Society - Culture
By: - at July 7, 2015

Top 15 Countries With the Strongest Military

There are many ways in which one may measure the strength of a military, but one of the most logical ways of doing so would be to consider the manpower behind the military. With nearly every country in the world having a substantial amount of their population in the military, the top 15 countries in the world with the most military service personnel are certainly forces to be reckoned with.

U.S. Army Rangers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
u.s. troops

We have listed the top 15 militaries in the world according to the amount of people that are currently operating in the military, regardless of roles and including the reserve military. Many people assume that the United States has the biggest and best military in the world, but the following list might surprise you!

15)  Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
The army of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as the People’s Army, is the largest military in the world. Currently active in the military are 1,106,000 and there are a further 8,200,000 in the reserve military. In the paramilitary there are 189,000 available, making the whole population of the People’s Army a massive 9,495,000.

north korea

The army is controlled mostly through the National Defense Commission, which was led by Kim Jong-il until 2011. Today, the Ministry of Peoples Armed Forces and the staff department manage the army.

Since 1990, a number of transformations and changes have occurred within the People’s Army and its leadership, giving it a whole now control structure. These changes were made as a measure of ensuring the power of former leader Kim Jong-il, but today, the Republic is led by Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un

The People’s Army is made of up of a Navy, a Ground Force, an Air Force and Rocket Forces. There have been numerous missile tests, from 1993 right up until 2009. Despite being the largest army in the world, however, the army is considered to be lacking in terms of technological advances, after its 2009 missile test ended in disaster. Regardless of technological prowess, however, it remains the largest army in the world.

14)  Vietnam
The Vietnamese army has an active military of 455,000 and a reserve military of 5,000,000, meaning that its reserve military makes up most of its force. There are just 40,000 in the paramilitary. In total, however, the nation has more than 5,495,000 soldiers, making it the second largest army in the world.


The Vietnamese Army, otherwise known as the People’s Army of Vietnam, is the armed force that protects the socialist republic. The army includes its own Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Border Defense Force. There is not official Ground Force that the country uses, however, as all of the ground troops technically belong to the ministry of Defense, and not the army.

Vietnamese Troops on Spratly Island
Vietnamese Troops

The Vietnamese Army was first created in 1944 during the Military Conference of the Revolutionary Party. The army was created as a way of driving the Japanese and French colonizers out of the country. The first unit of the army consisted of just three women and 31 men. There were just 17 rifles available, two revolvers and a one machine gun. It was in 1950 that the army had grown and become the People’s Army of Vietnam.

Vietnam has not, since 1990, had any of its forced stationed internationally. It is considered insignificant with regards to modern international conflict, but its manpower is significantly bigger than any country involved in conflict today.

13)  Republic of Korea
The Republic of Korea Army is the official armed forces for South Korea. The army has been active since the 5thSeptember 1948, and today has a total of 5,187,000 people in its active army and reserve. Active in the military, the Republic of Korea has more than Vietnam, with 687,000 soldiers. There are 1,000,000 in the reserve army, and a further 3,500,000 in the paramilitary, which is more than in Vietnam and North Korea combined.

South Korean Forces
South Korean Forces

The army is designed to operate in the mountainous terrain that makes up a large proportion of the Korean Peninsula, and it is also designed to work as a domestic self-defense system. South Korea, whilst it has been engaged in the Vietnam War, Korean War, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan War and Iraq War would not be able to withstand an attack from North Korea, should there be one in the future.

Secretary of Defense Carter Thanks U.S. and South Korean Soldiers
South Korean Soldiers

The army is split into three organizations, which include the First Army, Second Operational Command and the Third Army. Each section of the army has its own divisions and head quarters, and are responsible for the capital city, as well as a number of areas across the state. As of 2014, the First and Third Armies will be combined to create the First Operations Command.

12)  India
The Indian Army has an active military of 1,325,000, which is significantly larger than any of the top three. When the reserve military and paramilitary are combined, India has a total manpower of 4,768,407.

Soldiers from 4th Rajput Battalion
indian army

The Indian Armed Forces include the Army, Navy and Air Force with support from Paramilitary forces. Today, the Armed Forces is commanded by President Pranab Mukjerjee. The army has a number of domestic suppliers, including the shipbuilders and engineers, Garden Reach, Goa Shipyard Limited, Indian Ordnance Factories and Hindustan Aeronautics. The army also has a number of foreign suppliers, including Russia, France, Israel, Bulgaria, the Ukraine and the United States.

indian army
By Antônio Milena via Wikimedia Commons

India has one of the longest military histories in the world, dating back thousands of years. The very first record of an Indian Armed Forces can be found in the Mahabaratha, Ramayana and the Vedas. What’s more, maritime history in India goes back more than 5,000 years. It is thought that the very first tidal dock to be built was in India. It was built around the time of 2300 BC in Lothal, near what we know today as Magrol harbor.

