Military Ranking in Africa 2020

The Military Ranking in Africa 2020 is derived from the analysis of the total lethal capabilities of various countries when conducting multi-spectra warfare.

Military Ranking in Africa 2020 takes into account a wide range of ranking tools and parameter which includes total manpower, land combat posture, aerial strength, naval strength, resources, and the current defense budget.

The Military Ranking in Africa 2020 ranking system takes into account these critical areas:

  • Manpower

This is the total number of active duty personnel available to defend a nation.  The personnel is the core of all and any military force. They undertake various roles in the military from air combat operations, naval duties, infantry, service support, logistics, medics, paratroopers, amphibious assault, aviation, helicopter operations, weapons loading and general repairs and maintenance. Manpower is one of the essential requirementfor a spot on the list of top Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

  • Land force combat posture

As the ever-present global economic crises bite harder, African militaries are finding it even harder to properly equip its Army with standard warfighting equipment. In recent times, battles between African nations are winding down with the latest being the Gambian Intervention of 2017, which was essentially a peace enforcement campaign resulting in unexciting engagement. However, asymmetrical and unconventional warfare between nations and non-state actors have taken the limelight, as terrorism and insurgency comes to the fore. Having a formidable land force or Army is vital to being at the top of the list on the Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

During warfare, most battles occur on the ground. Any military forces must be able to perform various type of warfare in a different location with sufficient modern military equipment and funding to increase the certainty of total victory. A land army must possess various equipment such as Main battle tanks, armored fighting vehicles, self-propelled artillery, towed artillery, and rocket projectors. Equiping a military force with sufficient arms is vital to reaching a high positin on the Military Ranking in Africa 2020 list.

Armored vehicles play a vital role in today’s land warfare and the Main Battle Tank is a must-have for African Armies. There are different types of armored vehicles like Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV), Mine Resistant and Protection (MRAP), armored cars even Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) E.T.C Armored vehicles play a role in the Military Ranking in Africa 2020 list.

Artillery is large weapons used to project fire to long distance. They are the most lethal weapon in any Army’s inventory. They are used to bombard enemy positions and also to support allied units on the battlefield in an indirect fire mode. In Arica today, having a large amount of artillery guarantees a top spot on the Military Ranking in Africa 2020 list.

  • Aerial Capabilities

In Africa today, the main duty of the Air Force is to support the Army and Navy. Except some few countries such as Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Uganda, Sudan, and Angola most African nations do not possess comprehensive aerial capabilities to engage in all spectrum of air warfare. Air power is important to any country who wishes to top the list on the Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

The term “Air Force” may refer to a combination of various aircraft and rotorcrafts like bombers, fighter jets, helicopters, Trainers, Transport aircraft and others. The primary role of the Air Force is to protect and defend the nations territorial integrity against threats both ‘FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC’.

Aerial capabilities are measured by aircraft strength, fighters and interceptors, attack aircraft, transports, trainers, total helicopters, attack helicopters, and serviceable airports.

What makes a good Air Force? There are necessary factors that an Air Force must possess to enable it to fulfill its role, these factors would be used to rank the contenders on the list of top Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

  1. Combat experience
  2. Equipment
  3. Training
  • Naval strength

In Africa, the Navy is usually the first line of defense against imminent danger. At the first indication of a possible threat to a nation’s territorial security, the navy is usually the first to engage the enemy. This factor is essential for a country to be in the list of the Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

Total naval strengthfor the list of Military Ranking in Africa 2020 include aircraft carriers, frigates, destroyers, corvettes, submarines, patrol craft, and mine warfare. Presently, In Africa the challenges of operating a fully functional all aspect navy are daunting, issues like political, economic and lack of technical know-how affects the smooth running of most military’s maritime branch.


  • Amphibious Operations
  • Sub-Surface Warfare
  • Surface Warfare
  • Naval Intelligence

Financial Resources:

This is simply the amount of money a country is willing to spend in prosecuting a war. This factor is critical in making the list of the top countries in the Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

Annual defense budgets, Government and public support etc.

The Military Ranking in Africa 2020 are as follows:

  1. Egypt
  2. Algeria
  3. South Africa
  4. Nigeria
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Morocco
  7. Tunisia
  8. Kenya
  9. Sudan
  10. Angola

1. Egypt

The overall most powerful military in Africa is Egypt, Egypt has a large Military complex. It was established in 1922  and its headquarters is located in Cairo the country’s capital. The Egyptian military has currently had its Active personnel at around 438,500 troops with a further 480000 reserved Personnel making it the 12th largest in the whole world. With a budget of more than USD $6 Billion plus a USD $2 Billion United States aid yearly. This account for a 3.4% GDP in the Egypt annual budget. The Egyptian Military is number 1 in the Military Ranking in Africa 2020.


