Military

The 25 Largest Air Forces on Earth

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

When it comes to the top air forces globally, the United States, Russia, and China are at the forefront, thanks to their massive fleets and advanced technology. Air power is a large part of a country’s military strength, giving it an edge should any conflict arise. How big and capable a country’s air force is can really make a difference in its ability to show power, protect its land, and respond to threats. (These are the world’s future military aircraft.)

Here 24/7 Wall St. is taking a closer look at the largest air forces around the world. To determine the countries with the largest air forces in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2024 Military Strength Ranking from Global Firepower, an annually updated defense-related statistics website with information on 145 countries. We included supplemental information regarding fighter aircraft, attack aircraft, and helicopters. We included the overall military strength score as well which is a composite of over 60 measures in categories such as military might, financials, logistical capability, and geography. The smaller the PowerIndex value the more powerful a nation’s theoretical conventional fighting capability is.

It’s no secret that the United States Air Force is the biggest and most advanced in the world. With over 13,000 aircraft, the Air Force has a wide range of fighter jets, bombers, transport planes, and drones. Some of their top jets are the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, which are known for their stealth, speed, and advanced avionics. The U.S. can reach anywhere in the world quickly because of its extensive network of bases, making it capable of rapid and sustained operations. (This country flies by far the most F-15 Eagle fighter jets.)

Another top air force comes from Russia. It boasts a formidable lineup of fighter jets like the Su-35 and MiG-31, bombers like the Tu-160, and a variety of transport and reconnaissance planes. Russia has focused a lot on modernizing its air force, developing advanced aircraft that can challenge Western air superiority.

Here is a look at the largest air forces in the world:

Why Are We Covering This?

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images

Having a big and capable air force provides several key advantages. First, it ensures air superiority, which is vital for protecting a nation’s airspace and supporting ground operations. This dominance allows for the safe movement of troops and supplies, as well as conducting surveillance and reconnaissance. Moreover, a powerful air force acts as a deterrent, showing potential aggressors that any attack would be met with overwhelming force.

30. Canada

Qatar+F-15 | Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) McDonnell Douglas CF-188 "Hornet" - A Canadian Armed Forces CF-18 "Hornet" (official military designation CF-188) (S/N 188741)
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 375
  • Fighter aircraft: 65
  • Attack aircraft: 0
  • Total helicopters: 143
  • Attack helicopters: 0
  • Military strength score: 0.3813 – #27 out of 145

29. Colombia

Source: Joel Carillet / iStock via Getty Images
  • Total military aircraft: 434
  • Fighter aircraft: 17
  • Attack aircraft: 24
  • Total helicopters: 258
  • Attack helicopters: 0
  • Military strength score: 0.7347 – #44 out of 145

28. Syria

Syria+Sukhoi | Sukhoi Su-34 ‘RF-95841 / 10 red’ “Олег Пешков”
Source: ajw1970 / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 452
  • Fighter aircraft: 168
  • Attack aircraft: 57
  • Total helicopters: 153
  • Attack helicopters: 27
  • Military strength score: 1.0026 – #60 out of 145

27. Mexico

Source: Victor Ambriz / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military aircraft: 462
  • Fighter aircraft: 3
  • Attack aircraft: 33
  • Total helicopters: 178
  • Attack helicopters: 0
  • Military strength score: 0.4274 – #31 out of 145

26. Poland

  • Total military aircraft: 468
  • Fighter aircraft: 59
  • Attack aircraft: 34
  • Total helicopters: 215
  • Attack helicopters: 30
  • Military strength score: 0.2917 – #21 out of 145

25. Indonesia

Indonesia+Sukhoi | Sukhoi Su-35S (Russian: Сухой Су-35; NATO reporting name: "Flanker-E") at the Paris Air Show 2013.
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 474
  • Fighter aircraft: 41
  • Attack aircraft: 37
  • Total helicopters: 210
  • Attack helicopters: 15
  • Military strength score: 0.2251 – #13 out of 145

24. Thailand

Source: 39955793@N07 / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 501
  • Fighter aircraft: 73
  • Attack aircraft: 18
  • Total helicopters: 231
  • Attack helicopters: 7
  • Military strength score: 0.3389 – #25 out of 145

23. Spain

  • Total military aircraft: 513
  • Fighter aircraft: 139
  • Attack aircraft: 12
  • Total helicopters: 121
  • Attack helicopters: 17
  • Military strength score: 0.2882 – #20 out of 145

22. Iran

Source: sdasmarchives / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 551
  • Fighter aircraft: 186
  • Attack aircraft: 23
  • Total helicopters: 129
  • Attack helicopters: 13
  • Military strength score: 0.2269 – #14 out of 145

21. United Arab Emirates

United+Arab+Emirates+apache+helicopter | Best Army Photos 2
Source: expertinfantry / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 560
  • Fighter aircraft: 99
  • Attack aircraft: 18
  • Total helicopters: 246
  • Attack helicopters: 30
  • Military strength score: 0.8083 – #51 out of 145

20. Algeria

Source: cooke1 / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 605
  • Fighter aircraft: 102
  • Attack aircraft: 42
  • Total helicopters: 298
  • Attack helicopters: 75
  • Military strength score: 0.3589 – #26 out of 145