11)  People’s Republic of China
The Armed Forces of the People’s Republic of China is the 5th largest in the world, with an active military of more than 2,285,000 and a reserve military of 800,000. There is also a paramilitary of 1,500,000, and despite being the 5th largest, it is certainly the largest in terms of active military. Today, the armed forces include a Military Police Force, Air Force, Army and Navy.

chinese soldiers

Nearly 17% of the central budget for 2003, in China, was spent on the military. It is ranked as the 20th most expensive military in the world.

Chinese Tanker Soldiers Meeting U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace
chinese army

In was in 1950 that the politicization of the armed forces in China became apparent, when a director of the Secret Police was appointed. The new director, Chiang Ching-kuo, was educated in the Soviet Union and had extensive experience working in surveillance and the military. Controversy was rife with this move, and when Sun Li-en, an American-educated individual, opposed the appointment, Ching-kuo had Li-jen arrested. Li-Jen was kept under house arrest until 1955.

10)  Russian Federation
The Russian Federation has more than 1,040,000 people active in its military, and a further 2,035,000 in its reserve military. The paramilitary has another 449,000 available, meaning that the size of the entire Russian army is roughly 3,524,000.

The Russian Armed Forces is roughly 27 years ago, and today, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief is the President, Vladimir Putin. 2013 statistics show that the budget of the Russian Armed forces was a huge $90.7 billon, which was 4.4% of the Gross Domestic Product of the nation.

Russian TOS-1A MRL (Multiple Rocket Launcher)
Russian Federation
By Aleksey Toritsyn via Wikimedia Commons

The Russian Armed Forces have a number of domestic suppliers that include Admirality, Yantar and Northern Shipyards, GAZ, KAMAZ, Kamov, Tupolev, Ilyushin and Sukhoi. The Russian Armed Forces also provides a large amount of exports, giving resources to Peru, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iraq, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Romania, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Palestine, Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brazil and a number of other nations.

Utility Truck
Utility Truck
By Captainm via Wikimedia Commons

Branches of the forces include the Ground Forces, Air Force, Navy, Missile Troops, Aerospace Defense Forces and the Airborne Troops.

9)  Iran
Iran follows Russia closely as the seventh largest armed forces in the world, with an active military of 523,000, and a reserve military of 350,000. While these seem like modest figures compared to the top six, the country makes up for it in its large paramilitary. Latest statistics show that Iran has a substantial paramilitary that equates to more than 1,510,000 troops.

iran army

The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran include a number of branches. These are the Army, Ground Force, Air Force, Air Defense Force, Navy and the IRGC. The United States Central Commander, John Abizad, once called the force the most powerful armed forces in the Middle East.

The Iranian Armed Forces have a number of foreign suppliers, including China, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Cuba, Belarus and North Korea. There are many domestic suppliers, too, including Defense Industries, Iran Aviation Industries, Aerospace Industries and the Iran Electronics Industries. The army also has an extensive military history, having been involved with a number of wars. Iran has defended itself against Anglo-Soviet invasion and the Iran Crisis of 1946. There was also the Dhofar Rebellion, Seizoure of Abu Musa and the Consolidation of the Iranian Revolution. There was also the Iran and Iraq War, and the armed forces have also been involved with the Kurdish civil war. The Heart Uprising was another conflict that the Iranian Armed Forces were involved with, along with the Syrian civil war.

Iranian Army in Tehran
Iranian Army

The Iranian Armed Forces had a budget of around $7.31 billion in 2007, according to London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, and this was a lower figure than other nations within the Persian Gulf.

8)  United States of America
While the United States of America does indeed have one of the most influential militaries in the world, it is often mistaken for being the biggest. This is simply not the case, and is in fact the eighth largest in the world. There is a substantial active military of 1,429,995, which is larger than any of the other armed forces before it. However, the reserve military and paramilitary only bring up the total figure to 2,291,910, which is less than Iran.