Egypt Military is the fulcrum that ties the stability in the region since Egypt is highly respected by all country in the Middle East and Europe by both allies and foes. The Egyptian Military is the Strongest in all Arab states and Africa and although not a NATO member, it remains a very valuable partner to that organization.

2. Algeria

The Algerian People’s National Armed Forces is constantly upgrading and modernizing to meet up with its mandate. With a defence budget in excess of USD $13 billion, the country can boast of 800,000 total military personnel (500,000 active duty and 200,000 reserve), making the country among the top Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

Algerian People’s National Army troops during a parade

The Algerian People’s National Army operates 2,500 main battle tanks (MBT), 6,700+ APCs and IFVs, 700 Artillery and rocket projectors,

The Algerian National Navy has in its inventory 6 ASW frigates, 13 corvettes, 8 attack submarines, 43 patrol ships and a mine warfare vessel all totaling 83 units.

The Algerian Air Force has over the years acquired numerous capable fighters and Surface-to-Air Missiles systems to fully secure it’s skies, making it one of the  top 10 best Air Force in African 2020.

With 200+ fighter/attack aircraft fleet, 326 transport planes, 280 attack/utility/transport helicopters and 70 trainers, all reaching a total number of 528 combined aircraft fleet.

The ADCOM Yahbon Flash-20 and United 40 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Algeria has also recently acquired the ADCOM Yahbon Flash-20 and United 40 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.3

3. South Africa

The South African National Defence Force posesses the most technologically sophisticated equipment in all of Africa, owing to its matured military complex. The country designs and manufacture its own weapons.

South African once developed six air-droppable nuclear weapons which the country voluntarily deactivated due to no foreseable threat in the continent.

South African Nuclear Bomb Casings

The South African Military has a total of 95,000 military personnel (78,000 active duty, 16,000 reserves). The South African Military is currently facing severe budget cuts which is causing a decline in troops welfare and combat efficacy.

Presently, according to a Defence Review by the ministry of defence in 2014, the review revealed that the SANDF is “in a critical state of decline”.

South African made armoured vehicles .jpg
A list of South African made armoured vehicles

Low military budget have started undermining the forces operational capabilities. According to a South African defense pundit, the SANDF has no innovation; little initiative, low dynamism, no drive.

Despite these shortcomings, the South African Army is still a major player in the overall security of Southern Africa. Historically, the South African Army earned the respect of the world for its resilience in the face of a superior enemy. Making the South African Military on the top of the list of Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

The South African Army 168 venerable Olifant Main Battle Tanks, 2,300 APCs/IFVs, 190 artillery and rocket projectors.

South African Olifant tMBT

The South African Navy is one of the few true blue water navies in Africa, with one four of the continents most sophisticated frigates and three submarines, coupled with 31 patrol vessels and 2 mine warfare crafts totaling 30 warships.

The South African Air Force (SAAF) fighter/attack capability is centered around its SAAB JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighter jets which is the workhorse of the fleet. The SAAF has a total aircraft strength of 209 comprising of 34 fighter/attack aircraft, 11 Rooivalk attack helicopter, 100 transport, and 68 total helicopter fleet.

4. Nigeria

Commonly known as the strongest military in West Africa however, the Nigerian Armed forces has continually suffer setbacks in the form of equipment shortages, unclear procurement policies and massive corruptions.

Four Troop in northeastern Nigeria
Four Troop in northeastern Nigeria (Wikipedia Commons)

In 2017, Transparency international reported that former military leaders may have embezzled military procurement funds reaching a staggering $15 billion dollars. Furthermore, difficulties in attaining a clear victory against the notorious Boko Haram sect for more than six years have adversely affected troops moral and public support.

Despite this issues, the Nigerian Armed Forces is seen as an unstoppable fighting machine. Historically, the Nigerian Armed Forces has been sent to far away countries to prevent chaos and install stability on the behest of the African Union and United Nations. In 1970, the Nigerian Armed Forces fought a a civil war – the conflict with Biafra.

