Special Report

These Are The Largest Air Forces In The World

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National security has taken on an urgent importance in today’s rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape. As air power continues to be a decisive factor in modern warfare, countries have invested heavily in building and maintaining formidable air forces as well as solid air fleets for the other branches. 

To determine the 30 countries with the largest military air fleets, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2023 report, World Air Forces, from FlightGlobal, an aviation and aerospace industry website. Countries were ranked by the number of aircraft in their active military fleet. Military expenditure data came from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database.

Topping this list is the United States, which boasts the most powerful air force in the world, with technologically advanced and diverse capabilities. Together with the Air Force aircraft, the U.S. military operates over 13,000 aircraft, including strike fighters, reconnaissance planes, transport aircraft, and bombers. Its fleet consists of advanced aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and B-2 Spirit bomber, contributing to the nation’s ability to project power globally. (Here are 30 combat aircraft being built for the U.S. military.)

One of Asia’s major air powers, the Indian military, operates over 2,200 aircraft, making it the fourth-largest military air fleet globally. India’s military aircraft fleet includes a diverse mix of Russian and French aircraft such as the Su-30 and Rafale. India’s air fleet is continuously modernizing its capabilities to protect its strategic interests.

Another name near the top of the list is Russia, which employs a fleet of over 4,100 military aircraft. Despite having the second-largest military aircraft force in the world, Russia’s aerial supremacy has yet to be seen in its ongoing conflict in Ukraine leading to a grinding battle on the ground. In this case, having a larger air force may not be indicative of superiority.

The world’s largest military air fleets have demonstrated a commitment to maintaining aerial supremacy. Notably, countries more towards the top of this list are spending the most money on their militaries. (See how the world’s top military spenders compare to the U.S.)

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

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30. Canada
> Active military aircraft fleet: 376 aircraft (0.71% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Bell 412 combat helicopter (71 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F/A-18A combat aircraft (63 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $26.9 billion (1.20% of world spending)

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29. Syria
> Active military aircraft fleet: 453 aircraft (0.85% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: MiG-23 combat aircraft (87 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: SA342 combat helicopter (62 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: N/A

Source: VanderWolf-Images / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

28. Poland
> Active military aircraft fleet: 459 aircraft (0.86% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Mi-2 combat helicopter (44 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: W-3 combat helicopter (38 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $16.6 billion (0.74% of world spending)

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27. Colombia
> Active military aircraft fleet: 465 aircraft (0.87% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: S-70i/UH-60L combat helicopter (51 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: UH-1H combat helicopter (49 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $9.9 billion (0.44% of world spending)

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26. Indonesia
> Active military aircraft fleet: 466 aircraft (0.87% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Bell 412 combat helicopter (59 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: G120TP training aircraft (30 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $9.0 billion (0.40% of world spending)

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25. Mexico
> Active military aircraft fleet: 468 aircraft (0.88% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: T-6C+ training aircraft (56 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: PC-7 combat aircraft (33 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $8.5 billion (0.38% of world spending)

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24. Thailand
> Active military aircraft fleet: 488 aircraft (0.92% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Bell 212 combat helicopter (50 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-16A combat aircraft (36 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $5.7 billion (0.26% of world spending)

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23. Spain
> Active military aircraft fleet: 517 aircraft (0.97% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: EF-18M/F/A-18A combat aircraft (72 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: Eurofighter combat aircraft (68 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $20.3 billion (0.91% of world spending)

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22. Iran
> Active military aircraft fleet: 541 aircraft (1.02% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: F-4D/E/RF-4E combat aircraft (63 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-14 combat aircraft (41 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $6.8 billion (0.31% of world spending)

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21. Algeria
> Active military aircraft fleet: 547 aircraft (1.03% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Mi-8/17/171 combat helicopter (138 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: Su-30 combat aircraft (57 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $9.1 billion (0.41% of world spending)

20. United Arab Emirates
> Active military aircraft fleet: 565 aircraft (1.06% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: S-70/UH-60L/M (80 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-16E combat aircraft (55 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: N/A