U.S. Soldiers in Iraq
U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

The US Armed Forces’ Commander-in-Chief is the incumbent president, President Barack Obama. The Secretary of Defense is Chuck Hagel, and the Chairman of the Joint is General Martin Dempsey. The minimum age of anybody signing up to the military is 17 years old, as long as there is parental consent. Voluntary service is available for anyone of a minimum of 18 years of age. Maximum age of enlistment is 28 to join the Marines, 34 to join the Navy and 27 to join the Air Force. Nobody older than 35 can join the US Army.

U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

The US Armed Forces might not be the largest in the world, but it is certainly the most expensive. In 2011, the country spent an estimate of 4.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product on the military.

The US Armed Forces has an extensive history, having been involved with the first American Revolutionary War, continental expansion, Civil War, WWI & WWII, the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Grenada and Panama invasions and the Persian Gulf War. More recently, the American Armed Forces have been involved with the Kosovo War, War in Afghanistan and the Iraq war.

Within the US Armed Forces, there are numerous ranks. These include Army officers, warrant officers and enlister. There are also Marine Corps officers, warrant officers and enlisted, and this trend continues for the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard.

7)  Brazil
The Brazilian Armed Forces currently have an active military that includes 327,710 troops. There is a reserve military of a sizeable 1,340,000 and a paramilitary of 395,000. This means that the country has a large 2,062,7109 troops available should it need them.

Brazilian Paratroopers
Brazilian Paratroopers
By Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons

The Armed Forces of Brazil include the Air Force, Army and Navy, and their headquarters can be found at the Ministry of Defense. The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is President Dilma Rousseff and the Minister of Defense is Celso Amorim.

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 45 can be conscripted for compulsory military service, and this conscription will last between 9 and 12 months.

Brazilian Army Parade
Brazilian Army Parade
By Victor Soares via Wikimedia Commons

As well as the armed forces, there is also a Military Police that works alongside the Military Firefighters. These are all reserve forces for the Army. The Brazilian Navy is the oldest section of the Brazilian Armed Forces and it includes Naval Aviation and Marine Corps. Brazil also boasts the most significant and powerful military in the whole of South America.

6)  Republic of China (Taiwan)
The Republic of China, otherwise known as Taiwan, has an active military consisting of 290,000 personnel. There is a reserve military of 1,657,000 and a paramilitary of 17,000, making the overall size of the Taiwanese Armed Forces 1,964,000.

R.O.C.  Military Parade
republic of china

The Republic of China Armed Forces has four branches, including the Military Police, Air Force, Navy and the Army. The Minister of National Defense is Yen Mind, and the Chief of General Staff is Kao Kuang-chi. The Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of China Armed Forces is the President, Ma Ying-jeou.

Skyguard Sparrow Missile Launcher
Taiwan Army
By 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons

Until the 1970s, the primary mission of the armed forces of the Republic of China’s mission was to retake mainland China away from the communist Republic of China. Currently, the mission of the Republic of China’s Armed Forces is to defend the island of Taiwan, as well as Matsu, Quemoy and Penghu. Today, a conflict remains between the Republic of China and the communist People’s Republic of China.

5)  Pakistan
Pakistan’s Armed Forces has a total of 1,434,000 troops available. These include 617,000 active military personnel, as well as 513,000 reserve military personnel and more than 304,000 paramilitary troops.

pakistani forces
By Al Jazeera via Wikimedia Commons

The Pakistan Armed Forces have four branches, including the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Army. The armed forces for the country were founded in 1947, and today, the chairman of the armed forces is General Khalid Shameen Wynne. The Secretary of Defense is Lt. Gen. AsifYaseen Malik and the Chief of Army Staff is General AshfaqParvezKayani.

The armed forces was founded when Pakistan first became independent from the British Empire, and since its liberation, the forces have played a large part in the history of the country. The armed forces appeared because of the wars against India that occurred in 1947 and 1965, and later in 2008, the country spent 2.6% of its Gross Domestic Product on its armed forces.

pakistani forces
By Al Jazeera via Wikimedia Commons

As well as the Indo-Pakistani wars, the armed forces of Pakistan have been involved with an operation in Balochistan in the 1970s, the Kargil War, Siachen Conflict and the Shia Insurgency in Yemen. There has also been a war in the North West of Pakistan in historically recent years.

4)  Egypt
Egypt has a total of 1,344,500 troops in its armed forces, which include 468,500 active troops, 479,000 reserve troops and 397,000 paramilitary troops.

