russia, with Su-57, and China with its J-20 are other countries that have their own fifth-generation fighter jets. Japan, India, Turkey, and Sweden are currently undergoing initiatives to develop their own fifth-generation fighter jets.

Another key military frontier in recent times has been hypersonic weapons which evade advanced radar systems and travel in the upper atmosphere at about 6,200 km per hour - more than five times the speed of sound. There are two types of hypersonic missiles - the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missile (HCM).

The former has the ability to leave Earth's atmosphere and then plunge back into it. On the other hand, the HCM travels at lightening speed at low levels and can also carry a nuclear warhead. Russia is leading the arms race in hypersonic military technology, and is believed to have at least 42 hypersonic missiles known as Kinzhal, as per the Ukrainian military. The U.S. is also pursuing development of hypersonic weapons. According to a report, the U.S. Department of Defense set aside $3.2 billion in 2021 in R&D financing for hypersonic weapons. China, the UK, and Israel have also conducted basic research on hypersonic military technology alongside other countries.


We have considered a mix of quantitative and qualitative metrics to rank the best militaries in the world. The quantitative metrics include gross domestic product (GDP) and defense spending of countries in the year 2022, number of active military personnel in service, fleet size of combat tanks, nuclear warheads, number of fighter jets and naval vessels, active airfields, military satellites, overseas military bases, and cyber capability. Weights have been assigned to each metric and aggregated to determine the rank of strength for each military. Qualitatively, factors such as combat experience, and recognized professionalism and training of active military personnel have been considered. These are important factors because in the last decade or so, new players have emerged as top spenders on military expenditure, but their manpower lacks the required level of experience and expertise to handle sophisticated equipment. Some of the prominent metrics in our weightings have also been highlighted in the list.

Statistics and analysis from a wide range of sources have been carefully studied for preparing this list. These include Janes, Global Firepower Index of 2023, Flight International, Belfar Center's National Cyber Security Index of 2022 (which measures countries' cyber capability on a scale of 1-100), The Power Atlas, and various media publications.

25 Most Powerful Militaries in the World in 2023
25 Most Powerful Militaries in the World in 2023


Here are the 25 most powerful militaries in the world in 2023.

25. Thailand

GDP: $524 billion

Defense spending: $6.3 billion

Manpower: 350,000

Tanks: 587

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 469

Naval vessels: 292

Thailand’s defense expenditure has grown over the years, and has been driven by factors such as external security threats, modernization program, and arms race in the neighborhood. Since 2006, ASEAN member countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia have more than doubled their military spending due to regional disputes, such as in the South China Sea.

24. Canada

GDP: $2,140 billion

Defense spending: $36.3 billion

Manpower: 70,000

Tanks: 82

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 380

Naval vessels: 61

With over $36 billion in defense spending in 2022, Canada is emerging as a major military strength. In January, 2023, the government announced it was buying 88 F-35 stealth fifth-generation fighter jets, developed by Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT), in a bid to enhance Arctic security and meet NATO spending obligations. Canada has an active military manpower of 70,000 with 82 tanks and 61 naval vessels. It also has 1,467 airfields which are testament of Canada’s logistical capabilities.

23. Netherlands

GDP: $1,020 billion

Defense spending: $13.7 billion

Manpower: 35,000

Tanks: 18

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 156

Naval vessels: 61

Netherlands finds its place among the top militaries in the world in 2023 primarily due to investments in air power. It currently has a fleet of 156 military aircraft, including 40 F-16 and 13 F-35 fighter jets. Its combat tanks are only 18, and that is because in 2011, the Dutch government, as a cost-cutting measure, eliminated its entire force of 60 tanks. However, a GDP now of over $1 trillion allows the Dutch government to spend and raise its tanks fleet again.

