SANDF military army

Photo: Luke Daniel –

SANDF vs the rest of the world: How our army compares to others

It turns out SANDF can somewhat hold their own in a competitive field. Data from Global Firepower shows just how strong SA’s army really is.

SANDF military army

Photo: Luke Daniel –

The servicemen and women of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) should be pleased to know that they are no pushovers on the international stage when it comes to the strength of our army.

How strong is the South African army?

Data collected by Global Firepower – an organisation which charts developments in militaries across the world – reveals that South Africa has the 32nd strongest army in the world, compared to 137 countries surveyed.

That puts Mzansi in the top 25%. In terms of continental standings, SANDF comes third, behind the military powerhouses of Egypt (12th) and Algeria (27th). Global Firepower explained why South Africa performed so well:

“Our values are processed through an in-house formula to generate the PwrIndx (Power Index) which is used to establish the final rankings for the year. South Africa (SANDF) continues to showcase one of the more technologically-advanced militaries – backed by a mature local industry – in all of Africa.”

Global Firepower

Best army rankings

We’ve still got some way to go before we get anywhere near the big boys, though. The United States top the charts, and can boast the most powerful military in the world – don’t be surprised to see a Donald Trump Tweet about this later. They pipped second-placed Russia to the post, with China third. India and France complete this top five.

North Korea – a country that has shut itself off from the outside world and forces military service upon its people – comes in 18th, by the way. Their fervent, exuberant military displays have become the enduring image of life inside the Hermit Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the small Asian nation of Bhutan comes bottom of the pile. They possess two army helicopters, no naval fleet and a total of 7 000 soldiers. Compared to South Africa’s 80 000, you can see why they’re 137th. Liberia is just above them and serve as the worst-ranking African country. Suriname, Sierra Leone and Panama follow suit.

Who has the strongest army in the world?

  1. USA
  2. Russia
  3. China
  4. India
  5. France
  6. Japan
  7. South Korea
  8. UK
  9. Turkey
  10. Germany
  11. Italy
  12. Egypt
  13. Brazil
  14. Iran
  15. Indonesia
  16. Israel
  17. Pakistan
  18. North Korea
  19. Australia
  20. Canada

SANDF budget: Weapons and vehicles

South Africa’s strength in the air is something between modest and respectable. In total, we possess 17 fighter jets, 17 attack planes and a fleet of 92 army helicopters. SA treads the middle-ground with its ground forces too, owning a complement of 195 combat tanks, 2 500 armoured vehicles and 50 rocket projectors.

Global Firepower also revealed the total amount of money that gets spent on our military: $4.6 billion – or roughly R63 billion – is pumped into SANDF. That might sound a bit costly, but it looks like loose change when you compare it to America’s budget of $716 billion (R10 trillion). Oh, and their actual firepower stats are insane:

  • A total of 2.4 million people serve in the US army.
  • They have 2 300 fighter jets and a helicopter fleet of 5 700.
  • Then there’s 6 287 tanks and 39 223 armoured vehicles.
  • America has the highest number of “attack aircraft” in the world, too – 2 831 of them are ready to wreak havoc.