Largest Armed Forces in the World

Just a listing by strength of active duty personnel (Army, Navy and Air Force). U.S. and some of its allies are in bold. Allies = countries we are obligated to defend by treaty or law (Taiwan), a total of 48 (in bold are the 27 NATO members, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines and Australia), including 16 Latin American nations in the Rio pact (but not placed in bold):

  1. China: 2,233,000
  2. United States: 1,492,200
  3. India: 1,325,000
  4. North Korea: 1,190,000
  5. Russia: 845,000
  6. Pakistan: 643,800
  7. South Korea: 630,000
  8. Iran: 523,000
  9. Algeria: 520,000
  10. Turkey: 510,600
  11. Vietnam: 482,000
  12. Colombia: 466,713
  13. Egypt: 438,500
  14. Burma: 406,000
  15. Indonesia: 395,500
  16. Thailand: 360,850
  17. Brazil: 318,480
  18. Taiwan: 290,000
  19. Sri Lanka: 276,700
  20. Iraq: 271,500
  21. Mexico: 270,250
  22. Ukraine: 250,000
  23. Japan: 247,150
  24. Sudan: 244,300
  25. Saudi Arabia: 233,500
  26. France: 222,200
  27. South Sudan: 210,000
  28. Eritrea: 201,750
  29. Morocco: 195,800
  30. Germany: 186,450
  31. Afghanistan: 185,800
  32. Israel: 176,500
  33. Italy: 176,000
  34. United Kingdom: 169,150
  35. Canada: 166,000
  36. Bangladesh: 157,050
  37. Greece: 143,350
  38. Ethiopia: 138,000
  39. Spain: 134,900
  40. Democratic Republic of the Congo: 134,250
  41. Philippines: 125,000
  42. Syria: 125,000
  43. Cambodia: 124,300
  44. Peru: 115,000
  45. Venezuela: 115,000
  46. Malaysia: 109,000
  47. Angola: 107,000
  48. Jordan: 100,500
  49. Poland: 99,300
  50. Nepal: 95,750
  51. Nigeria: 80,000
  52. Argentina: 73,100
  53. Singapore: 72,500
  54. Romania: 71,400


61. Australia: 56,200
71. Portugal: 42,600
75. Netherlands: 37,400 
78. Bulgaria: 31,300
79. Belgium: 30,700
83. Hungary: 26,500
84: Norway: 25,800
88. Czech Republic: 23,650
97. Denmark: 17,200
98. Lithuania: 17,131
100. Slovakia: 15,850
107. Croatia: 14,506
108: Albania: 14,250
129: New Zealand: 8,550 (U.S. suspended obligations in 1986)
133. Slovenia: 7,600
138. Estonia: 5,750
140: Latvia: 5,310
161: Luxembourg: 900
167+: Iceland: 0

Rio Pact includes Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and of course, the United States.

This listing is drawn from Wikipedia:

It is based upon the 2014 edition of “The Military Balance” by IISS.

They also have a number of other lists…if that is your thing:

The Challenge of Getting to a 350-Ship Fleet

This article, while a little more political than I prefer, does nicely address the reasons why building up to a 350-355 ship navy is going to be a challenge: Trumps-navy-is-already-sunk

The main points are:

  1. Current fleet is 275 warships
  2. The proposed DOD budget for FY2018 is $603, which is only $18 million over the previous administration’s projected budget.
  3. Proposed budget only asks for 8 new ships, which is been the build rate for a while.
  4. The fleet is on track to expand to 308-310 ships.
  5. Previous ship-building account was $15 billion annually. This is on track for a 308-310 ship fleet.
  6. To grow the fleet to 350-355 ships would require a budget of $27 billion annually (and I assume increased costs for operation and maintenance also).
  7. I assume this would take around eight years or more of increased building at these increased costs (so at least $90 billion more total).
  8. The U.S. industrial base is sized to build 6-9 warships a year, the rate would have to increase to 12-15 warships a year for a 350-355 ship fleet.
  9. Article concludes that a 350-355 ship fleet is not going to happen (it will be at 308-310 ships) and notes that no naval production increase was in the proposed 2018 budget.


