10 Countries with Largest Air Forces in the World

The skies above our planet are dominated by the mighty air forces of various nations. From the sleek fighter jets that patrol the airspace to the strategic bombers that can strike targets across the globe, these air forces represent the highest level of aerial might. Let’s discover the 10 countries that possess the largest and most formidable air forces in the world. Prepare to be amazed by the sheer scale, technological prowess, and strategic significance of these aerial powerhouses.

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List of Top 10 Countries with Largest Air Forces 

  • United States of America
  • Russia
  • China
  • India
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Pakistan 
  • Egypt
  • Turkey
  • France

1- United States of America

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the world’s largest and most powerful air force. It has an impressive arsenal of over 13,209 military aircraft. As the air service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the USAF plays a crucial role in maintaining air superiority and supporting ground and naval operations.

Around 1,854 fighter planes of the USAF constitute the core of its combat power. These multi-role jets are famous for their agility and precision in air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The F-22 Raptor is another addition to the fighter fleet and there are 186 of these aircraft in the USAF currently.

On the other hand, the newest addition to the fighter force is the F-35 Lightning II, a cutting-edge, fifth-generation stealth multirole fighter with over 630 currently in service and more on the way.

In the attack aircraft category, the USAF possesses 896 heavily armored ground-attack jets designed to provide close air support to ground troops. These jets are also known as the “Warthogs”, and they have earned a reputation for their devastating firepower and ability to operate close to friendly forces.

The USAF’s rotary-wing fleet is no less impressive, with over 5,737 total helicopters and 1,000 special attacking helicopters in service. The USAF also maintains an efficient fleet of support and specialized aircraft, including aerial refueling tankers, such as the KC-135 Stratotanker and the newer KC-46 Pegasus, which are essential for extending the range and endurance of other aircraft. 

2- Russia

Russian Air Force (VVS) is the second largest and most capable air force in the world. This fearsome force possesses an operational inventory of 4,255 aircraft. These include several aircraft designed for air superiority, multirole combat, and interception. 

In terms of fighter fleet, Russia has 809 jets with air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities. The VVS also operates a formidable fleet of 730 attacking aircraft to engage targets with precision-guided munitions and rockets. The VVS helicopter force is vigorous, with 1,547 operational helicopters. The 559 attack helicopters, including the Ka-52 “Alligator” further enhance Russia’s aerial firepower.

Beyond its combat aircraft, the VVS maintains a fleet of 410 transport aircraft. These include strategic airlifters as well as tactical transports, providing power projection, logistics, and ensuring personnel movement.

The VVS is committed and dedicated to preparing the next generation of pilots, providing 487 aircraft for training purposes. This includes advanced jet trainers like the Yak-130 and L-39, as well as helicopter trainers such as the Mi-28 and MiG-29UBT.

While the VVS has suffered significant losses during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Russia continues to invest in modernizing and enhancing its air power. The introduction of the Su-57 stealth fighter and the development of the Su-75 “Checkmate” fighter bomber demonstrate Russia’s power. 

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3- China

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has rapidly emerged as the third largest and strongest air power in recent decades. With a total aircraft inventory of 3,304 aircraft, the PLAAF is ready to potentially surpass the United States as the world’s largest air force soon.

The PLAAF’s combat aircraft fleet is vast, with over 1,207 fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft as well as 371 fourth-generation fighters such as the Chengdu J-10, Shenyang J-11, and Shenyang J-16. China has also introduced its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the Chengdu J-20. The helicopter force of the PLAAF is equally substantial, with over 913 total helicopters and 281 attack helicopters including Changhe Z-11 and CAIC Z-10.

China’s rapid military modernization has been a key driver behind the PLAAF’s growth and capability enhancement. The PLAAF has been steadily replacing its aging, Soviet-era aircraft with more advanced, domestically-produced platforms. 

Despite its impressive size and modernization efforts, the PLAAF still faces several challenges. Pilot training and maintenance standards, as well as command and control systems, remain areas where the PLAAF lags behind its Western counterparts. 