With a defence budget of $1.5 billion USD (2017), the Nigerian Army has a total military personnel of 180,000 (120 active duty and 50,000+ reservist), it possesses 148 Main Battle Tanks, mostly T-72s, Vickers and the outdated T-55/54 MBTs. The Nigerian Army has about 400 artilley and rocket projectors in its inventory.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is at its lowest posture in terms of air combat capability. Although, it does possesses certain critical skills in other tactical areas like drone operations and airmen welfare. The Dassault Alpha jet trainers configured for combat are currently it’s workhorse. Some new aircraft are expected to arrive soon.

The NAF has about 124 total aircraft strength comprising of 9 fighter jets (Chengdu F-7N), 21 attack aircraft consisting of Dassault Alpha Jet, Aero L-39 Albatross and CH-3 UCAV. 52 transport, 47 trainer and a total helicopter fleet of 42 including 11 assault helicopter gunships which are the Mil Mi-35/24 SuperHind.

The Nigerian Navy is a Green Water Navy, due to its inability to project it’s naval operations far beyond it shores but is still limited in it deep ocean operations. Befitting a Green Water Navy, the Nigerian Navy can send one or two of its ‘long range’ Hamilton class ships across the Atlantic Ocean to Australia on a voyage but it cannot support a combat or training exercise on the Atlantic Ocean since it does not possess any Fleet Replenishing Ship (AOR) such as oilers and food resupply vessels.

Beyound any doubt, the Nigerian Navy has one of the best special forces in Africa (NNSBS) modeled after the British Special Boat Service (SBS), making Nigeria amongst the list of the top Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

5. Ethiopia

The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) oversees the ground forces, air force, as well as the Defense Industry Sector. The ENDF is one of the worlds oldest armed forces, dating as far back as 1500 BC. In 1524, the Ethiopian Army fought (to a stallmate) the Adal forces which consisted mostly of Afar, Somali, Harla, Argobba, Arab, formations supported by the Ottoman Empire.

Due to a relatively small defence budget of about USD $340,000,000 the Ethiopian Army is relatively small notwithstanding, the force is well structured and highly effective.

Since the war on the Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab began, the Ethiopian Army has itself become a terror to its enemy. As a testament to their fighting prowess, OW Watch the U.S. Army’s official foreign military study office noted that ”the Ethiopians scare the hell out of everybody” including the U.S.

Presently, the Ethiopia Army is the 4th largest contributor of troops to
peacekeeping operations globally. The force focuses on training, domestic weapons production and application of experienced based knowledge on its operations. The Ethiopian National Defense Force is one of the top Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

Since it is a landlocked country, Ethiopia today has no navy, however, the country’s leadership is planning on re-introducing its naval force which it disbanded in the early 90s.

An Ethiopian Pilot in front o an Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker

The Ethiopian Air Force is very experience, having fought a brutal war against Eritrea in 1998. However, the EAF is suffering from aircraft serviceability issues. The most potent fighter jet in the Ethiopian Air Force is its fleet of Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, Su-25 FrogFoot, Mikoyan Guerivich MiG-21 and MiG-23 Flogger. With a total aircraft strenght of 80 including 48 fighter/attack aircraft, 42 transport, 14 trainer and 33 helicopters which comprises of only 8 attack helicopter fleet.

6. Morocco

The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces (RMAF) consists of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Royal Gendarmerie, and the Royal Guard. The RMAF are large and well-trained with a great deal of experience in counter-insurgencydesert warfare and combined air-land operations.

However, the RMAF has not engaged in conventional warfare since the 1965 Algerian-Moroccan War. Its experience is gained from participating in various PKOs.

In 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Rabat disclosed “The military remains plagued by corruption, an inefficient bureaucracy, low levels of education in the ranks, periodic threats of radicalization of some of its soldiers, political marginalization, and the deployment of most of its forces in Western Sahara.”

The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces has a total manpower of 370,000 personnel (198,000 active duty and 175,000 reservist), operating on a USD $3,400,000,000 defense budget.

The Royal Moroccan Army is one of Africa’s oldest and most respected Army, having been active since the year 1088. With such vast experience, the RMAF is among the top Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

During actions against Germany in World War II, Moroccan troops earned the nickname “Todesschwalben” which means death Shadows due to their battlefield courage and aggressiveness.
The Army has fought a 25-year long war against the Polisario an Algerian backed separatist movement seeking to establish the Independence of Western Sahara.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force has about 1,270 Main Battle Tanks, 2,350 APCs/IFVs, 712 artilley and rocket launchers.

The Royal Moroccan Navy is very important to the safety and security of the
strait of Gibraltar, an important international waterway given its strategic location.