Sketching Out Multi-Domain Battle Operational Doctrine

Small Wars Journal has published an insightful essay by U.S. Army Major Amos Fox, “Multi-Domain Battle: A Perspective on the Salient Features of an Emerging Operational Doctrine.” Fox is a recent graduate of Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) and author of several excellent pieces assessing Russian military doctrine and its application in the Ukraine.

Drawing upon an array of sources, including recent Russian military operations, preliminary conceptualizations of MDB, Carl von Clausewitz, J.F.C Fuller, and maneuver warfare theory, Fox takes a crack at shaping the parameters of a doctrine for Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) operations on land. He begins by summarizing how MDB will connect operations to strategy.

Current proponents suggest that [MDB] will occur against peer competitors in contested environments, providing the US Army and its joint partners with a much thinner margin of victory than in the recent past. As such, US forces should look to create zones of proximal dominance to enable the active pursuit of objectives and end states, and that dislocation is the key to defeating an adversary capable of multi-domain operations.

The essence of MDB will be a constant struggle for battlespace dominance, which will be “fleeting, fragile, and prone to shock or surprise.” Achieving temporary dominance only establishes the pre-conditions necessary for closing with and destroying enemy forces, however.

Fox suggests envisioning the cross-domain, combined arms, and individual arms of ground forces (i.e. direct fire weapons, indirect fire weapons, cyber, electronic, information, reconnaissance, et cetera) as “zones of proximal dominance” or “as an orb of power which radiates from a central position.” Long-range weapons perform a protective function and form the outer layers of the zone, while shorter-range weapons constitute the fighting functions.

[O]ne must understand that in multi-domain battle they must first strip away, or dislocate, the protective layers of an enemy’s force in order to destroy its strength, or its inner core. In the cross-domain environment, an enemy’s outer core is its cross-domain and joint capabilities. Therefore, the more of the enemy’s outer can be cleaved away or neutralized, the more success friendly forces will have in defeating the enemy’s main fighting force. Dislocating the outer layers and destroying the inner core will, in essence, defeats the cross-domain enemy.

Dislocation is a concept Fox adopts from maneuver warfare theory as “a critical component of defeating an enemy with cross-domain capabilities because it denies the enemy access to its tools, renders those tools irrelevant, or forces the enemy into environments in which those tools are ill-disposed.”

Fox’s perspective is well informed and logical, but exploration of the implications of MDB are in the earliest stages. The essay is a fascinating and highly-recommended read.

Economics of Warfare 17-2

Continuing the examination of the seventeenth lecture from Professor Michael Spagat’s Economics of Warfare course that he gives at Royal Holloway University. It is posted on his blog Wars, Numbers and Human Losses at:

This lecture started with a paper by Hsiang, Burke and Miguel that was a survey of 60 different papers from 1994-2013 on interpersonal conflict and climate, intergroup conflict and climate, and “institutional breakdown and population collapse” and climate (see slides 3-8). This is discussed in more depth on my previous post. Starting on slide 26, he then reviews a group of authors who are critical of the findings of Hsiang, Burke and Miguel. The review makes three arguments

  1. Many of 60 studies are quite similar to each other. For example, many contain African countries and some only contain African countries.
  2. There is a lot of variation of what is modeled and how it is modeled.
  3. They omit other studies that reach other conclusions.

They then provided their own meta-analysis for the effect of climate variability on civil conflict on slide 29. The argument here is not “….that climate has no effect on conflict, but, rather, that the effects of climate on conflict are less clear than claimed…” by the previous studies authors “…and that more research is needed to pin down what the real effects are.”


