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.)
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