22. Australia

GDP: $1,700 billion

Defense spending: $30 billion

Manpower: 60,500

Tanks: 59

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 430

Naval vessels: 43

In May 2023, Australia proposed a defense budget of $30 billion, and announced to purchase nuclear submarines, the SSN-AUKUS, as part of a three-way agreement involving Australia, the UK, and the U.S. The fleet size of Australia’s military purpose aircrafts stands at 430, which also includes 37 F-35A fighter jets. An order for 72 more of these fifth-generation fighter jets has been placed with Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT). With a tank fleet of 59 and active military personnel of over 60,000, Australia finds its place among the 25 most powerful militaries in 2023.

21. Egypt

GDP: $475 billion

Defense spending: $4.35 billion

Manpower: 440,000

Tanks: 4,664

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 1,062

Naval vessels: 245

Egypt is another powerful country on the list from the MENA region. It has an active military manpower of 440,000, with over 4,000 tanks, more than 1,000 aircrafts and fighter jets, and 245 naval assets. The country receives military assistance worth $1.3 billion per year from the United States to facilitate the transition from outdated Soviet era equipment. Egypt has a fleet of 168 F-16 fourth-generation fighter jets, and is purchasing 30 units of Rafale jets and 12 CH-47F Chinooks to further boost its air force capabilities. Sisi’s government has increased defense expenditure amid ongoing terrorism in the Sinai peninsula and instability in Libya. Under a contract between the United States and Egypt, Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) will provide sustainment and technical support to Egypt’s E-2 aircrafts.

20. Iran

GDP: $368 billion

Defense spending: $5.5 billion

Manpower: 575,000

Tanks: 4,071

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 543

Naval vessels: 101

Much of Iran’s military strength is owed to its manpower and combat tanks fleet. Global sanctions have impeded the country’s economic growth and subsequently its ability to upgrade its air and naval power. The country ranks amongst the lowest in both cyber security and space presence. However, despite these challenges, Iran makes the list due to the battle-hardness and strength of its ground forces as well as its ICBM arsenal.

19. Indonesia

GDP: $1,200 billion

Defense spending: $8.8 billion

Manpower: 400,000

Tanks: 314

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 461

Naval vessels: 324

Indonesia is next on the list. In 2023, the country allocated $8.8 billion on developing the country’s primary defense system. This includes an order of shipment of 42 Rafale fighter jets and two Scorpene submarines. With a GDP of around $1.2 trillion, Indonesia has the potential to further develop itself as a key security player in the southeast Asia region.

18. Brazil

GDP: $1,920 billion

Defense spending: $21.8 billion

Manpower: 360,000

Tanks: 466

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 679

Naval vessels: 112

Brazil’s GDP is nearing $2 trillion. It has an active manpower in military of 360,000, and up to 87 million people – 40% of the population – who are fit for military service if required to join. The South American country boasts 4,093 active airfields, which is the second most in the world, after the United States. Advantages over manpower and logistics make Brazil one of the most powerful militaries in the world in 2023. The government is spending heavily on modernizing its defense, and has procured 36 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden to strengthen its air force. It is also upgrading its surveillance radars under a contract with Raytheon Technologies Corporation (NYSE:RTX).

17. Spain

GDP: $1,450 billion

Defense spending: $14.88 billion

Manpower: 120,000

Tanks: 327

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 503

Naval vessels: 166

Spain spends only about 1% of its GDP on defense. Despite that, it has one of Europe’s most powerful militaries. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the government in Madrid declared to boost military expenditure to meet NATO’s defense spending targets. It plans to double military spending by 2029 and is currently increasing the number of troops deployed in eastern Europe.

16. Italy

GDP: $2,107 billion

Defense spending: $32 billion

Manpower: 170,000

Tanks: 197

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 862

Naval vessels: 313

Italy ranks eleventh in the world on defense spending. Its armed forces are highly regarded for their capabilities, as well as contributions in international peacekeeping efforts. Defense experts have put key focus on the strength Italy possesses in combat helicopters and aircraft carrier warships. Currently, it has over 862 military aircraft, of which more than 400 are helicopters. Italy also has a fleet of 14 F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets. On the naval side, it has 2 aircraft carrier warships – the Giuseppe Garibaldi and Cavour.