Now going back to America’s Modern War, which I seem to do a lot lately, I do have a chapter called “Other Similar Work” (Chapter 7, pages 70-77) that looks at other work similar to the work I present in that book. I provided in Chapter 6 a logistic regression model that keys off of force ratio and insurgent cause compared to outcome. At the time I wrote the book, there were only two similar studies I was aware of that addressed this. Done independently and at the same time as my study was Andrew Hossack’s study over at Ministry of Defence in the United Kingdom. Done after my study and using the database we developed was a study done by Center for Army Analysis (CAA). Certainly the first two criticisms provided above could be partially applied to this comparison, in that these three studies (The Dupuy Institute, Hossack and CAA) are 1) quite similar to each other, including two studies using the same database and, 2) there is some variation (but not much actually) in what is modeled (although all three studies effectively used the same dependent variable). On the other hand, as far as I know, there are no other quantitative studies out there that reach a contradictory conclusion. There are few studies done comparing force ratios to outcome. Shawn listed seven studies one of his posts, but several were related to troops per 1,000 population as opposed to force ratios:


Only five studies addressed force ratios and they found a positive correlation in all cases (although there was some debate over the significance).

Now, when I was out marketing my book to publishers, one British editor sent the manuscript to two expert reviewers to look at. One came back with the comment that contemporary studies clearly show that a force ratio model is not correct, and therefore they should not publish. I almost felt like trying to argue with this anonymous reviewer, but there were many other things on my plate (including finding another publisher for the book). I get the sense that because force ratio models of insurgency were discussed in the 1950s and 1960s, and were dismissed by some at the time, that people believe that they are passé. But, it does not appear that the original 10-to-1 or similar force ratio model that was quoted in the 50s and 60s was based upon any systematic quantitative analysis. It also does not appear that the dismissal of it in the 1960s was based upon any systematic quantitative analysis.

Anyhow, that was somewhat of a long and not clearly related aside. But sometimes, the Dr. Spagat lectures get me thinking back to my work and how it compares and contrasts these other attempts to quantify and model conflict phenomena. The link to his lecture is here:

Economics of Warfare 17 – 1

Examining the seventeenth lecture from Professor Michael Spagat’s Economics of Warfare course that he gives at Royal Holloway University. It is posted on his blog Wars, Numbers and Human Losses at:

As is the case with the last two lectures, this one also focuses on climate and conflict. It starts with a paper by Hsiang, Burke and Miguel (a different paper than the one in the last lecture by the same authors). This paper is not a single test, but a survey of 60 different papers from 1994-2013. There are 15 that look at interpersonal conflict and climate (usually temperature compared to crime), 30 that look at intergroup conflict and climate (often rain or temperature compared to civil conflict), and 15 that look at “institutional breakdown and population collapse” and climate. All these are listed in slides 3-8.

The discussion after that goes into considerable depth (and is certainly worth perusing), but the conclusion on slide 25 is “HBM seem to present a pretty impressive accumulation of evidence associating higher temperatures with more conflict….” (my bolding)

And he notes: “The authors admit that there is not a lot of research spelling out plausible mechanism that might explain why higher temperatures are associated with more violence.”

I will stop here and pick this up tomorrow. Starting on slide 26, he then reviews a group of authors who are critical of the findings of Hsiang, Burke and Miguel.

The link to the lecture is here:


Wargaming at RAND

Images of RAND wargames from a 1958 edition of Life magazine. [C3I Magazine]

A friend tipped me off to RAND Corporation‘s “Events @ RAND” podcast series on iTunes, specifically a recent installment titled “The Serious Role of Gaming at RAND.” David Shlapak, senior international research analyst and co-director of the RAND Center for Gaming, gives an overview of RAND’s history and experiences using gaming and simulations for a variety of tasks, including analysis and policy-making.

Shlapak and Michael Johnson touched off a major debate last year after publishing an analysis of the military balance in the Baltic states, based on a series of analytical wargames. Shlapak’s discussion of the effort and the ensuing question and answer session are of interest to both those new to gaming and simulation, as well as wargaming old timers. Much recommended.

Mosul Battle will be finished in days?