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19. Israel
> Active military aircraft fleet: 601 aircraft (1.13% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: F-16C/I combat aircraft (175 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-15A/C/I combat aircraft (66 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $23.4 billion (1.04% of world spending)

18. Germany
> Active military aircraft fleet: 601 aircraft (1.13% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Eurofighter combat aircraft (134 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: CH-53G/GA/GS combat helicopter (81 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $55.8 billion (2.49% of world spending)

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17. Greece
> Active military aircraft fleet: 635 aircraft (1.19% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: F-16C combat aircraft (114 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: UH-1H combat helicopter (64 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $8.1 billion (0.36% of world spending)

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16. United Kingdom
> Active military aircraft fleet: 663 aircraft (1.24% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft (119 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: G115 (Babcock) training aircraft (90 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $68.5 billion (3.06% of world spending)

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15. Brazil
> Active military aircraft fleet: 665 aircraft (1.25% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: EMB-312 training aircraft (102 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: EMB-314 training aircraft (62 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $20.2 billion (0.90% of world spending)

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14. Taiwan
> Active military aircraft fleet: 737 aircraft (1.38% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: F-16A/V combat aircraft (110 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-CK-1C combat aircraft (103 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $12.5 billion (0.56% of world spending)

13. Italy
> Active military aircraft fleet: 850 aircraft (1.60% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Eurofighter combat aircraft (92 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: MB-339 training aircraft (70 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $33.5 billion (1.50% of world spending)

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12. Saudi Arabia
> Active military aircraft fleet: 897 aircraft (1.68% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: F-15C/S/SA combat aircraft (211 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: Tornado IDS combat aircraft (81 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $75.0 billion (3.35% of world spending)

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11. North Korea
> Active military aircraft fleet: 947 aircraft (1.78% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: FT-5 training aircraft (135 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-7 combat aircraft (120 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: N/A

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10. France
> Active military aircraft fleet: 1,004 aircraft (1.88% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: SA342 combat helicopter (109 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: Rafale B/C combat aircraft (94 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $53.6 billion (2.39% of world spending)

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9. Turkey
> Active military aircraft fleet: 1,065 aircraft (2.00% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: F-16C combat aircraft (157 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-16C/D training aircraft (86 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $10.6 billion (0.48% of world spending)

8. Egypt
> Active military aircraft fleet: 1,069 aircraft (2.01% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: F-16A/C combat aircraft (168 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: K-8 training aircraft (119 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $4.6 billion (0.21% of world spending)

7. Pakistan
> Active military aircraft fleet: 1,413 aircraft (2.65% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: MFI-17 training aircraft (214 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-7 combat aircraft (135 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $10.3 billion (0.46% of world spending)

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6. Japan
> Active military aircraft fleet: 1,451 aircraft (2.72% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: T-4 training aircraft (200 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-15J combat aircraft (155 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $46.0 billion (2.05% of world spending)

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5. South Korea
> Active military aircraft fleet: 1,602 aircraft (3.01% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: MD500 combat helicopter (273 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: F-5E combat aircraft (156 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $46.4 billion (2.07% of world spending)

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4. India
> Active military aircraft fleet: 2,210 aircraft (4.15% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Su-30 combat aircraft (248 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: Mi-17 combat helicopter (222 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $81.4 billion (3.63% of world spending)

3. China
> Active military aircraft fleet: 3,166 aircraft (5.94% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: J-7 combat aircraft (387 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: J-11/16/Su-27/30/35 combat aircraft (315 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $292.0 billion (13.03% of world spending)

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2. Russia
> Active military aircraft fleet: 4,182 aircraft (7.85% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: Mi-8/17/171 combat helicopter (783 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: Mi-24/35 combat helicopter (324 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $86.4 billion (3.85% of world spending)

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1. United States
> Active military aircraft fleet: 13,300 aircraft (24.97% of global fleet)
> Most common aircraft: S-70/EH/HH/MH/UH-60 combat helicopter (2,312 aircraft)
> Second most common aircraft: AH-64D/E combat helicopter (824 aircraft)
> Military expenditure, 2022: $876.9 billion (39.15% of world spending)

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