The Military Balance 2018 includes new arms orders and deliveries graphics, a wall chart focused on strategic-forces modernisation in China, Russia and the United States, and thematic texts on Chinese and Russian air-launched weapons, artificial intelligence and defence, and Russian strategic-force modernisation.

Military Balance 2018

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 2018:

  • Complementing its regional military analysis, the book carries detailed assessments of defence developments in China, Russia and the United States, as well as France and the United Kingdom. There are also features on Norway, Qatar, Sudan, Taiwan, Uganda and Venezuela, among others.
  • New thematic texts analysing Chinese and Russian air-launched weapons; Big data, artificial intelligence and defence; and Russia’s strategic-force modernisation.
  • A new Military Balance Wall Chart, focused on strategic-forces modernisation in China, Russia and the US.
  • New regional arms orders and deliveries sections, outlining significant defence-procurement events in 2017 and displaying selected procurement programmes and ongoing or completed procurement priorities in 2017, and including equipment-focus graphics, such as Russia’s Su-57 (T-50) combat aircraft.
  • Updated comparative defence-statistics section, with graphics showing key data relating to defence economics and major land, sea and air capabilities, including global UAV sales and Chinese and Asia-Pacific regional naval shipbuilding since 2000.
  • Updated summaries of national military capability, at the start of each country entry.
  • New maps comparing selected military training exercises in Europe and Russia and Eurasia in 2016–17.
  • Updated entries relating to national cyber capabilities.
  • An extended selection of new maps, graphics and tables, including military facilities and defence-industrial locations for selected states, the US Navy’s Virginia-class guided-missile submarine, Russian army units near Ukraine’s border, China’s People’s Liberation Army reorganisation, and foreign military influence and reported operating locations in Syria.


‘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 U.S. 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

The Military Balance is widely recognised as the best unclassified source of defense information on personnel, equipment and budgets for every country.’ Leon Panetta, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Director of Central Intelligence and White House Chief of Staff


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  • Editor’s Introduction

    Defence policymakers worldwide remain challenged by a complex and fractured security environment, marked by increased uncertainty in relations between states and the proliferation of advanced military capabilities. Attacks in 2017 highlighted the continuing threat from transnational terrorists. Persistent conflicts and insecurity in parts of Africa meant that the continent still demanded the deployment of significant combat forces by African and external powers. In the Middle East, the war against ISIS...
  • Chapter I, Part I: Chinese and Russian air-launched weapons: a test for Western air dominance

    Since the end of the Cold War, the air domain has been one of assured superiority for the United States and its allies. This dominance, however, rests on weapons and technologies that China and Russia are increasingly attaining as part of a broader effort to counter US capabilities, and to deny US and allied forces unimpeded control of the air. These two nations – emerging and resurgent air powers, respectively –...
  • Chapter I, Part II: Big data, artificial intelligence and defence

    Big-data analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are points along a continuum that will progressively remove human beings from complex decision-making. The automation of inductive ‘reasoning’ and empirical modelling allows for improved pattern recognition of all sorts, ranging from identifying similar targets to predicting correlated behaviour. Currently, however, these largely involve algorithmic models operating on extremely large data sets rather than genuine cognition or abstract decision-making capabilities that would...
  • Chapter I, Part III: Russia: strategic-force modernisation

    Nuclear weapons have long played a fundamental role in Russia’s national-security strategy. Moscow sees them as an essential aspect of strategic deterrence – which also comprises conventional and non-military capabilities – enabling it to maintain strategic stability and prevent military conflict. This suggests that Russia does not consider its nuclear capability in narrowly military terms, but rather relies on this to position itself as one of the guarantors of a...
  • Chapter 2: Comparative defence statistics

    Comparative defence statistics Defence budgets and expenditure Armed unmanned aerial vehicles: production and procurement Key defence statistics China: People’s Liberation Army main battle tanks China: air-to-air missile progress Selected Chinese and Asia-Pacific regional naval shipbuilding since 2000
  • Chapter 3: North America

    United States On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. The administration quickly moved to take action on the issues Trump had emphasised in his campaign, including tackling perceived disparities over burden-sharing within the transatlantic alliance. In the campaign, Trump had questioned the relevance of NATO. During a May 2017 speech in Brussels, the president returned to the theme, chiding the Alliance’s European members for...
  • Chapter 4: Europe

    Throughout 2017, a diverse threat environment and political uncertainty about the cohesiveness of NATO and the European Union continued to put pressure on European governments to strengthen their defence capabilities. In response to this, national governments have launched a series of collaborative initiatives and have adjusted their force postures and strategy. At the same time, many of these governments are augmenting defence budgets that have slowly begun to recover from...
  • Chapter 5: Russia-Eurasia

    In 2017 Russia continued to pursue its aspiration to field a more modern suite of military capabilities and more professional armed forces held at a higher state of readiness. Elements of these forces continue to maintain and sustain the deployment to Syria, where Russian combat forces remain engaged across land, sea and air, and have proven instrumental to the Assad regime’s survival in the six-year-long civil war. Meanwhile, there are further...
  • Chapter 6: Asia

    In the Asia-Pacific region, the influences on defence policy, military spending and equipment procurement, and on the development of armed forces’ capabilities, were as wide-ranging as ever in 2017. However, the most important were pervasive and persistent insecurity; economic circumstances that allowed for a relatively high – and in some cases increasing – allocation of national resources to the armed forces; and domestic political circumstances, which often helped to support...
  • Chapter 7: Middle East and North Africa

    The region remains dominated by the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, while regional governments also have to address threats from transnational terror groups. At the same time, states in the Gulf are increasingly concerned by Iran, particularly its support for Houthi forces in Yemen, and also its destabilising activities in the region more broadly, to say nothing of its continuing effort to develop its ballistic-missile capability. The fight...
  • Chapter 8: Latin America and the Caribbean

    The increasingly unstable political, economic and social situation in Venezuela has highlighted not just the domestic actions of the government’s secur­ity and armed forces, and militias, but also tensions with neighbouring countries, such as Colombia and Guyana. For some states, worries about the situation in Venezuela were prompted not just by the domestic problems there, and the outflow into neighbouring states of some Venezuelan citizens fleeing the country, but also...
  • Chapter 9: Sub-Saharan Africa

    Conflict and instability across parts of sub-Saharan Africa still constitute significant challenges to regional governments. A problem for regional states is that the requirement to deal with current threats risks absorbing the attention of defence establishments, possibly forestalling the defence-reform processes that might make responses to continental security threats more efficient. International involvement in these reform processes is important in terms of funding and organisational support. Meanwhile, the fact that some...
  • 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.
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