There’s only one true way to compare military strength, and thankfully we haven’t had the opportunity to compare powerful countries in recent decades — though with a powder keg in the South China Sea, standoffs in Ukraine, and proxy wars throughout the Middle East, we are alarmingly close.
For a simpler evaluation of military power, we turn to the Global Firepower Index, a ranking of 106 nations based on more than 50 factors including overall military budget, available manpower, and the amount of equipment each country has in their respective arsenals, as well as access to resources.
The index focuses on quantity, ignoring significant quantitative differences (North Korea’s 78 submarines, for instance, aren’t exactly state of the art). It also does not factor in nuclear stockpiles — still the ultimate trump card in geopolitics. It also does not penalize land-locked nations for lack of a standing navy.
We’ve created a chart to compare the top 35 militaries according to the Global Firepower Index. The ranking, released in April 2014, involves a complex set of data that is subject to ongoing adjustments and corrections.