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Despite being considered the biggest military force in the world, the United States doesn’t have the largest army in terms of personnel.

This graphic below, via Visual Capitalist’s Bruno Venditti, shows the top 10 countries by military personnel as of May 2024, including active and reserve personnel, as well as paramilitary forces. It is based on estimates from

Vietnam, India, and South Korea Have the Biggest Armies

China has the largest standing army, with over 2 million active personnel. With increasing defense spending over the last decades, the country also ranks third in the number of tanks and second in the number of aircraft carriers in service.

When reserve personnel are included, however, the Chinese military falls behind those of Vietnam, India, South Korea, and Russia.

Vietnam’s forces include 600,000 active personnel and over 5 million in reserve. This is because Vietnam, along with countries like South Korea and Israel, has a standing policy of conscription for young adults.

Interestingly, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine resulted in a massive increase in Ukrainian personnel numbers. Active personnel rose from around 170,000 in 2016 to over 900,000.

Despite not having the largest army, the U.S. accounts for almost 40% of global military expenditures, with its 2022 spending totaling $877 billion.

China ranked second in absolute terms, accounting for another 13% of world military expenditure at $292 billion.


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