War games

The most powerful militaries on earth ranked from 20 to 1

You probably won’t be surprised at the top three.

Japan US Military The US aircraft carrier fleet easily outstrips everybody else. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

DESPITE BUDGET CUTS and a reduction in size, the US has maintained its position as the world’s strongest military, according to a report on globalisation from Credit Suisse.

While the US is still far and away the world’s top military superpower, Russia and China are its closest rivals. Canada, however, is the weakest of the 20 countries on the list.

Credit Suisse acknowledged the difficulties of determining comparative military strength in its report. To provide a benchmark, the report assigns weighted values for six variables before tabulating a final score.

The factors under consideration for military strength and their total weights are: number of active personnel (5% of total score), tanks (10%), attack helicopters (15%), aircraft (20%), aircraft carriers (25%), and submarines (25%).

The ranking defines military might in purely quantitative terms and does not account for the actual quality of the arms and training that the militaries may have. As such, the placement of some countries on the list may come as a surprise.

The world’s 20 strongest militaries are below.

20) Canada

canada Facebook / CanadianForces Facebook / CanadianForces / CanadianForces

Budget: $15.7 billion
Active frontline personnel: 92,000
Tanks: 181
Total aircraft: 420
Submarines: 4

Canada ended up at the bottom of the list due to the country’s small number of active personnel, its lack of aircraft carriers and attack helicopters, and its small number of tanks and submarines. However, Canada has still taken part in US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and it is a member of the NATO military alliance.

Canada is also a partner in the US F-35 programme, although it may decline the purchase of F-35s depending upon the outcome of elections in October.

19) Indonesia

Budget: $6.9 billion
Active frontline personnel: 476,000
Tanks: 468
Total aircraft: 405
Submarines: 2

The Indonesian military placed above Canada due its high numbers of active personnel and its relatively large number of tanks. The military, however, suffers from a lack of carriers and aircraft, as well as a minute number of submarines.

18) Germany

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Budget: $40.2 billion
Active frontline personnel: 179,046
Tanks: 408
Total aircraft: 663
Submarines: 4

The German military ended up low on the list due to their lack of power projection platforms. Germany does not have an aircraft carrier and has relatively few submarines which, according to the Credit Suisse methodology, drops its ranking.

But Germany does have a fair number of attack helicopters. Recently, the country has started considering offering military support to eastern European NATO members.

17) Poland

Budget: $9.4 billion
Active frontline personnel: 120,000
Tanks: 1,009
Total aircraft: 467
Submarines: 5

Poland edges out Germany in the list due to its larger number of tanks and a more fleshed out submarine fleet. Poland has also drastically increased its military spending in reaction to Russia’s seizure of Crimea and the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

16) Thailand

Thailand Politics Apichart Weerawong / PA Images Apichart Weerawong / PA Images / PA Images

Budget: $5.39 billion
Active frontline personnel: 306,000
Tanks: 722
Total aircraft: 573
Submarines: 0

Thailand’s military is currently in control of the country following a coup in May 2014. The military is a major player in maintaining Thai unity, and Thailand receives strong scores from Credit Suisse for its number of active personnel, its number of tanks, and its possession of an aircraft carrier.

Thailand also scores well as it has an aircraft carrier, although it does not have an aircraft fleet to complement the vessel.

15) Australia

Budget: $26.1 billion
Active frontline personnel: 58,000
Tanks: 59
Total aircraft: 408
Submarines: 6

Australia’s military is comparatively small — it receives bottom scores on the report for the number of active personnel and the number of tanks. It also receives near bottom scores for the number of aircraft it has in its fleet.

Credit Suisse boosts Australia’s ranking due to its attack helicopters and submarines though.

14) Israel

Mideast Israel Syria An Israeli soldier stands next to a mobile artillery near the border with Syria. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Budget: $17 billion
Active frontline personnel: 160,000
Tanks: 4,170
Total aircraft: 684
Submarines: 5

In absolute terms, Israel has a small military. But with mandatory military service a large percentage of the Israeli population is militarily ready. Israel also has a large tank, aircraft, and attack helicopter fleet.

Israel also has qualitative military advantages. It has space assets, advanced fighter jets, high-tech armed drones, and nuclear weapons.

13) Taiwan

Budget: $10.7 billion
Active frontline personnel: 290,000
Tanks: 2,005
Total aircraft: 804
Submarines: 4

Threatened by China, which continues to have plans for how to invade and retake the country, Tawain has focused its military development on defensive plans. As such, the island has the fifth highest number of attack helicopters in the list. It also has a fairly large fleet of aircraft and a number of tanks.

12) Egypt

Mideast Israel Egypt AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Budget: $4.4 billion
Active frontline personnel: 468,500
Tanks: 4,624
Total aircraft: 1,107
Submarines: 4

The Egyptian military is one of the oldest and largest armed forces in the Middle East. It receives substantial financial aid from the US and has the fifth largest tank fleet in the world. It has over 1,000 M1A1 Abrams tanks, many of which sit in storage and have never been used.

Egypt also has a relatively large aircraft force.

11) Pakistan

Budget: $7 billion
Active frontline personnel: 617,000
Tanks: 2,924
Total aircraft: 914
Submarines: 8

The Pakistani military is one of the largest forces in the world, in terms of active personnel. Credit Suisse also credits the country with having large tank, aircraft, and attack helicopter fleets.