By the way, in between all the other rather dramatic news, there is still a battle raging in Mosul. Now, the Iraqi’s are claiming it will be over in days (before 26 May):

The statement was made on the 10th, and it is now the 20th.

Just as a reminder, as it is been a while since we looked at the timeline, back around 18 October, they were claiming that it could take two months:

  1. They started the offensive around 15 October
  2. Arrived to the outskirts of Mosul and started taking parts of Mosul in early November:
  3. Took the Eastern half of Mosul around 22 January:
  4. And then they started fighting for the western half of Mosul around 18 February:

Not the fastest offensive we have seen. For example, the Germans arrived on the outskirts of Stalingrad in August 1942, had taken most of the city by the end of November, and were still there, surrounded and starving, in February 1943.

One final note, remember this prediction in early February:

It stated that U.S. commander in Iraq, U.S. Army Lt. General Stephan Townsend, said “within the next six months I think we’ll see both (the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns) conclude.”

So, are we still on track to take Raqqa by the end of July?

What Would An Army Optimized For Multi-Domain Battle Look Like?

Raytheon’s new Long-Range Precision Fires missile is deployed from a mobile launcher in this artist’s rendering. The new missile will allow the Army to fire two munitions from a single weapons pod, making it cost-effective and doubling the existing capacity. [Raytheon]

As the U.S. Army develops its new Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) concept and seeks to modernize and upgrade its forces, some have called for optimizing its force structure for waging combined arms maneuver combat. What would such an Army force structure look like?

The active component of the Army currently consists of three corps, 10 divisions, 16 armored/Stryker brigade combat teams (BCTs), 15 light infantry BCTs, 12 combat aviation brigades, four fires brigades, three battlefield surveillance brigades, one engineer brigade, one Ranger brigade, five Special Forces groups, and a special operations aviation regiment.

U.S. Army Major Nathan A. Jennings and Lt. Col. Douglas Macgregor (ret.) have each proposed alternative force structure concepts designed to maximize the Army’s effectiveness for combined arms combat.

Jennings’s Realignment Model

Jennings’s concept flows directly from the precepts that MDB is being currently developed upon.

Designed to maximize diverse elements of joint, interorganizational and multinational power to create temporary windows of advantage against complex enemy systems, the Army’s incorporation of [MDB] should be accompanied by optimization of its order of battle to excel against integrated fire and maneuver networks.

To that end, he calls for organizing U.S. Army units into three types of divisions: penetration, exploitation and stabilization.

Empowering joint dynamism begins with creating highly mobile and survivable divisions designed to penetrate complex defenses that increasingly challenge aerial access. These “recon-strike” elements would combine armored and Stryker BCTs; special operations forces; engineers; and multifaceted air defense, indirect, joint, cyber, electromagnetic and informational fires to dislocate and disintegrate adversary defenses across theater depth. As argued by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, then-director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, they could “fight their way through long-range weapons fire and gain physical contact with hard-to-find opponents” while striking “from unexpected directions with multiple forms of firepower.”

Exploitation divisions would employ more balanced capabilities to destroy enemy concentrations, clear contested zones and seize key terrain. Comprising a variety of light, airborne, motorized and mechanized infantry BCTs with modest armor and engineer support—all empowered by destructive kinetic, electronic and virtual fires—these commands would attack through windows of opportunity created by deep strikes to overmatch paralyzed defenders. While penetrating formations would rapidly bridge air and land component efforts, their more versatile and flexible exploitation counterparts would allow joint commands to decisively shatter adversary warfighting capabilities through intensive fire and maneuver.

The third type of division would be made up of elements trained to consolidate gains in order to set the conditions for a sustainable, stable environment, as required by Army doctrine. The command’s multifaceted brigades could include tailored civil affairs, informational, combat advisory, military police, light infantry, aviation and special operations elements in partnership with joint, interdepartmental, non-governmental and coalition personnel. These stabilization divisions would be equipped to independently follow penetration and exploitation forces to secure expanding frontages, manage population and resource disruptions, negotiate political turbulence, and support the re-establishment of legitimate security forces and governance.

