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Largest Air Forces in the World 2024

Just as flight has become a vital pillar of the transportation industry, so too has it modernized military operations. In the past 120 years, the world’s armed forces have been transformed as the notion of an "air force" of military aircraft has become not only possible, but indispensable. In fact, aircraft are so deeply integrated into modern military operations that the army, navy, and other branches of the military often have significant air fleets of their own. Compare the following three tables:

Top 10 Largest Air Forces in the World (by number of Military Aircraft) - Flight International 2022:

Country
Air Force
United States5,213
Russia3,864
China1,992
India1,728
Egypt1,069
North Korea947
South Korea905
Pakistan820
Japan749
Saudi Arabia690

Top 10 Largest Military Branches in the World (by number of Military Aircraft) - Flight International 2022:

  1. United States Air Force - 5,217
  2. United States Army Aviation - 4,409
  3. Russian Air Force - 3,863
  4. United States Navy - 2,464
  5. People's Liberation Army Air Force (China) - 1,991
  6. Indian Air Force - 1,715
  7. United States Marine Corps - 1,157
  8. Egyptian Air Force - 1,062
  9. Korean People's Army Air Force (North Korea) - 946
  10. South Korean Air Force - 898

Top 10 Nations with the Most Military Aircraft (All Branches Combined) - Flight International 2022:

Country
Total Aircraft
United States13,300
Russia4,182
China3,284
India2,200
South Korea1,608
Japan1,451
Pakistan1,147
Egypt1,069
Turkey1,065
France1,004

Comparing metrics: the number of military aircraft vs actual air power

Before taking these numbers to heart, it is important to note that just as not all navy ships are created equal, some military aircraft are vastly more effective than others. For example, a modern fighter jet is quite different from an unarmed training helicopter, but both count as one aircraft. As such, the total number of aircraft a country possesses offers only a partial estimate of that country's airborne military prowess.

In an effort to create a more nuanced and accurate metric, the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft (WDMMA) devised the TrueValue Rating, or TvR. This metric considers not only the number of aircraft in a given armed force, but also the type, capability, age, condition, and readiness of those aircraft. Filtered by TvR, the hierarchy changes significantly:

Top 15 Military Branches with the Most Powerful Air Fleets (by TrueValue Rating) - WDMMA 2021:

  1. United States Air Force - 242.9
  2. United States Navy - 142.4
  3. Russian Air Force - 114.2
  4. United States Army Aviation - 112.6
  5. United States Marine Corps - 85.3
  6. Indian Air Force - 69.4
  7. People's Liberation Army Air Force (China) - 63.8
  8. Japan Air Self-Defence Force - 58.1
  9. Israeli Air Force - 58.0
  10. French Air Force - 56.3
  11. British Royal Air Force - 55.3
  12. South Korean Air Force - 53.4
  13. Italian Air Force - 51.9
  14. Royal Australian Air Force - 51.7
  15. People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (China) - 49.3

Comparing the Military Air Power of the United States, Russia, and China

The United States air fleet

The United States of America maintains the strongest Air Force in the world by an impressive margin. As of late 2021, the United States Air Force (USAF) is composed of 5217 active aircraft, making it the largest, the most technologically advanced, and the most powerful air fleet in the world. What's more, the United States Navy, Army, and Marine Corps are close behind, bringing the United States' total available military aircraft to 13,247. This is larger than the combined air fleets of the next five countries on the list.

Ultimately, the United States' four main military branches occupy four of the top five spots, with the order changing slightly depending upon whether the metric in use is TvR rating or overall number of aircraft. Combat helicopters make up the largest portion of the US air fleet (particularly in the non-Air Force branches), accounting for 5,463, or about 41% of the total aircraft. The USAF also includes 2,660 trainers, 2,740 combat aircraft, 744 special mission aircraft, 627 tankers, 982 transports, and more.

Russia's air fleet

The Russian Air Force is a distant, but comfortable second to the USAF when it comes to military aircraft, with a total of 3,863 military aircraft (with another 310 allotted to the Navy). During the Cold War, Soviet airpower was comparable to that of the United States, but after the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation, the Air Force budget was reduced considerably. However, since the turn of the 21st century, the Russian Air Force has been steadily improving and retains enough precursors to hold steady control of the #2 spot, at least for a little while longer.

