The Strongest Militaries in Southeast Asia

AWG97 / Wikimedia Commons

Since World War II, Southeast Asia has held strategic importance not only for its shipping lanes but as a staging area into Asia. The region is home to some of the strongest militaries on the planet, each possessing different strengths, weaknesses, and strategic advantages. Here 24/7 Wall St. is taking a closer look into the region and which of these nations have built the strongest military forces. (These are the most powerful militaries in the world.)

To determine the countries with the strongest military might in Southeast Asia, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2024 Military Strength Ranking from Global Firepower, an annually updated defense-related statistics website with information on 145 countries. Global Firepower ranked 145 countries based on their PowerIndex, 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. We included supplemental information regarding active military personnel, military aircraft, vehicles, and naval power as well.

As the largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia has a military that reflects its territorial expanse. On the world stage, Indonesia is home to a preeminent naval power, just short of the world’s superpowers of the U.S., Russia, and China. Recent modernization efforts within the Indonesian military have only added to its aerial capacity.

Thailand is another major player in the region and its military is one of the most experienced. The Royal Thai Armed Forces benefit from strong ties with the United States, and this is reflected in the training and technology of its forces. (These are the countries with the most military expenditures.)

These militaries, and more, are not only powerful in terms of their personnel and assets but they also play important roles in regional security.

Here is a look at the strongest militaries in Southeast Asia:

Why Are We Covering This?

Source: Kichigin / iStock via Getty Images

Southeast Asia is a region of great strategic importance, encompassing diverse nations with varied military capabilities. It cannot be understated the value of this region and the countries that hold its security in the balance. Understanding the militaries within this region gives context to a broader geopolitical view.

9. Laos

Source: usnavy / Flickr
  • Military strength score: 2.2071
  • Active military personnel: 100,000
  • Total military aircraft: 34
  • Total military vehicles: 1,880
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 0

8. Cambodia

Source: mauriziobiso / iStock via Getty Images
  • Military strength score: 2.1725
  • Active military personnel: 221,000
  • Total military aircraft: 24
  • Total military vehicles: 4,094
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 31

7. Malaysia

  • Military strength score: 0.5992
  • Active military personnel: 113,000
  • Total military aircraft: 143
  • Total military vehicles: 13,965
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 101

6. Myanmar

  • Military strength score: 0.5251
  • Active military personnel: 150,000
  • Total military aircraft: 293
  • Total military vehicles: 8,139
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 227

5. Philippines

Source: ClaudineVM / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Military strength score: 0.4691
  • Active military personnel: 150,000
  • Total military aircraft: 195
  • Total military vehicles: 7,562
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 111

4. Singapore

Source: 39955793@N07 / Flickr
  • Military strength score: 0.4087
  • Active military personnel: 51,000
  • Total military aircraft: 247
  • Total military vehicles: 8,318
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 43

3. Thailand

Source: usnavy / Flickr
  • Military strength score: 0.3389
  • Active military personnel: 360,850
  • Total military aircraft: 501
  • Total military vehicles: 14,040
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 293

2. Vietnam

  • Military strength score: 0.3158
  • Active military personnel: 600,000
  • Total military aircraft: 226
  • Total military vehicles: 18,578
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 97

1. Indonesia

  • Military strength score: 0.2251
  • Active military personnel: 400,000
  • Total military aircraft: 474
  • Total military vehicles: 11,604
  • Total navy ships and submarines: 333

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