Royal Moroccan Navy receives 72-meter hydrographic survey vessel (Dar al Beida) from Piriou

The Royal Moroccan Navy has 6 frigates, 1 corvette and 22 patrol vessels to defend its highly important 2,952 km coastline. ith a total naval fleet of 121 vessels which makes the RMAF on the list of Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force is popular for its near-realistic military excercises with major allies like the USA and France. It has a total of 278 aircraft flet centered around 96 Lockheed Martins F-16, Dassault Mirage F-1, Dassault Alpha Jet, F-5 Tiger combined with some Dassault Falcon 20 for Electronic Warfare (EW). It has 130 helicopters of various types but no attack helicopter.

7. Tunisia

As a result of the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’, which the Tunisian Army was in support of, the service has been on steady improvement. More so, Tunisian Military forces saw some limited action during the 2011 Libyan Civil War, when fighting between Libyan rebels and loyalist soldiers spilled over the border.

On July 1960, 1,020 troops from the Tunisian Armed Forces were amongst the first UN troops to arrive in the Congo for Peacekeeping Operations (PKO). The Tunisian Army is currently engaged on the War on Terror. It has a total military strenght of 50,000 personnel (38,000 active duty and 12,000 reservists), operating on a USD $550,000,000 defense budget.

The Tunisian Army is equipped with 199 MBTs, 182 artillery and 679 APCs and IFVs.

Although the Tunisian Air Force is quite small (in North African standard) however, it is a distinguished service focusing more on self-defence rather than force projection.

Tunisian Air Force F-5 Freedom fighter jets

The Tunisian Air Force has about 148 total aircraft fleet, including 30 units of Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II and Aero L-59T Super Albatros in fighter/attack role. The Tunisian Air Force also has 92 transport and 30 trainer aircraft. While its helicopter strength is 84, having no attack helicopter.

The Tunisian Navy is primarily tasked with combating the smuggling of contraband, the illegal entry of migrants, as well as other coastal security activities. It is a small navy with 26 patrol boats and 7 mine warfare vessels.

8. Kenya

The Kenyan Defense Force is slowly modernizing its equipment and doctrine largely due to Al Shabaab’s menace the country constantly face. Despite this gains, As a result of the cloak of secrecy surrounding military activities, the Kenya Defence Forces has been accused of corruption in many occasions.

However, Kenyan Defense Force has shown countless times that it can meet the challenge face to face when a few Kenyan soldiers defeated more than a thousand Al Shabaab infantry and motorised units resulting in heavy casualty for the enemy.

In October 2011, following a slight preparation, Kenya Army units entered Southern Somalia to begin Operations Linda Nchi, a counter-insurgency operations which culminated into the routing of Al Shaabaab in those areas. In early June 2012, Kenyan forces were eventually integrated into AMISOM.

The Kenyan Army is composed of five brigades which includes two infantry, one with three battalions and one with two battalions; one armoured, with three battalions; one independent infantry, with two battalions; and one engineer, with two battalions. There are also additional units in the Kenyan Army which are the air defence artillery, airborne, and independent air cavalry battalions.

The Kenyan Army has 30,000 personnel (25,000 active duty and 5,000 reservist) with a total defense budget of USD $600,000. The force operates 109 Main Battle Tanks (33x T-72s and 76x Vickers MBTs), 591 APCs/IFVs and 55 artillery.

The Kenyan Air Force (KAF) regain its independence in 1994 after it was disbanded in the wake of a failed coup by a group of its officer.

A total of 29 F-5 Freedom fighters are the KAF’s main air defense fighter.

In a bid to upgrade its aerial war-fighting capabilities, The US government approved a proposed foreign military sale for twelve Air Tractor AT-802L light-attack aircraft to the government of Kenya. Although, as of 2017, the Government of Kenyan is yet signed the contract.

In 2017, Jordan donated two AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters for the KAF clandestinely, and the Kenya Air Force placed orders for six armed MD 530F Cayuse Warrior attack helicopters. Furthermore, the Kenyan Air Force wants to get three C-27J Spartan transport aircraft and some AW139 utility helicopters from Italy. The KAF has a total of 69 helicopter fleet.

kenyan air force as-350 ecureuil helicopters
Kenyan Air Force acquires H125 Écureuil and an AS550C3 Fennec (H125M) from Airbus Helicopter

The Kenyan Navy is primarily tasked with coastal defense and supporting the Kenyan Army during its various operations. In September 2012 the Kenyan Navy provided naval gunfire in support of an African Union offensive against Al Shabaab in the Somali port city of Kismayo.