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4- India

India has the fourth largest air force in the world, with a fleet of over 2,296 aircraft serving across the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has fighter jets, attack aircraft, transport planes, and helicopters.

As of 2024, the IAF possesses a total of 606 fighter aircraft, including Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker-H multirole fighters, which are the backbone of its air superiority and strike capabilities. The IAF also operates 130 attacking jets such as SEPECAT Jaguar IB, Jaguar IS, and Jaguar IM.

India is rapidly modernizing its air force with the induction of indigenous HAL Tejas light combat aircraft. The IAF plans to acquire 83 advanced Tejas Mk-1A fighters with enhanced capabilities, including AESA radar, jammers, and next-generation beyond-visual-range missiles.

The IAF’s helicopter fleet is similarly impressive, with 869 total helicopters and 40 special attacking helicopters. The IAF also operates 14 Kamov Ka-27 anti-submarine warfare helicopters and is set to receive 24 more latest and state-of-the-art helicopters. The IAF’s transport fleet includes 6 refueling tankers.

The IAF’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) inventory has 14 surveillance drones and 2 General Atomics surveillance and strike drones. With a focus on modernization, the IAF is committed to maintaining its position as one of the most powerful air forces in the region, capable of projecting power and ensuring the security of India’s skies and borders.

5- South Korea

South Korea’s Air Force, known as the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). It is the fifth-largest air force in the world, with a total of 1,576 military aircraft currently.

The backbone of the ROKAF’s fighter fleet consists of 40 F-35 Lightning II advanced multirole stealth fighters. In terms of attack aircraft, the ROKAF has a mix of 98 jets, which are capable of engaging targets on the ground and in the air with precision.

The South Korean Air Force also has plans to acquire 120 KF-21 Boramae fighter jets by 2032, which will replace the aging F-4 and F-5 fleets and serve as the backbone of the ROKAF’s future air power.

The ROKAF has 758 helicopters and 112 helicopters are used for special attacking purposes. The ROKAF’s modernization efforts are not limited to its aircraft fleet. They established the Space Operations Center at its headquarters in 2021, reflecting its growing focus on space-based capabilities. 

It is essential to know that the ROKAF has been actively participating in joint exercises with its allies, such as the United States and Japan, to improve its ability to respond to regional threats.

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6- Japan

Japan has the sixth world’s largest air force and it’s known as the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). In 2024, the JASDF operates around 1,459 military aircraft, with approximately 217 of them being fighter aircraft. 

The JASDF’s fighter fleet is dominated by the Mitsubishi F-15J and F-15DJ. These powerful jets are capable of air superiority and ground attack missions. Japan’s air force also includes 36 attack aircraft. The JASDF is currently planning to develop a sixth-generation stealth fighter called the Mitsubishi F-X, which is expected to enter service in 2035.

In terms of helicopters, Japan operates 577 helicopters, with almost 119 of them being attack helicopters. The JASDF has 70 Mitsubishi SH-60J and 50 SH-60K anti-submarine warfare helicopters, which are crucial for maritime patrol and defense. 

Overall, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force is well-equipped and highly capable. With a focus on advanced fighter jets, maritime patrol, and attack helicopters, the JASDF is always ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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7- Pakistan 

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is the seventh-largest in the world. It plays a significant role in defending Pakistan’s airspace and safeguarding its sovereignty. As of 2024, the PAF has a 1,434 active military aircraft fleet.

Pakistan has invested substantially in its fighter aircraft. The service operates JF-17 multirole fighters, Mirage 5 strike fighters, Mirage III interceptors, and F-16 multirole fighters. These fighter aircraft provide the PAF with the capabilities required for modern-day combat.

The PAF’s helicopter force also plays a crucial role in special operations. The service operates 352 helicopters of which 57 special helicopters are used for attacking purposes. Apart from its combat aircraft, the PAF maintains an efficient training infrastructure. The training platforms ensure that the PAF’s pilots are well-prepared to operate the fighter and attack aircraft.

