A Credit Suisse report on globalisation analysed the overall strength or combat potential of some of the world’s largest armies. Obviously, the US army is the world’s strongest, but what should make all Indians proud is that the Indian Military sits at the fifth position. Russia, China, and Japan are in second, third and fourth place, respectively.
The report said that the US is supremely powerful because of its fleet of 13,900 aircraft, 920 attack helicopters, 10 aircraft carriers and 72 submarines.
None of the countries in the list comes anywhere close to those figures. China has, however, almost 50 per cent more active duty military personnel than US. Counted with Reserve Military and Paramilitary both India and China far exceed that of US. India has a total of approximately 4.7 million total military personnel compared to China’s 7 million. The United States has around 2.3 million total military personnel. While the US has 10 aircraft carriers, most of which are classified under the category of ‘supecarriers’, India and Italy come second with two aircraft carriers each. China has only one in Liaoning. Japan recently launched a helicopter carrier named Izumo.
The reason why Japan, in spite of its pacifist constitution, is ahead of India in strength is because of the former’s better weaponry.
The US-made fighters and aircraft of the Japanese Air Force are superior to those of the Indian Air Force. An ageing fleet has made the Indian Air Force face a depleting squadron problem. This forced the government to agree on purchasing 36 Dassault Rafale’s off the shelf.
The Tejas, India’s indigenously manufactured Light Combat Aircraft, has been facing multiple problems ranging from design flaws to production delays ever since its sanctioning in 1983.
The Indian Air Force got its first and only Tejas in 2014. Technically, the teeth of the Indian Air Force comprises the fleets of Sukhoi-30 MKI and Dassault Mirage.
The chart also points at a major flaw in India’s military – it has almost negligible attack helicopters. India is still using ageing fleet of Russian Mi choppers.
Attack helicopters are integral to army operations. They provide not just back-up but also clear the ground for troops to advance. In a much needed breather for the military, the government recently signed a $3.1 bn deal to purchase 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinhook heavy-lift transport helicopters from the US. HAL is also manufacturing a Light Combat Helicopter which recently cleared its high altitude tests. If there are no production delays, the chopper will be in operation by 2016.
The report also highlights why the United States is on top. Its defence expenditure of USD 610 bn (2014) is far more than “the combined military expenditures of the next nine countries”. It was not just the conventional warfare that the report spoke about; it also threw light on nuclear war capability.
Citing data provided by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) Yearbook 2015, the report said that Russia and the United States account for more than 90% of global inventories of nuclear weapons.
“In reality, in today’s nuclear era, conventional forces are not the only indicator of military strength.”