The Kenyan Navy has in its possession 19 vessels with 6 of them being patrol ships. in March 2018, the United States donated Metal Shark patrol boats to the Kenyan Navy

9. Sudan

The Sudanese Armed Forces has earned the reputation of a battle-hardened military force. Most of its weapons are acquired from the People’s Republic of China and Russia however, the country manufactures its own weapons.

The Sudanese Armed Forces still has the distinction of using militia forces alongside regular army troops. The country has a total of 280,000 personnel (177,000 active duty and 105,000 reservist) operating on a defense budget of USD $2,500,000,000. Without a doubt, the Sudanese Armed Forces is among the top countries on the list of Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

The Sudanese Army have been in a constant state of warfare since its inception. It has participated in the Sudanese Civil War, the Darfur Conflict, the Sudan–SPLM-N conflict, 2012 South Sudan-Sudan border conflict and the Yemeni Civil War.

For armored warfare, the Sudanese Army has 360 MBTs which includes the AL- ZUBAIR 1&2 (a reversed-engineered version of the Russian made T-72AV) , AL-BASHIR, DIGNA MBT, Chinese-made Type 96 tank, Type 80 and Type 59, Russian-made T-72, T-54/T-55 and some Patton tanks. Furthermore, the Sudanese Army has a total of 415 APCs/IFVs, 785 artillery and rocket launchers.

The Sudanese Air Force is supplied by the European Union, Russia, China and the United States. Although, most of its aircraft are not in a flyable condition as the availability of spare parts is limited.

On paper, the Sudanese Air Force has a formidable aircraft fleet totaling 186 aircraft which consists of Sukhoi Su-35 Super flanker (unconfirmed), 11x MiG-29 Fulcrum, MiG-23 and MiG-21, Chengdu J-7 and the Shenyang J-6. For attack missions it has the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer, Su-25 Frogfoot and the Nanchang Q-5.

sudanese air force su-35

There are also 96 transport aircraft which include C-130 Hercules, Antonov An-12, An-26 and An-32 plus Ilyushin il-76 and DHC-5 STOL capable aircraft. The Sudanese Air Force has a total of 71 helicopter fleet with 41 being attack helicopters such as the Russian-made Mil Mi-24.

The Sudanese Navy was established in 1962 to operate on the Red Sea coast and the River Nile in coastal defense duties, it is equipped only 18 vessels -12 of the patrol boats including Kurmuk class patrol boats, Swifture patrol boats, Gihad class,Sewart type patrol craft, Sobat class utility boats.

10. Angola

Historically, the Angolan Armed Forces which is also known as the Forças Armadas Angolanas (FAA) in Portuguese has seen several high-profile battles in Africa such as the South African Border War.

The Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) superceded the People’s Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) following the abortive Bicesse Accord. Presently, the FAA has total military personnel of 175,000 (107,000 active duty and 68,000 reservists) on a defense budget of USD $4,150,000,000.

Due to the hostility Angola was facing in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Angolan Army acquired a large amount of its hardware from Russian, Soviet and ex-Warsaw pact nations, making the FAA on the list of Military Ranking in Africa 2020.

The Angolan Army has 393 Main Battle Tanks which includes T-55, T-62, T-72M1 and PT-76 Amphibious Light tanks. With 538 APCs/IFVs and 775 artillery and rocket launchers.

The Angolan Navy or the Marinha de Guerra de Angola (MGA) has been largely neglected owing to the nature of the civil war. In order to protect Angola’s 1 600 km long coastline, the Angolan Navy is undergoing modernization. However, much work is still needed to be done especially in the area of skills and expertise needed to maintain equipment.

The Angolan Navy has just 57 patrol vessels and two mine warfare crafts. Although, to complement for its shortfall in naval vessels, it operates 9 maritime patrol aircrafts which are 6x EMB 111, 2x Fokker F27, and one Boeing 707.

The National Air Force of Angola also known as the Força Aérea Nacional de Angola (FANA) in Portuguese several battles with South African Air Force aircraft in November 1981, October 1982, and twice in September 1987.

The National Air Force of Angola has a total aircraft fleet of 283 including 115 Fighter/attack aircraft comprising of Sukhoi Su-30, Su-25, Su-22, Mikoyan MiG-23, MiG-21 and the Embraer EMB-314.

There are also 125 transport aircraft, 47 trainers and 121 helicopter fleet which includes 15 Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters.

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