A strong air force is a key element of a country’s military. Aerial warfare has become important during the first half of the 20th century and it is now crucial for a country to have a strong air force. The following list will walk you through the top 10 largest air forces in the world based on the number of crafts and personnel as well as on the different types of aircrafts available to the air force. As you will see, having a large number of aircrafts does not necessarily means an air force is efficient since the level of technology reached by an army can greatly impact its efficiency.
1. United States Air Force
The United States Air Force comes first with over 2,000 fighter crafts. The USAF also includes refueling aircrafts, attack helicopters, electronic warfare aircrafts, observation and reconnaissance aircrafts and 32 satellites among many other aircrafts. The total of all the aircrafts is 5,573 and the USAF has a staff of 329,600.
2. Russian Air Force
The Russian Air Force comes next with 4,000 total aircrafts. This number includes 252 fighter crafts, air superiority fighters, bombers, command & control aircrafts, ground attack aircrafts, UAVs as well as helicopters. In total, 160,000 people work for the Russian Air Force.
3. People’s Liberation Army Air Force
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force in China has an impressive number of fighter aircrafts (1770) and personnel (330,000). This air force also includes 11 airborne early warning crafts, 249 bombers and 632 helicopters. There are many other aircrafts such as 26 unmanned aerial vehicles, refueling aircrafts, interceptor fighters, attack and transport helicopters or trainer aircrafts. In total, China has 2,500 aircrafts.
4. Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force employs 127,000 people and has a total of 1,380 aircrafts. The Indian Air Force has different types of aircrafts, including 265 fighter aircrafts, 3 airborne early warning crafts, 125 interceptor aircrafts and 239 ground attack forces. There are also transports, 2 squadron attack helicopters, strike fighters, UAVs for surveillance and reconnaissance, close support aircrafts and anti-tactical ballistic missiles.
5. Royal Air Force
The United Kingdom ranks fifth in the top 10 largest air forces in the world with 1,004 aircrafts. A total of 41,300 people work for the Royal Air Force. The UK has 240 fighter crafts, air defence fighters, UAVs, transports, electronic warfare aircrafts, strike fighters or refueling aircrafts.
6. French Air Force
France’s Armee de l’Air and its 635 aircrafts is 6th on our list. The total number of airforce personnel is 58,900. Aircrafts include fighters, reconnaissance crafts, multirole fighters, UAVs, tactical transport, trainers, nuclear strike crafts, search and rescue helicopters, signals intelligence and experimental aircrafts.
7. German Air Force
Germany’s Luftwaffe comes next with 428 aircrafts. The Luftwaffe has 100 fighter crafts, refueling aircrafts, surface to air missiles, signals intelligence, special air mission crafts, utility helicopters, strategic transport, ground attack and electronic warfare crafts. A total of 35,560 people work for the Luftwaffe.
8. Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force counts 1,964 aircrafts, including 396 fighter crafts. There are 27,000 airforce personnel. The Israeli Air Force also includes aerial firefighting and refueling crafts. There are also transports, signals intelligence, mini UAVs, multirole fighters, maritime patrol aircrafts and maritime helicopters, ground attack, electronic warfare crafts and Special Electronic Missions Aircraft among many other types of crafts.
9. Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force ranks ninth on our list. The Royal Australian Air Force has 254 aircrafts and 17,375 airforce personnel. The aircrafts include 95 fighters or attack crafts, aerial refueling crafts, strategic as well as tactical transport, UAVs for reconnaissance and surveillance, maritime patrol crafts, Airborne early warning and control crafts as well as aircrafts used for training purposes.
10. Japan Air Self-Defense Force
The last country on our list of the top 10 largest air forces in the world is Japan. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force includes a total of 805 aircrafts. The personnel adds up to 45,000. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has fighter and attack crafts, interceptors, combat and trainer crafts, Electronic Warfare Aircraft, search and Rescue helicopters as well as transport. Transports include helicopters and other aircrafts.
This list of best air forces around the world could change with time. The efficiency of an air force usually depends on the budget allocated to this resource as well as the level of technology available to the country’s army. These numbers date from 2013 and it is likely that the countries on this list will add more aircrafts to their air force and retire crafts that have become obsolete. The current trend is to invest in unmanned crafts, mostly for surveillance purposes. As electronic technologies become more important in warfare, it is possible that a country with a superior electronic technology could develop an efficient air force without having an important number of manned fighter crafts. You should stay up to date with technologies and events that could influence the way a country invests in their air force in order to get a good idea of which countries currently have the best air forces.