The Military Balance 2017 includes new equipment analysis graphics, a wall chart comparing US forces in Europe in 1989 and 2017 and essays on the changing defence-industrial landscape, special-operations forces, and twenty-first-century challenges to twentieth-century deterrence.

The Military Balance 2017

The Military Balance is the annual IISS assessment of the military capabilities and defence economics of 171 countries. Detailed A–Z entries list each country’s military forces, personnel numbers, equipment inventories and significant defence economic data.

Regional and country texts assess the principal factors driving defence policy as well as military capability and procurement, and defence economics. The opening graphics section displays notable defence statistics, while additional data sets detail selected arms orders and military exercises, as well as comparative defence expenditure and personnel numbers.

The Military Balance is an indispensable handbook for anyone conducting serious analysis of security policy and military affairs. 

New Features in The Military Balance 2017:

  • Complementing its regional military analysis, the book carries detailed assessments of defence developments in China – with vignettes on PLA reform and military training; Russia – where the The Military Balance continues its assessment of Russia’s military modernisation; as well as France, the UK and the US. There are also features on Argentina, Eritrea, the Nordic states, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, among others.
  • New thematic texts analysing the changing defence-industrial landscape, special-operations forces and twenty-first-century challenges to twentieth-century deterrence.
  • A new Military Balance Wall Chart, focused on US forces in Europe in 1989 and 2017.
  • New graphics analysing significant military platforms, including on the United States’ Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, Russia’s Almaz Antey S-400 (SA-21Growler) air-defence system and the British Army’s new Ajax armoured reconnaissance vehicles.
  • Updated comparative defence statistics section, with graphics showing key data relating to defence economics and major land, sea and air capabilities.
  • Updated and extended summaries of national military capability, at the start of each country entry.
  • Updated assessment of forces and equipment for selected non-state armed groups.
  • An updated and extended table of military training exercises, arranged by region.
  • Updated entries relating to national cyber capabilities.
  • An extended selection of new maps, graphics and tables, including China’s new theatre commands, the maintenance plans and availability of US Navy aircraft carriers, Russia’s potential missile capability in Kaliningrad, the global distribution of main battle tanks in 2016, selected unmanned maritime systems in service and operational totals of military ISR satellites.
  • Additional content featuring analysis of Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran and Israel included in the online and digital download versions.

‘Amid continuing conflict and broadening insecurity, The Military Balance provides essential facts and analysis for decision-makers and for better informed public debate.’ Dr Robert M. Gates, former US Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence

‘Because military affairs are inevitably clouded in fog, the IISS Military Balance is an essential companion for those who seek to understand.’ Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, former UK Defence Secretary and Secretary-General of NATO

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  • Editor’s Introduction

    Amid a sense of surprise and, in many quarters, shock at the result of the US presidential election and the UK’s referendum to leave the EU, there was one constant in 2016 – that the global security environment remained as unremittingly bleak as before. Perhaps the only bright spot of note was the peace accord in Colombia. Many current security challenges have endured for years; most are transnational in impact. These...
  • Chapter I, Part I: The changing defence-industrial landscape

    In 2016 there was renewed impetus for defence industries in many nations to engage in mergers and acquisitions, as well as divestments. This resulted from a combination of market uncertainty, budgetary constraints and procurement considerations, and was apparent despite a worsening security environment for many nations. Although the scale of overall defence expenditure remains significant, defence markets remain a challenge for industry, not least as firms attempt to grapple with...
  • Chapter I, Part II: Special-operations forces

    Amid an increasingly fluid and challenging contemporary security environment, there is increased demand worldwide for military forces skilled in operating below the threshold of large-scale armed conflict. As United States Army General Joseph Votel said in August 2014, US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has entered the ‘golden age for special operations’. US special-operations forces (SOF) are currently operating in more than 130 countries and are essential to war-fighting efforts in Afghanistan...
  • Chapter I, Part III: Twenty-first-century challenges to twentieth-century deterrence