The PAF’s modernization efforts have been ongoing, with the service acquiring new aircraft and upgrading its existing fleet to maintain a technological edge. The service has also invested in specialized aircraft, such as Saab 2000 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft and Dassault Falcon 20 electronic warfare aircraft.

8- Egypt

Egypt has the eighth largest and most sophisticated air force in the world. Egyptian Air Force (EAF) possesses a total active inventory of 1,080 aircraft in 2024. The EAF operates 238 multirole fighters, including F-16A/C, Mirage 5E2/SDE+, MiG-29M, and 24 Rafale DM/EM jets. These advanced fighters are capable of executing a wide range of missions.

The EAF also boasts a formidable collection of 88 attack aircraft. These include the Mirage 2000D and Dassault Mirage 2000K, which are specifically designed for precision strike missions. These aircraft are equipped with advanced avionics, targeting systems, and a variety of precision-guided munitions.

On the other hand, the EAF’s helicopter fleet is crucial in providing air support and transport capabilities. The service operates a total of 338 helicopters of which 100 are attacking helicopters such as AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, which are famous for their firepower and advanced targeting systems. 

The EAF has been actively engaged in modernizing and expanding its air power capabilities. In recent years, the service has acquired advanced fighter jets, such as the Dassault Rafale. These acquisitions highlight Egypt’s commitment to maintaining a technologically advanced and versatile air force.

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9- Turkiye

Turkiye has the ninth most powerful air force in the world, with a total active inventory of 1,069 aircraft as of 2024. The 205 fighter aircraft that comprise a large part of the Turkish Air Force’s (TurAF) inventory are the backbone of the force. 

The TurAF operates several multirole fighters, including 270 F-16C/D Fighting Falcon jets. Turkiye is also developing its own indigenous fifth-generation fighter jet, dubbed the “Kaan.” The Kaan completed its maiden flight in February 2024 which marked a huge milestone in Turkiye’s quest for self-sufficiency in defense. 

While the TurAF’s fighter jets are the backbone of its air power, the service also has a collection of 502 helicopters, including AH-1 Cobra and T129 ATAK helicopters. As the country continues to modernize and expand its air power capabilities, the TurAF is motivated to remain one of the key players in the region’s security landscape.

10- France

France has one of the largest air forces in the world. As of 2024, the French Air Force operates a total of 972 military aircraft. The French Air Force also has a significant number of aircraft on order, ensuring its fleet remains modern and effective.

The French Air Force also operates a range of 224 fighters. These aircraft are designed to deliver accurate results in a variety of environments. In terms of helicopters, the force possesses a total of 447 helicopters of which 69 are attack helicopters, including the EC725 Caracal and the Tiger HAD. 

The French Air Force is a regular feature at international airshows. In 2024, the French Air Force will be represented at airshows across France, including the Patrouille de France, the Rafale Solo Display, and the A400M Tactical Demonstration.

RankingCountryTotal Military Aircraft
1USA13,209
2Russia4,255
3China3,304
4India2,296
5South Korea1,576
6Japan1,459
7Pakistan1,434
8Egypt1,080
9Turkiye1,069
10France972

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Conclusion

The top 10 countries with the largest air forces in 2024 represent a range of global military power. Leading the list is the United States, followed by formidable Russia and China. India, South Korea, and Japan highlight strong air power in Asia, while Pakistan and Egypt reflect strategic military investments in their regions. Turkiye and France, representing Europe, further emphasize their commitment to maintaining strong air defense systems. Collectively, these nations highlight the importance of air superiority in modern military strategy and global security dynamics.

FAQs

Which are the Top 10 Air Forces in the World?

USA, Russia, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkiye, and France are the top 10 countries with powerful air forces.

Which Country has the Most Advanced Air Force?

The United States of America has the most advanced air force worldwide, with the best fighter and attack aircraft.

Which Country has the Smallest Air Force?

Maldives has the smallest air force in the world.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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