Jennings did not specify how these divisions would be organized, how many of each type he would propose, or the mix of non-divisional elements. They are essentially a reorganization of current branch and unit types.

Proposing separate penetration and exploitation forces hearkens back to the earliest concepts of tank warfare in Germany and the Soviet Union, which envisioned infantry divisions creating breaches in enemy defenses, through which armored divisions would be sent to attack rear areas and maneuver at the operational level. Though in Jennings’s construction, the role of infantry and armor would be reversed.

Jennings’s envisioned force also preserves the capability for conducting wide area security operations in the stabilization divisions. However, since the stabilization divisions would likely constitute only a fraction of the overall force, this would be a net reduction in capability, as all of the current general purpose force units are (theoretically) capable of conducting wide area security. Jennings’s penetration and exploitation divisions would presumably possess more limited capability for this mission.

Macgregor’s Transformation Model

While Jenning’s proposed force structure can be seen as evolutionary, Macgregor’s is much more radically innovative. His transformation concept focuses almost exclusively on optimizing U.S. ground forces to wage combined arms maneuver warfare. Macgregor’s ideas stemmed from his experiences in the 1991 Gulf War and he has developed and expanded on them continuously since then. Although predating MDB, Macgregor’s concepts clearly influenced the thinking behind it and are easily compatible with it.

In a 2016 briefing for Senator Tom Cotton, Macgregor proposed the following structure for U.S. Army combat forces.

The heart of Macgregor’s proposal are modular, independent, all arms/all effects, brigade-sized combat groups that emphasize four primary capabilities: maneuver (mobile armored firepower for positional advantage), strike (stand-off attack systems), ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) and sustainment (logistics). These modular groups would be the Army’s contribution to cross-domain, corps-level joint task forces, which is how he—and increasingly the rest of the U.S. armed forces—sees the U.S. military waging combat in the future.

Macgregor’s envisioned force structure adds his Reconnaissance Strike Group (RSG) to armored, mechanized infantry, and airborne/air-assault light infantry units. These would total 26 brigade-sized groups, down from the current 31 BCTs, with a ratio of 16 RSG/armored groups to 10 mechanized/airborne infantry.

Macgregor would also downsize the number of manned rotary wing combat aviation elements from 12 to four mostly be replacing them with drones integrated into the independent strike groups and into the strike battalions in the maneuver groups.

He would add other new unit types as well, including theater missile defense groups, C41I groups, and chem-bio warfare groups.

Macgregor’s proposed force structure would also constitute a net savings in overall manpower, mainly by cutting out division-level headquarters and pushing sustainment elements down to the individual groups.

Evolution or Revolution?

While both propose significant changes from the current organization, Jennings’s model is more conservative than Macgregor’s. Jennings would keep the division and BCT as the primary operational units, while Macgregor would cut and replace them altogether. Jennings clearly was influenced by Macgregor’s “strike-reconnaissance” concept in his proposal for penetration divisions. His description of them is very close to the way Macgregor defines his RSGs.

The biggest difference is that Jennings’s force would still retain some capacity to conduct wide area security operations, whether it be in conventional or irregular warfare circumstances. Macgregor has been vocal about his belief that the U.S. should avoid large-scale counterinsurgency or stabilization commitments as a matter of policy. He has also called into question the survivability of light infantry on future combined arms battlefields.

Even should the U.S. commit itself to optimizing its force structure for MDB, it is unclear at this point whether it would look like what Jennings or Macgregor propose. Like most military organizations, the U.S. Army is not known for its willingness to adopt radical change. The future Army force structure is likely to resemble its current form for some time, unless the harsh teachings of future combat experience dictate otherwise.