Egypt army

The Egyptian Armed Forces are the largest armed forces to be found in the whole of Africa and the Middle East. They are the 10th most powerful in the world, and the armed forces consist of the Air Defense Command, the Navy, Army and Air Force. Their armed forces were founded in 1922, and their headquarters can be found in Cairo.

Anybody between the ages of 18 and 49 can apply to work in the military, and the conscription in the country can last between one and three years, depending on individual circumstances.

Egyptian Security Forces
Egyptian Security Forces

The armed forces have a large amount of power in Egypt. Throughout most of the history of the Republic of Egypt, either active or retired officers and personnel from the military have been in charge of the state. In July 2012, the first civilian was democratically elected into office to serve as president, but was later removed after a military coup in July 2013.

The Egyptian Armed Forces have been involved in a number of conflicts since the Second World War, including the Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian Revolution, Tripartite Aggression, North Yemeni Civil War, Six Day War, Nigerian Civil War, War of Attrition, Shaba I, the Libyan and Egyptian War and the Golf War.

3)  Cuba
Cuba has a relatively small active military, with just 49,000 troops available. Despite this, the country has a large military reserve, which accounts for around 1,159,000 people, and also has 26,500 available in the paramilitary. This means that Cuba has a combined armed force of around 1,234,000 people, which is more than nearly all Western nations.

cuban army
By PRA via Wikimedia Commons

The Cuban Armed Forces were founded in 1960, and their branches include their paramilitary units, the Navy, Air defense Force and the Army. The Commander-in-Chief of the army is their President, Raul Castro, and the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces is Corps Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias.

cuban soldiers

The armed forces of Cuba is officially known as the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, and it has a number of foreign suppliers, including Russia, China, North Korea and the Soviet Union. The forces of Cuba have SAMs, ballistic missiles, anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft guns, multi rocket launchers, self-propelled artillery, towed artillery, armored personnel carriers, main battle tanks and more.

2)  Ukraine
The Ukraine Armed Forces have a massive 1,000,000 troops available in its reserve military, with a further 129,925 troops available in its active military. What’s more, the country has more than 84,900 available in the paramilitary, making the total sum of troops available more than 1,214,825.

The Uktraine Armed Forces are led by their Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Viktor Yanukovych. The Minister of Defense is Pavlo Lebedyev, and their forces were founded in 1917. Later, in December 1991, the armed forces were reconstituted.

Soldiers of the 79th Airmobile Brigade

The Ukraine is a non-aligned state, which means that the company has a positive relationship with its neighboring nation, the Russian Federation. For this reason, the Ukraine allows some of the Russian Federation’s armed forces to stay and operate on Ukrainian soil.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces are spread across the Navy, the Air Force and the Ground Force. Most of the forces are made up of people who have been conscribed into the army, and its overall personnel includes more than 41,000 civilian workers.

Sleeve Patch for the 11th Army Aviation Regiment

In 1996, the state adopted the State Programme for the Building and Development of the Armed Forced of Ukraine. This was a new the beginning of the creation of a new kind of military district. Today, there are also numerous Guard units in operation, which are in place due to the influence of the once-Soviet Armed Forces.

1)  Turkey
Turkey has the 15th largest armed forces in the world with a total of 664,060 troops active within its military. On top of this, there are a further 378,700 available in the reserves, and another 152,200 people available in the paramilitary. This means that the country has a sum total of 1,194,960 troops available should it go to war.

Turkish Army

The Turkish Armed Forces are the military forces used to defend the Republic of Turkey. These armed forces include the Naval Aviation and Naval Infantry, the Air Force and the Army. The armed forces of the nation were first formed in 1920, and today, the headquarters of the forces can be found in the city of Ankara.

Turkish Army Chief and His Administration
Turkish Army

The Supreme Military Commander of the forces is the President Abdullah Gul, and the Minister of National Defence is Ismet Yilmaz. Anybody over the age of 20 can sign up to work in the army, and there is a conscription of young people in the country that will last between six and 12 months, depending on the amount of education that the individual has received.

In 2011, Turkey spent around 2.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product on the armed services, and its domestic suppliers included the Mechanical and Chemical Corporation.

Ultimately, the power and force of an armed force depends on a number of things. The size of a military is a good indicator of the power behind a military force, however, the United Kingdom is a great example of how a military can be influential and powerful regardless of size. Despite not being one of the 15 largest militaries in the world, the United Kingdom is one of the most important military partners of the United States.

Today, we can measure the power of a military force by the technology it has available, funding available from the government, troops available and past success rates in conflicts.





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