Special Report

Countries with the Most Military Personnel

alexkuehni / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

A standing army is the strongest deterrent against invasion. If a country had no military force then it would be at the mercy of hostile powers. The exception to this rule is Iceland, which has no standing military, and through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a guaranteed defense from other member nations should it come under attack by foreign powers. (These are the greatest armies ever assembled on Earth.)

Countries fill out their ranks of military personnel through voluntary or selective service, and some through mandatory service. Other countries even turn to paramilitary forces should the need become drastic.

It is worth noting that the size of one country’s military personnel does not define its strength as a whole. Assets like aircraft and naval vessels greatly improve the military capabilities of any given fighting force, but ultimately these assets must be piloted or driven by military personnel.

To identify the countries with the most military personnel, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2024 Military Strength Ranking from Global Firepower, an annually updated defense-related statistics website with information on 145 countries. Countries were ranked on the total number of military personnel. We included supplemental information regarding active personnel, reserves, total population, fit-for-service, and overall military strength score.

Although the United States is considered to have the most powerful military on the planet, it by no means has the largest. Its military personnel ranks in the top 10 in the world by size, but much of its military strength is through its Air Force and Navy which are heavily stocked with some of the most technologically advanced aircraft and warships.

China and India are constantly vying for the title of the most populous nation with over one billion people each. However, neither ranks as the country with the most military personnel. (These are China’s 8 biggest weapons manufacturers, and what they build.)

Here are the countries with the most military personnel:

30. Azerbaijan

Source: Handout / Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 441,400
  • Active personnel: 126,400
  • Reserves: 300,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 15,000
  • Total population: 10,420,515
  • Fit-for-service: 3,824,329
  • Military strength score: 0.9934 – #59 out of 145

29. Colombia

Source: dalomo84 / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 478,200
  • Active personnel: 293,200
  • Reserves: 35,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 150,000
  • Total population: 49,336,454
  • Fit-for-service: 19,093,208
  • Military strength score: 0.7347 – #44 out of 145

28. Peru

Source: feserc / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 565,000
  • Active personnel: 120,000
  • Reserves: 385,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 60,000
  • Total population: 32,440,172
  • Fit-for-service: 12,619,227
  • Military strength score: 0.8475 – #53 out of 145

27. Thailand

Source: Goldquest / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 585,850
  • Active personnel: 360,850
  • Reserves: 200,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 25,000
  • Total population: 69,794,997
  • Fit-for-service: 27,917,999
  • Military strength score: 0.3389 – #25 out of 145

26. Poland

Source: Kamila Kozioå‚ (Koziolkamila) / iStock via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 602,100
  • Active personnel: 202,100
  • Reserves: 350,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 50,000
  • Total population: 37,991,766
  • Fit-for-service: 15,272,690
  • Military strength score: 0.2917 – #21 out of 145

25. Algeria

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total military personnel: 610,000
  • Active personnel: 325,000
  • Reserves: 135,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 150,000
  • Total population: 44,758,398
  • Fit-for-service: 18,261,426
  • Military strength score: 0.3589 – #26 out of 145

24. Serbia

Source: Srđan Popović / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total military personnel: 627,000
  • Active personnel: 25,000
  • Reserves: 2,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 600,000
  • Total population: 6,693,375
  • Fit-for-service: 2,590,336
  • Military strength score: 0.9038 – #56 out of 145

23. Tajikistan

Source: thenationalguard / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 629,500
  • Active personnel: 9,500
  • Reserves: 600,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 20,000
  • Total population: 9,245,937
  • Fit-for-service: 3,356,275
  • Military strength score: 2.1265 – #107 out of 145

22. Mexico

Source: Joel Carillet / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 630,655
  • Active personnel: 412,000
  • Reserves: 98,655
  • Paramilitary forces: 120,000
  • Total population: 129,875,529
  • Fit-for-service: 49,482,577
  • Military strength score: 0.4274 – #31 out of 145

21. Israel

Source: usembassyjlm / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 670,000
  • Active personnel: 170,000
  • Reserves: 465,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 35,000
  • Total population: 9,043,387
  • Fit-for-service: 3,156,142
  • Military strength score: 0.2596 – #17 out of 145

20. Turkey

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total military personnel: 883,900
  • Active personnel: 355,200
  • Reserves: 378,700
  • Paramilitary forces: 150,000
  • Total population: 83,593,483
  • Fit-for-service: 3,561,604
  • Military strength score: 0.1697 – #8 out of 145

19. Brazil

Source: pabst_ell / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 900,000
  • Active personnel: 360,000
  • Reserves: 340,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 200,000
  • Total population: 218,689,757
  • Fit-for-service: 88,131,972
  • Military strength score: 0.1944 – #12 out of 145

18. Finland

Source: wstryder / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 947,800
  • Active personnel: 24,000
  • Reserves: 870,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 53,800
  • Total population: 5,614,571
  • Fit-for-service: 1,908,954
  • Military strength score: 0.7967 – #50 out of 145