In addition, Pakistan is thought to be building nuclear weapons at a fast enough rate that it could have the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal within the following decade.

10) Turkey

Turkey Army Day Turkey's first military tank, the Altay, seen during a military parade on Victory Day in Ankara. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Budget: $18.2 billion
Active frontline personnel: 410,500
Tanks: 3,778
Total aircraft: 1,020
Submarines: 13

Turkey’s armed forces are one of the largest in the eastern Mediterranean. Although lacking an aircraft carrier, only five countries on Credit Suisse’s list have more submarines than Turkey.

In addition, the country can lay claim to an impressively large tank fleet as well as numerous aircraft and attack helicopters.

Turkey is also a committed member of the F-35 program.

9) United Kingdom

Budget: $60.5 billion
Active frontline personnel: 146,980
Tanks: 407
Total aircraft: 936
Submarines: 10

Although the UK is planning to reduce the size of its armed forces by 20% between 2010 and 2018, it can count on being able to project its power around the world.

The Royal Navy is planning to put the HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier that has a flight deck measuring at 4.5 acres, into service in 2020, carrying 40 F-35B joint strike fighters across the globe.

8) Italy

Lithuania NATO Italy's Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighter. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Budget: $34 billion
Active frontline personnel: 320,000
Tanks: 586
Total aircraft: 760
Submarines: 6

The Italian military placed highly on Credit Suisse’s report due to the country’s possession of two active aircraft carriers. These carriers, in addition to the country’s relatively large submarine and attack helicopter fleets, drastically boosted Italy’s ranking.

7) South Korea

Budget: $62.3 billion
Active frontline personnel: 624,465
Tanks: 2,381
Total aircraft: 1,412
Submarines: 13

South Korea has been left with little choice but to have a large and capable military in the face of potential North Korean aggression. With those realities in mind, South Korea has a number of submarines, attack helicopters, and active personnel.

The country also has numerous tanks and the sixth largest air force in the world.

6) France

France Soldier French woman soldiers are seen on the french Air Force base at Cazaux. Bob Edme / PA Images Bob Edme / PA Images / PA Images

Budget: $62.3 billion
Active frontline personnel: 202,761
Tanks: 423
Total aircraft: 1,264
Submarines: 10

The French military is relatively small but highly trained, professional, and capable of force projection.

The country has the nearly new aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle, and France routinely engages in military deployments throughout Africa to help stabilise governments and fight against extremism.

5) India

Budget: $50 billion
Active frontline personnel: 1,325,000
Tanks: 6,464
Total aircraft: 1,905
Submarines: 15

India is one of the largest military powers on the planet. It has the most active manpower of any country aside from China and the US, in addition to the most tanks and aircraft of any country besides the US, China, or Russia.

India also has access to nuclear weapons. It’s expected to become the fourth highest military spender on earth by 2020.

4) Japan

Japan Unleashing the Troops A line of Japanese tanks during a live-firing exercise and demonstration at south of Tokyo. Koji Sasahara Koji Sasahara

Budget: $41.6 billion
Active frontline personnel: 247,173
Tanks: 678
Total aircraft: 1,613
Submarines: 16

In absolute terms, the Japanese military is relatively small. Nonetheless, the country is extremely well equipped.

According to Credit Suisse, it has the fourth largest submarine fleet in the list. Japan also has four aircraft carriers, although these vessels are only equipped with helicopter fleets.

Japan also has the fourth largest attack helicopter fleet behind China, Russia, and the US.

3) China

Budget: $216 billion
Active frontline personnel: 2,333,000
Tanks: 9,150
Total aircraft: 2,860
Submarines: 67

The Chinese military has grown rapidly in terms of both size and capability in the past few decades. In terms of raw manpower, it’s the largest military in the world. It also has the second largest tank fleet behind Russia and the second largest submarine fleet behind the US.

China has also made rapid strides in its military modernisation program, now developing a range of potentially game-changing military technologies including ballistic missiles and fifth-generation aircraft.

2) Russia

Russia Victory Parade Russian army soldiers march along the Red Square during the Victory Parade in Red Square. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Budget: $84.5 billion
Active frontline personnel: 766,055
Tanks: 15,398
Total aircraft: 3,429
Submarines: 55

The Russian armed forces are the unquestioned second strongest military power in the world. Russia has the world’s largest tank fleet, the second largest aircraft fleet behind the US, and the third largest submarine fleet behind the US and China.

The Kremlin’s military spending has increased by almost a third since 2008 and is expected to grow 44% more in the next three years. Russia has also demonstrated its ability to project force abroad with its deployment of soldiers to Syria.

1) United States

Budget: $601 billion
Active frontline personnel: 1,400,000
Tanks: 8,848
Total aircraft: 13,892
Submarines: 72

Despite sequestration and other spending cuts, the United States spends more money — $601 billion — on defence than the next nine countries on Credit Suisse’s index combined.

America’s biggest conventional military advantage is its fleet of 10 aircraft carriers. In comparison India, which is constructing its third carrier, has the second-most carriers in the world.

The US also has by far the most aircraft of any country, cutting-edge technology like the Navy’s new rail gun, a large and well-trained human force — and that’s not even counting the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

- Business Insider/Jeremy Bender

Read: Here’s the damage North Korea could do if it went to war >

Read: Watch: US military obliterate Islamic State flag planted on Kobane hill >

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