China's air fleet

With 1,991 military aircraft in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), 857 in the Army, and 437 in the Navy (for a total of 3,285), the Chinese air fleet is the third largest in the world. Although China ranks behind Russia in total aircraft, they dwarf the Russian Air Force in terms of personnel. Moreover, the PLAAF has seen, perhaps, the most notable improvement among world Air Forces over the last 20 years. The PLAAF started out with an outdated fleet of second- or third-generation Soviet-built combat aircraft that were practically obsolete on the world stage. But in the new millennium, China has taken matters into its own hands, emulating USAF models and developing its own fourth-generation aircraft, which approach—and in some cases outperform—their USAF inspirations in both innovation and technological prowess. While China sits in a relatively distant third as of 2021, its current path of expansion indicates it may soon eclipse Russia for the second spot, perhaps even challenge the United States for the top rank.

The emergence of the Space Force

Modern military operations are not restricted to atmospheric affairs. In recent years, several countries have begun to develop some form of “space force” program, either as an expansion of their existing air force or as a standalone branch, that looks to extend their military influence to outer space and its boundless frontiers. While the majority of these programs are still in their infancy, spaceward expansion is imminent as countries look to bolster their military strength.

  • Helpful as they are, total aircraft numbers should not be considered the sole measure of an Air Force's effectiveness. The model and condition of each aircraft is hugely important, as are the availability and skill of pilots, the capabilities of the support network, and the strategic effectiveness of mission orders.

Download Table Data

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Country
Total Aircraft
Air Force
Army
Marine/Other
Navy
United States13,3005,2134,4431,2402,404
Russia4,1823,864318
China3,2841,992857435
India2,2001,728232240
South Korea1,6089056111775
Japan1,451749393309
Pakistan1,14782028245
Egypt1,0691,069
Turkey1,06561240548
France1,004516305183
North Korea947947
Saudi Arabia897690807156
Italy850485251114
Taiwan73751320024
Brazil6655069267
United Kingdom6635008677
Greece63537024718
Germany60136917755
Israel601601
Algeria54752918
Iran541341808931
Spain5173749350
Thailand48825219739
United Arab Emirates474323151
Mexico468327141
Indonesia46625915552
Colombia46330113329
Poland45927914535
Syria453453
Canada376376
Iraq361181180
Australia35323010023
Ukraine3112009813
Angola302302
Chile2892093545
Myanmar2802755
Jordan256256
Morocco2502455
Venezuela2501665925
Singapore248248
Peru2461555536
Kazakhstan237237
Argentina2281287525
South Africa226226
Vietnam22320716
Sweden20515253
Bangladesh204186135
Qatar198198
Uzbekistan197197
Sudan191191
Belarus191191
Philippines188171116
Yemen177177
Finland16613927
Kenya15611145
Tunisia152152
Azerbaijan148148
Switzerland148148
Malaysia1471201413
Romania1461433
Nigeria1441395
Netherlands1367264
Oman128128
Libya127114103
Ecuador118623719
Serbia117117
Bahrain1161142
Denmark115115
Kuwait1141113
Belgium106106
Austria101101
Norway100100
Zambia9898
Czech Republic9797
Zimbabwe9090
Ethiopia897910
Sri Lanka8686
Turkmenistan8686
Cuba8080
Croatia8080
Lebanon7878
Portugal72711
Bulgaria66633
Georgia66624
Bolivia645581
Armenia645212
Dominican Republic6363
Hungary5757
Uruguay52457
Uganda5050
Slovakia4848
DR Congo4646
El Salvador4646
Botswana4646
New Zealand4545
Honduras42421
Panama4141
Tanzania4040
Mali3939
Paraguay39381
Slovenia3737
Chad3434
Guatemala3434
Laos3434
Namibia3232
Cameroon3131
Senegal2727
Tajikistan2525
Cambodia2424
Rwanda2424
Ireland2323
Mauritania2323
Gabon2323
Eritrea2233
Bosnia and Herzegovina2222
Ghana2020
Burkina Faso2020
Jamaica2020
North Macedonia2020
Brunei2020
Mozambique1919
Albania1919
South Sudan1818
Equatorial Guinea1818
Burundi1717
Togo1717
Niger1616
Nicaragua1616
Nepal1515
Djibouti1313
Malawi1212
Republic of the Congo12121
Mongolia1111
Montenegro1111
Guinea1010
Lithuania1010
Malta1010
Lesotho99
Guyana88
Cyprus77
Ivory Coast66
Kyrgyzstan66
Estonia66
Eswatini55
Madagascar44
Sierra Leone44
Latvia44
Central African Republic33
Moldova312
Suriname33
Maldives33
Bahamas33
Seychelles33
Trinidad and Tobago22
Bhutan22
Belize22
Afghanistan11
Benin11
Papua New Guinea11
Gambia11
Luxembourg11
Antigua and Barbuda11
Total52,87235,81010,0911,8485,136
showing: 162 rows

Who has the largest airforce in the world?

The United States has the world's largest air force by the number of aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, 5,217.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sources