The military ranking website Global Firepower has released its 2023 military strength list, featuring 145 countries. The PowerIndex ranking is determined by evaluating more than 60 factors, with an emphasis on weapon diversity rather than total weapons. The calculation allows smaller, technologically advanced nations to compete with larger, less developed nations and special modifiers are applied to further refine the list. This includes a nation’s access to nuclear weapons, which is not recognized directly, but results in an indirect score bonus. Other factors that influence the ranking include geographical considerations, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and local industry.


The 2023 ranking shows that the top 10 military powers have remained mostly unchanged, with the United States still holding the title of the world’s strongest military. The only changes among the top 10 are the United Kingdom moving up three places to rank 5th, while Japan dropped three spots to 8th. Italy moved up one place to 10th, pushing Brazil to 12th, while Turkey moved up two places to 11th. The US has a $762 billion military budget, which is larger than the combined budget of the remaining top 10 nations.


China has the largest number of troops and naval vessels, Russia has the most tanks, and the US has the largest air force among the top 10 military powers. South Africa is ranked 33rd globally, down from 26th in 2022, and is the 3rd strongest military power in Africa, behind Egypt and Algeria. 


The country stands out for its land power but has fallen behind other nations in air and naval power. 

South Africa has 40,200 active and 12,500 reserve personnel, with an estimated 14,264,133 citizens fit for service in case of conscription. 

The defence budget is estimated at $2.8 billion. 

South Africa’s aircraft strength is 226 assets, including 17 fighter aircraft, 7 special mission aircraft, 23 transport aircraft, 88 trainer aircraft, and 91 total helicopters (of which 12 are attack helicopters). 

Its land strength is 2,935 assets, including 195 combat tanks, 34,540 armored fighting vehicles, 49 self-propelled artillery, 82 towed artillery, and 101 rocket projectors. 

South Africa’s naval strength is 47 assets, including 4 frigates, 3 submarines, 31 patrol craft, 2 mine warfare vessels, and 6 unspecified vessels.

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