15. Ukraine

GDP: $200 billion

Defense spending: $44 billion

Manpower: 200,000

Tanks: 1,890

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 318

Naval vessels: 38

Ukraine’s response to Russian invasion has received acclaim from security experts across the world. The country has channeled billions of dollars into defense to support its war efforts. Kyiv has also received heavy military equipment as aid from allied countries, which has helped boost its military strength. It requires mention that Ukraine has a huge defense industry at home, with manufacturing focused on ballistic missiles and engines for tanks and helicopters. Until 2012, it was the third largest arms exporter in the world. Its tanks fleet currently stands at 1,890 and has over 300 aircraft and fighter jets which have proven instrumental in resisting Russian advances.

The United States in December 2022 awarded Raytheon Technologies Corporation (NYSE:RTX) a $1.2 billion contract to provide Ukraine six advanced surface-to-air missile system batteries. Moreover, Ukraine boasts of high capabilities in cyber security, having a rating score of 75.32 out of 100 in the 2022 Cyber Security Index rankings. A leading software engineering and technology company, Ciklum, that specializes in cyber security has its board chair in Kyiv. Ukraine has developed capabilities in cyber defense as a reaction to multiple cyber attacks from Russia, making Ukraine one of the most powerful militaries on the globe in 2023.

14. Poland

GDP: $686 billion

Defense spending: $45 billion

Manpower: 120,000

Tanks: 569

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 436

Naval vessels: 86

Poland is one of the highest spenders on defense among NATO members. Earlier this year, prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced plans to spend around $100 billion between 2023 and 2035 on procurement of sophisticated weapons and making the Polish army the largest in Europe in terms of manpower – with the goal of touching 250,000 active military personnel. $10 billion have already been spent on acquiring advanced rocket systems. In July 2022, Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) delivered the first of six IBSC Engagement Operations Centers for Poland’s medium-range air and missile defenses.

13. Pakistan

GDP: $377 billion

Defense spending: $7.5 billion

Manpower: 654,000

Tanks: 3,742

Nuclear warheads: 165

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 1,387

Naval vessels: 114

Despite economic challenges, Pakistan spends heavily on defense expenditure due to the perceived threat from archrival India. Turmoil in Afghanistan since the 1980s has also kept Pakistan’s western front prone to violence in the form of tribal militancy in the northwest and cross-border terrorist attacks. The country boasts a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, leapfrogging India in the nuclear arms race. Its battle-hardened military is considered amongst the strongest in the region and also lends security assistance to allies in the GCC. Pakistan’s air fleet comprises 1,387 aircrafts. The air forces’ combat fighter jets include 135 F-7s, 109 JF-17s, and 44 F-16s, among others.

12. Saudi Arabia

GDP: $950 billion

Defense spending: $75 billion

Manpower: 225,000

Tanks: 1,273

Nuclear warheads: 0

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 897

Naval vessels: 57

Saudi Arabia in 2022 returned in the list of the top five spenders on military expenditure, according to a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The kingdom spent an estimated $75 billion on its military, which represents over 7% of its GDP, and more than 40% of all military spending in the Middle East in 2022. Saudi Arabia, which relies on oil as its major source of revenue, has spent heavily on defense in the wake of the Arab Spring in the early 2010s. Since 2015, it has been involved in a military intervention in neighboring Yemen. The Saudi Royal Air Force’s active combat jets include 211 F-15s, 81 Tornado IDS, and 72 Eurofighter Typhoons.

11. Israel

GDP: $502 billion

Defense spending: $22.6 billion

Manpower: 173,000

Tanks: 2,200

Nuclear warheads: 90

Aircrafts including fighter jets: 597

Naval vessels: 67

Israel’s major military strength is derived from its air capabilities. It boasts a fleet of over 600 military aircrafts, of which nearly 40% are fighter jets including 27 F-35 fifth-generation fighters and 175 active F-16s. The country is emerging as a major exporter of air defense systems. Haaretz reports that in two years since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, Israel signed $3 billion worth of defense export agreements with regional countries.

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Disclosure: None. 25 Most Powerful Militaries in the World in 2023 is originally published on Insider Monkey.