Russian Economy is Growing

The Russian economy is growing, very slowly granted, and at a rate of only 0.5% annually. Still, this is a lot better than the 3.7% drop they suffered in 2015 (World Bank figures….the article says 2.8%):

Not only was their economy dropping, but not surprising, they were running significant budget deficits ($21 billion in 2016, or 3% of GDP) and their cash reserves were running low (National Wealth Fund had $72.71 billion as of September 2016). Much of this decline was driven by the price of oil and secondarily, by the limited sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union (and the counter-sanctions issued by Russia). These sanctions are still in place and the price of oil is not something the Russians have control over. I don’t see the sanctions being lifted anytime soon, so Russian economic growth is dependent as the price of oil staying stable or moving up. Putin is up for re-election to his fourth term in March 2018 for a six-year term, so a stable economy would be helpful, although few doubt the outcome of the election. Growth after a recession can sometimes be strong, for example the U.S. economy grew at 2.5% in 2010 after 18 months negative growth. The Russian recovery at 0.5% is a little anemic.

The ruble is at 57 to a dollar.

Economics of Warfare 16

Examining the sixteenth lecture from Professor Michael Spagat’s Economics of Warfare course that he gives at Royal Holloway University. It is posted on his blog Wars, Numbers and Human Losses at:

This lecture also addresses climate change. In effect, it is looking at the impact of droughts on civil war incidence. The first part of the lecture focuses on a study done by Coutteneir and Soubeyran. It is also a cross-country analysis.

The thing that caught my attention was that they choose to exclude the anti-colonial wars and “internationalized wars:” (slide 2). These are a significant number of cases, although I can understand their reasons for doing so. Certainly the drivers behind these wars was much more the local climate conditions. So, they start by removing the cases that they know are not driven by climate change.

Now, when I originally did the Iraq Casualty Estimate (see Chapter One of America’s Modern Wars) I had a significant number of these “colonial wars of national liberation” in my data set, mostly dating from the 1950s and 1960s. As I was briefing the results of my estimates inside the Army and DOD community in early 2005, this suddenly became an issue. I think one person inside an organization glommed onto this issue as a way of obviating my results. I ended up going over to give the brief in DOD and was notified that they had been informed that my results were biased by having too many “colonial wars of national liberation” in my data set. Not exactly sure how having “colonial wars of national liberation” in my data set biased my estimate of casualties and duration in an Iraq insurgency, but this was the argument they were making. So for my briefing, I did my original briefing, and then added a little addendum that addressed my results if I took out the dozen or so cases of “colonial wars of national liberation.” It did not change my results. This was a fairly embarrassing exercise in that I think that person in question wanted to dismiss my results because they either did not believe them, it violated his cosmology, or the higher ups in DOD had already decided that we would not be facing a major guerilla war. Never really knew what the reasoning was. It is alluded to in my book on page 28.

Anyhow, there are valid reasons I believe for leaving out “colonial wars of national liberation” from this climate change test, but I do not believe there was for my Iraq Casualty Estimate.

With those cases left out, Couttenier and Soubeyran do come up with a fairly consistent and positive relationship between drought and internal armed conflict (slide 2 – 3)

The next part addresses a paper by Hsiang et al. (paper is linked on slide 4). It discussed El Nino. Having lived in California in the 1980s, El Nino is something very familiar to me (as are earthquakes), but Dr. Spagat provides a nice explanation of it on slides 4-5 for his British students. The advantage of looking at El Nino (hotter and dryer periods) and La Nina (colder and wetter periods) is that you again get sort of the side-by-side laboratory effect that social scientists have to struggle to find.

His next series of slides gets into the nuts and bolts of the study, but they ended up tracking “Annual Conflict Risk” (ACR) which is 2% for countries weakly affected by these weather patterns, 3% for countries affected by La Nina (cool and wet) and 6% for countries affected by El Nino (warm and dry). See slide 15.

The next slides examine the studies in more depth, with Dr. Spagat making the statement on slide 23 that “Ultimately, though, I feel that we need some convincing case studies linking ENSO with armed conflict in specific times and places for the Hsiao et al. work to be fully convincing.”

Slides 24-29 end up discussing “panel data”

The link to the lecture is here: