With constant military threats and alliance shifts, countries continue to build their military capabilities, both in terms of personnel and technology.
China ranks as the country with the largest number of active military personnel, with the United States coming in at number two. Hence, it is no surprise that both states also rank in the top five of countries with the strongest military. Egypt, at number ten is the only African country on this list with 438,500 active military personnel.
See the full list below.
Active military personnel: 2,035,000
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and of its founding and ruling political party, the Communist Party of China (CPC). The PLA consists of five professional service branches: the Ground Force, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, and the Strategic Support Force. The PLA is the world’s largest military force and with a budget of $177.6 billion, constitutes the second largest defence budget in the world. It is one of the fastest modernising military powers in the world and has been termed as a potential military superpower, with significant regional defense and rising global power projection capabilities.
Active military personnel: 1,440,000
The Indian Armed Forces consists of three professional uniformed services: the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force. The Indian Armed Forces are under the management of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of the Government of India. With strength of over 1.4 million active personnel, it is the world’s second-largest military force and has the world’s largest volunteer army.
3. United States of America
Active military personnel: 1,358,193
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America. It consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and forms military policy with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), both federal executive departments, acting as the principal organs by which military policy is carried out. The United States Armed Forces has the biggest military budget in the world with US$693 billion in 2019.
4. Russian Federation
Active military personnel: 1,013,628
The Russian Armed Forces are the military forces of the Russian Federation, established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On 7 May 1992, Boris Yeltsin signed a presidential decree establishing the Russian Ministry of Defence and placing all Soviet Armed Forces troops on the territory of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic under Russian control. The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is the President of Russia. Russia is also the world’s second largest arms exporter.
5. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Active military personnel: 950,000
The Korean People’s Army is the armed wing of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and constitutes the de facto military forces of North Korea. The KPA consists of five branches: Ground Force, the Navy, the Air Force, the Strategic Rocket Forces, and the Special Operation Force. The army is the central institution of North Korean society under the Songun policy. Kim Jong-un is its Supreme Commander and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission.
Active military personnel: 653,000
The Pakistan Armed Forces comprise four main service branches – Army, Navy, Air Force and paramilitary forces and the Strategic Plans Division Force. Chain of command of the military is organised under the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) alongside chiefs of staff of the army, navy, and air force. All of the branches work together during operations and joint missions under the Joint Staff Headquarters.The Pakistan Armed Forces is the sixth largest in the world in terms of active military personnel and the largest among Muslim countries.
7. Republic of Korea
Active military personnel: 599,000
The Republic of Korea Armed Forces, also known as the ROK Armed Forces, are the armed forces of South Korea. The forces were founded in 1948, following the establishment of the South Korean government after Korea’s liberation from the Empire of Japan. South Korea’s military forces are responsible for maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, and also engage in peacekeeping operations and humanitarian, disaster-relief efforts worldwide.
Active military personnel: 523,000
The Iranian Armed Forces comprise the Army (Artesh), the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepāh) and the Law Enforcement Force (Police) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. All branches of armed forces fall under the command of General Staff of Armed Forces.
Active military personnel: 482,000
The People’s Army of Vietnam, also known as the Vietnamese People’s Army (VPA), is the military force of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Branches of the Vietnam People’s Armed Forces include: Ground Force, Navy, Air Force, Border Defence Force, and Coast Guard. All ground troops, army corps, military districts and specialised arms belong to the Ministry of Defence, directly under the command of the Central Military Commission, the Minister of Defence, and the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army.
Active military personnel: 438,500
The Egyptian Armed Forces are the state military organisation responsible for the defense of Egypt. They consist of the Egyptian Army, Egyptian Navy, Egyptian Air Force and Egyptian Air Defense Forces. The Central Security Forces comes under the control of the Ministry of Interior. The Border Guard Forces falls under the control of the Ministry of Defense.