17. Indonesia

Source: AWG97 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total military personnel: 1,050,000
  • Active personnel: 400,000
  • Reserves: 400,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 250,000
  • Total population: 279,476,346
  • Fit-for-service: 113,746,873
  • Military strength score: 0.2251 – #13 out of 145

16. United Kingdom

Source: ikholwadia / iStock via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 1,108,860
  • Active personnel: 184,860
  • Reserves: 924,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 0
  • Total population: 68,138,484
  • Fit-for-service: 25,074,962
  • Military strength score: 0.1443 – #6 out of 145

15. Iran

Source: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 1,180,000
  • Active personnel: 610,000
  • Reserves: 350,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 220,000
  • Total population: 87,590,873
  • Fit-for-service: 41,167,710
  • Military strength score: 0.2269 – #14 out of 145

14. Egypt

Source: MC3 Scott Pittman/usnavy / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 1,220,000
  • Active personnel: 440,000
  • Reserves: 480,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 300,000
  • Total population: 109,546,720
  • Fit-for-service: 37,684,072
  • Military strength score: 0.2283 – #15 out of 145

13. Cuba

Source: PhotosByByron / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 1,230,500
  • Active personnel: 45,500
  • Reserves: 40,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 1,145,000
  • Total population: 10,985,974
  • Fit-for-service: 4,745,941
  • Military strength score: 1.1869 – #68 out of 145

12. Philippines

Source: ClaudineVM / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 1,385,000
  • Active personnel: 150,000
  • Reserves: 1,200,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 35,000
  • Total population: 116,434,200
  • Fit-for-service: 41,101,273
  • Military strength score: 0.4691 – #34 out of 145

11. Pakistan

Source: dvids / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 1,704,000
  • Active personnel: 654,000
  • Reserves: 550,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 500,000
  • Total population: 247,653,551
  • Fit-for-service: 84,202,207
  • Military strength score: 0.1711 – #9 out of 145

10. North Korea

Source: alexkuehni / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 1,980,000
  • Active personnel: 1,320,000
  • Reserves: 560,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 100,000
  • Total population: 26,072,217
  • Fit-for-service: 5,266,588
  • Military strength score: 0.5313 – #36 out of 145

9. United States

Source: thenationalguard / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 2,127,500
  • Active personnel: 1,328,000
  • Reserves: 799,500
  • Paramilitary forces: 0
  • Total population: 339,665,118
  • Fit-for-service: 123,977,768
  • Military strength score: 0.0699 – #1 out of 145

8. Ukraine

Source: Sean Gallup / Getty Images News via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 2,200,000
  • Active personnel: 900,000
  • Reserves: 1,200,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 100,000
  • Total population: 43,306,477
  • Fit-for-service: 15,460,412
  • Military strength score: 0.2598 – #18 out of 145

7. Taiwan

Source: presidentialoffice / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 2,580,000
  • Active personnel: 215,000
  • Reserves: 2,310,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 55,000
  • Total population: 23,588,613
  • Fit-for-service: 1,061,488
  • Military strength score: 0.3302 – #24 out of 145

6. China

Source: presidentialoffice / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 3,170,000
  • Active personnel: 2,035,000
  • Reserves: 510,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 625,000
  • Total population: 1,413,142,846
  • Fit-for-service: 626,022,281
  • Military strength score: 0.0706 – #3 out of 145

5. Russia

Source: Laski Collection / Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 3,570,000
  • Active personnel: 1,320,000
  • Reserves: 2,000,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 250,000
  • Total population: 141,698,923
  • Fit-for-service: 46,477,247
  • Military strength score: 0.0702 – #2 out of 145

4. South Korea

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Total military personnel: 3,820,000
  • Active personnel: 600,000
  • Reserves: 3,100,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 120,000
  • Total population: 51,966,948
  • Fit-for-service: 21,306,449
  • Military strength score: 0.1416 – #5 out of 145

3. India

Source: BDphoto / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 5,137,550
  • Active personnel: 1,455,550
  • Reserves: 1,155,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 2,527,000
  • Total population: 1,399,179,585
  • Fit-for-service: 519,095,626
  • Military strength score: 0.1023 – #4 out of 145

2. Vietnam

Source: knittymarie / Flickr
  • Total military personnel: 5,850,000
  • Active personnel: 600,000
  • Reserves: 5,000,000
  • Paramilitary forces: 250,000
  • Total population: 104,799,174
  • Fit-for-service: 44,644,448
  • Military strength score: 0.3158 – #22 out of 145

1. Bangladesh

Source: Karimphoto / iStock Editorial via Getty Images
  • Total military personnel: 6,963,000
  • Active personnel: 163,000
  • Reserves: 0
  • Paramilitary forces: 6,800,000
  • Total population: 167,184,465
  • Fit-for-service: 65,536,310
  • Military strength score: 0.5419 – #37 out of 145

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