    The concept of deterrence is as old as conflict itself. In terms of the military dynamics between states, however, it was not a dominant factor in determining strategy until the advent of nuclear weapons and the emergence of the language and doctrines of nuclear deterrence. For the half-century after the atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear deterrence was pre-eminent, driven primarily by the Cold War ideological and military...
  • Chapter 2: Comparative defence statistics

    Comparative defence statistics Defence budgets and expenditure Selected European aerospace defence consolidation, 1990–2016  Key defence statistics  Battlefield missiles and rockets: Russian and US equipment capabilities  Attack helicopter operators and fleets, 1997–2016 Anti-submarine warfare: fixed-wing-aircraft fleets
  • Chapter 3: North America

    After one of the most contentious elections in US history, Donald Trump was due to take the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States on 20 January 2017. The 2016 presidential campaign showed that, on both the left and the right in American politics, there are more and more citizens who question America’s role in the world. This may place the nature and duration of some...
  • Chapter 4: Europe

    Crises and instability: more of the same A heightened sense of insecurity prevailed across Europe during 2016. Successful Islamist terrorist attacks in Belgium, France, Germany and Turkey highlighted the continent’s vulnerability to instability and violence originating on its southern and southeastern margins. Meanwhile, although the flow of refugees and other migrants into Europe slowed in 2016, pressure on receiving countries to settle and integrate those arrivals remained high, and on occasion...
  • Chapter 5: Russia and Eurasia

    Russia’s deployment of military force to Syria in September 2015 significantly bolstered the position of Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, at a time when Assad’s hold on power was looking increasingly tenuous. With this mission now more than one year old, it allows further examination of Russia’s modernising armed forces and the capabilities of its weapons systems. More broadly, on the defence-policy level, the Syria operation has reinforced the view that not...
  • Chapter 6: Asia

    Regional military roles Armed forces in the Asia-Pacific region typically undertake a broader range of roles than their Western equivalents. This is particularly true in Southeast Asia, where armed forces – and armies in particular – sometimes remain central players in national politics (notably in Myanmar and Thailand) and retain significant internal-security responsibilities (as is the case in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand). In the region’s single-party states – China, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam – the institutional nature of...
  • Chapter 7: Middle East and North Africa

    Four major conflicts raged in the Middle East in late 2016, in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Conflict resolution appeared distant in each, although of the four, the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Iraq and Syria seemed to be gaining the most traction, with the jihadi group losing significant territory and personnel. In contrast, the Syrian civil war continued to defy UN and international diplomatic efforts and appeared too complex for immediate...
  • Chapter 8: Latin America and the Caribbean

    Caribbean security challenges The Caribbean region has for some years grappled with a range of ongoing security crises, including organised crime and narcotics trafficking, but the convergence of a number of factors is now raising particular issues for Caribbean Basin states. Three key countries – Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela – are each facing complex political and strategic challenges that will influence regional stability. At the same time, there has been a...
  • Chapter 9: Sub-Saharan Africa

    Active conflicts, state fragility and enduring development issues combine to create significant challenges for governments in sub-Saharan Africa; they impel the factors that absorb the day-to-day focus of many of the continent’s military forces. In some cases, as nations grapple with current threats, addressing these challenges has the effect of forestalling moves towards defence-reform processes, even though engaging in these processes might make regional armed forces’ responses to security problems...
  • Chapter 10: Country comparisons and defence data

    The Military Balance is the annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics. Detailed A–Z entries list each country's military organisation, personnel numbers, equipment inventories, and relevant economic and demographic data.
  • Explanatory notes

    The Military Balance is the annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics. Detailed A–Z entries list each country's military organisation, personnel numbers, equipment inventories, and relevant economic and demographic data.
  • Reference

    The Military Balance is the annual assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics. Detailed A–Z entries list each country's military organisation, personnel numbers, equipment inventories, and relevant economic and demographic data.
  • Additional content

    At the beginning of 2016, it was assessed that the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) had incurred about 20,000 casualties in the previous year’s fighting – an all-time high. At the same time, the Taliban’s brief seizure of provincial capital Kunduz was a significant shock for Kabul. Over the winter of 2015–16 the United States, other NATO members and Afghan forces attempted to learn lessons from the 2015 fighting...
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