19. Israel

Israel+apache+helicopter | TOPSHOTS-ISRAEL-AIR FORCE-GRADUATION
Source: diariocriticove / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 612
  • Fighter aircraft: 241
  • Attack aircraft: 39
  • Total helicopters: 146
  • Attack helicopters: 48
  • Military strength score: 0.2596 – #17 out of 145

18. Germany

Bulgaria+air+force | U.S.-Bulgarian air force mission
Source: usarmyeurope_images / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 618
  • Fighter aircraft: 133
  • Attack aircraft: 76
  • Total helicopters: 318
  • Attack helicopters: 55
  • Military strength score: 0.2847 – #19 out of 145

17. Brazil

Source: thenationalguard / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 628
  • Fighter aircraft: 46
  • Attack aircraft: 72
  • Total helicopters: 195
  • Attack helicopters: 0
  • Military strength score: 0.1944 – #12 out of 145

16. Greece

Greece+F-16 | N/A
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 632
  • Fighter aircraft: 194
  • Attack aircraft: 0
  • Total helicopters: 289
  • Attack helicopters: 29
  • Military strength score: 0.4349 – #32 out of 145

15. United Kingdom

Source: Matt Cardy / Getty Images
  • Total military aircraft: 664
  • Fighter aircraft: 120
  • Attack aircraft: 29
  • Total helicopters: 276
  • Attack helicopters: 52
  • Military strength score: 0.1443 – #6 out of 145

14. Taiwan

Taiwan+F-16 | General Dynamics (its aviation unit now part of Lockheed Martin) F-16C Block 50D "Fighting Falcon" (s/n 91-0412)
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 750
  • Fighter aircraft: 286
  • Attack aircraft: 0
  • Total helicopters: 236
  • Attack helicopters: 91
  • Military strength score: 0.3302 – #24 out of 145

13. Italy

  • Total military aircraft: 800
  • Fighter aircraft: 90
  • Attack aircraft: 67
  • Total helicopters: 402
  • Attack helicopters: 57
  • Military strength score: 0.1863 – #10 out of 145

12. Saudi Arabia

Saudi+Arabia+F-15 | DF-ST-92-04976
Source: usairforce / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 914
  • Fighter aircraft: 283
  • Attack aircraft: 81
  • Total helicopters: 262
  • Attack helicopters: 34
  • Military strength score: 0.3235 – #23 out of 145

11. North Korea

Source: alexkuehni / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military aircraft: 951
  • Fighter aircraft: 440
  • Attack aircraft: 132
  • Total helicopters: 205
  • Attack helicopters: 20
  • Military strength score: 0.5313 – #36 out of 145

10. France

  • Total military aircraft: 972
  • Fighter aircraft: 224
  • Attack aircraft: 0
  • Total helicopters: 447
  • Attack helicopters: 69
  • Military strength score: 0.1878 – #11 out of 145

9. Turkey

  • Total military aircraft: 1,069
  • Fighter aircraft: 205
  • Attack aircraft: 0
  • Total helicopters: 502
  • Attack helicopters: 111
  • Military strength score: 0.1697 – #8 out of 145

8. Egypt

Egypt+F-16 | N/A
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 1,080
  • Fighter aircraft: 238
  • Attack aircraft: 88
  • Total helicopters: 338
  • Attack helicopters: 100
  • Military strength score: 0.2283 – #15 out of 145

7. Pakistan

Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 1,434
  • Fighter aircraft: 387
  • Attack aircraft: 90
  • Total helicopters: 352
  • Attack helicopters: 57
  • Military strength score: 0.1711 – #9 out of 145

6. Japan

Source: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images via Getty Images
  • Total military aircraft: 1,459
  • Fighter aircraft: 217
  • Attack aircraft: 36
  • Total helicopters: 577
  • Attack helicopters: 119
  • Military strength score: 0.1601 – #7 out of 145

5. South Korea

South+Korea+apache+helicopter | APACHE - AH-64D
Source: usaghumphreys / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 1,576
  • Fighter aircraft: 354
  • Attack aircraft: 98
  • Total helicopters: 758
  • Attack helicopters: 112
  • Military strength score: 0.1416 – #5 out of 145

4. India

India+Sukhoi | Indian Air Force maintainers prepare their Sukhoi Su-30MKI (NATO reporting name: "Flanker-H")
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 2,296
  • Fighter aircraft: 606
  • Attack aircraft: 130
  • Total helicopters: 869
  • Attack helicopters: 40
  • Military strength score: 0.1023 – #4 out of 145

3. China

Source: Peng Chen / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total military aircraft: 3,304
  • Fighter aircraft: 1,207
  • Attack aircraft: 371
  • Total helicopters: 913
  • Attack helicopters: 281
  • Military strength score: 0.0706 – #3 out of 145

2. Russia

India+MiG | Mikoyan MiG-29 (Russian: Микоян МиГ-29; NATO reporting name: "Fulcrum") low level pass, Polish Air Force
Source: my_public_domain_photos / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 4,255
  • Fighter aircraft: 809
  • Attack aircraft: 730
  • Total helicopters: 1,547
  • Attack helicopters: 559
  • Military strength score: 0.0702 – #2 out of 145

1. United States

Israel+F-35 | 161206-F-XX111-001
Source: 77258709@N06 / Public Domain / Flickr
  • Total military aircraft: 13,209
  • Fighter aircraft: 1,854
  • Attack aircraft: 896
  • Total helicopters: 5,737
  • Attack helicopters: 1,000
  • Military strength score: 0.0699 – #1 out of 145

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