Largest Air Forces in the World 2022

map placeholder

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:

  1. United States Air Force - 5,217
  2. Russian Air Force - 3,863
  3. People's Liberation Army Air Force (China) - 1991
  4. Indian Air Force - 1,715
  5. Egyptian Air Force - 1,062
  6. Korean People's Army Air Force (North Korea) - 946
  7. South Korean Air Force - 898
  8. Pakistan Air Force - 810
  9. Japan Air Self-Defense Force - 746
  10. Royal Saudi Air Force - 690

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:

  1. United States - 13,247 (5,217 Air Force, 4,409 Army, 2,464 Navy, 1,157 Marines)
  2. Russia - 4,173 (3,863 Air Force, 310 Navy)
  3. China - 3,285 (1,991 Air Force, 857 Army, 437 Navy)
  4. India - 2,186 (1,715 Air Force, 232 Army, 239 Navy)
  5. South Korea - 1,595 (898 Air Force, 611 Army, 69 Navy, 17 Marines)
  6. Japan - 1,449 (746 Air Force, 392 Army, 311 Navy)
  7. Pakistan - 1,386 (810 Air Force, 544 Army, 32 Navy)
  8. Egypt - 1,062 (1,053 Air Force)
  9. Turkey - 1,057 (612 Air Force, 398 Army, 47 Navy)
  10. France - 1,055 (570 Air Force, 306 Army, 179 Navy)

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.

Largest Air Forces in the World 2022

Country Total Aircraft Air Force Army Navy Marine/Other
United States13,2475,2174,4092,4641,157
Russia4,1733,863310
China3,2851,991857437
India2,1861,715232239
South Korea1,5958986116917
Japan1,449746392311
Pakistan1,38681054432
Egypt1,0621,062
Turkey1,05761239847
France1,055570306179
North Korea946946
Saudi Arabia897690805671
Italy862503255104
Taiwan74151620025
United Kingdom6935118498
Brazil6795249164
Greece63236324623
Germany61737118462
Israel597597
United Arab Emirates554323231
Algeria55253418
Iran543343793190
Spain5033658949
Thailand46923019940
Mexico469326143
Indonesia46126015150
Colombia45429513227
Syria452452
Poland43625614535
Australia43028212523
Canada380380
Iraq361181180
Ukraine3182079813
Angola299299
Chile2902053550
Myanmar2802755
Afghanistan27019674
Venezuela2561676425
Jordan255255
Morocco2492445
Singapore244244
Peru2431535535
Kazakhstan237237
South Africa225225
Argentina2181237223
Vietnam21720116
Sweden20415153
Belarus201201
Uzbekistan200200
Finland19216527
Sudan192192
Bangladesh190173134
Philippines18216517
Yemen177177
Qatar165165
Norway161161
Switzerland158158
Netherlands1568670
Tunisia151151
Kenya15110645
Azerbaijan149149
Romania1471443
Malaysia1441191411
Nigeria1401355
Oman128128
Libya127114103
Serbia117117
Denmark115115
Belgium115115
Ecuador113573719
Bahrain1101082
Austria102102
Kuwait99972
Zambia9797
Czech Republic9292
Zimbabwe9090
Ethiopia908010
Sri Lanka86824
Turkmenistan8282
Cuba8080
Croatia7878
Lebanon7676
Portugal7575
Georgia66624
Bulgaria66633
Armenia645212
Bolivia635391
El Salvador5757
Hungary5555
Uruguay50437
Slovakia5050
Uganda4949
New Zealand4747
Botswana4646
DR Congo4646
Honduras44431
Paraguay41401
Panama3939
Slovenia3737
Tanzania3737
Chad3535
Eritrea3333
Guatemala3333
Laos3232
Cameroon3131
Namibia3030
Mali2929
Brunei2727
Senegal2626
Mauritania2525
Gabon2323
Ireland2323
Rwanda2323
Cambodia2323
Jamaica2222
North Macedonia2020
Ghana2020
Albania1919
Bosnia And Herzegovina1919
Equatorial Guinea1818
South Sudan1818
Burkina Faso1818
Mozambique1818
Nicaragua1717
Togo1717
Burundi1717
Niger1616
Nepal1414
Malawi1313
Djibouti1212
Montenegro1111
Mongolia1111
Malta1010
Lithuania1010
Guinea1010
Guyana88
Lesotho88
Estonia66
Kyrgyzstan66
Eswatini55
Ivory Coast55
Madagascar55
Cyprus44
Latvia44
Sierra Leone44
Seychelles33
Bahamas33
Maldives33
Suriname33
Moldova312
Central African Republic33
Belize22
Bhutan22
Trinidad And Tobago22
Luxembourg11NaN
Gambia11
Benin11

Largest Air Forces in the World 2022

Sources