The United States of America is a federation of 50 member states and widely accepted to be the most powerful country in the world in terms of economic, political and military strength.
After the dismemberment of the USSR, the United States remained the only superpower in the world. Although after 1990 it did not invest so heavily in military equipment as it did in the Cold War, it is still the world biggest military power.
According to the CIA Factbook, the US is spending about 4.06% of its GDP on Defence, which is actually half of the Federal Budget but also about 45% of the World expenditure on Defence, but not so much when compared to the expenditure of other countries as part of their GDP.
Despite its high status, the US Military continues to invest and develop its equipment. The fact that by 2015 new and more advance equipment will be replacing the present one is proof that the US will retain its status of the world’s most powerful military for some time. Although in terms of numbers it does not have the largest army nor does it have a lot of equipment this is by far compensated by the amount of technological innovation and continues upgrades of its current inventory stock.

The United States Armed Forces is divided into 5 branches:
The United States Army (US Army)
The United States Navy (US Navy)
The United States Marine Corps (US Marines)
The United States Air Force (US Air Force)
The United States Cost Guard

The United States Army

The United States Army represents the main land forces of the US Military.

The United States Army is divided into 4 components:

the Regular Army

the Reserve Army

the National Guard

the State Defense Forces

While the Regular Army is the main force for military operations, the Reserve Army and the National Guard are used as reserve forces, with the National Guard having a slightly different status. The National Guard has a double status; it is under the control of the president but also of governor of the member state. The governor can mobilize the National Guard in emergency situations, however the president has the power to override the orders of the governor.

The State Defense Forces are the military forces of each member state, the federal government has little control over them. The head of the State Defense Forces is the governor.

The composition of the forces of United States Army is roughly:

506,500 personnel

11,250 tanks approximately made up of
– 8,650 M1 Abram tanks (4400 M1A1, 1170 M1A2 and the National Guard’s 3070 M1) according to other estimates the number is around 7,600

– 2,600 M60A3 tank (mainly used by the National Guard)

1,700 M88A1 ARV – recovery vehicle

around 600 other heavy armoured vehicles with different purposes

approximately 15,600 APCs made up of
– 6300 M113

– 6700 Bradleys

– 2600 other APCs

about 1,000 MRLS (Multiple Launch Rocket System)

1,260 TOW missile systems (mainly anti-tank purpose)

260 mobile anti-aircraft units

The Army has a number of support aircraft and more than 4000 helicopters, these include approximately:
– 750 Apache attack helicopters
– 1,500 Black Hawk helicopters
– 425 Chinooks transport helicopters

over 60,000 Humvees
more than 13,000 other vehicles

Main source for numbers is

In light of other information the numbers can be adjusted.

Further info:

The M1 tank is widely considered one of the best tanks in the world. It was developed in the late 70s and entered service in 1980. Soon after that an upgraded version entered service, the M1A1 which is now the main MBT in US service, this version includes depleted uranium armour. However it is not known how many of the M1A1 have this type of armour but the US army intends to upgrade all M1A1s to this standard. Later in 1997 the M1A2 entered service, an upgraded model of the M1A1. The M1A2 is a state of the art tank incorporating new military technologies (the System Enhancement Package). Currently, the US Army is trying to upgrade about 1,000 of its M1s to M1A2 standard.
There are no concrete plans for a new generation of tanks, however there has been some information regarding a future combat system (FCS) designed to replace the current M1s but little is known about the progress of the project.

The APCs are mostly composed of either the aging M113 still in service since the Vietnam War or the more modern Bradley. The Bradley entered service in early 1980s as a response to the new Soviet APCs and has been developed in many variants. Current plans are to upgrade some of the existing vehicles with modern digital technology in order to make them more effective and prolong their service life.

The MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) are mostly made up of the M270 model developed in the early 1980s. The MLRS is one of the most effective and modern mobile artillery, capable of delivering a large volume of concentrated firepower. They have proved to be very effective in operation Desert Storm.

The Apache helicopter is one of the world’s most effective attack helicopters. Developed in the late 70s and entered service in 1984. Although it proved itself many times in battle, it did show to be vulnerable against SAM sites. There are no plans for a future ground attack helicopter since the project of the Comanche attack helicopter was cancelled.
The Black Hawk helicopter was designed in early 70s and entered service in 1979. It is a utility helicopter designed for assisting and deploying ground troops as well as transporting equipment. According to the US Army, “an entire 11-person, fully-equipped infantry squad can be lifted in a single Black Hawk [and] transported faster than in predecessor systems, in most weather conditions” (
The Chinook helicopter is a heavy lift helicopter. It has a top speed of 300 Km/h and can lift up to 10 tons.

The United States Navy

Inventory estimates:

340,500 personnel

Surface navy:

10 nuclear powered aircraft carriers – 9 Nimitz class (1 more in testing phase) + 1 Enterprise class
1 conventional powered aircraft carrier – Kitty Hawk class

33 Amphibious Warfare Ships
– 7 LHD (Amphibious Assault Ship) – Wasp class
– 3 LHA (Amphibious Assault Ship) – Tarawa class
– 2 LCC (Amphibious Command Ship) – Blue Ridge class
– 9 LPD (Amphibious Transport Dock) – 6 Austin class & 3 San Antonio class
– 12 LSD (Dock Landing Ship) – 8 Whidbey Island class & 4 Harpers Ferry

22 CG 47 Guided Missile Cruisers
53 DDG 51 Guided Missile Destroyers
30 FFG 7 (9 in reserve) Guided Missile Frigate

31 Combat Logistics Ships including
– 14 AO 187 (oil tankers) 40,000 tons
– 5 AE 26 (ammunition transport) 20,000 tons
– 4 AKE 1 (dry cargo ship) 41,000 tons
– 4 AOE 6 (fast combat support ship) 53,000 tons


14 Ballistic Missile Submarines
4 Guided Missile Submarines
52 Nuclear Attack Submarines including:

o 45 SSN 688 – Los Angeles class
o 4 SSN 774 – Virginia class

Further info:

Aircraft carriers
The aircraft carriers are the most powerful and massive war machines in the US Military, given their size they are usually referred to as super carriers. They are basically floating military bases which can be deployed anywhere in the world. The latest and most advanced class of super carriers is the Nimitz class. These monsters have a full displacement of about 98,000 tons, consume enough electricity to power up a city of 100,000 people and have accommodation for about 6,500 people, their top speed is over 56 km/h. They usually carry about 90 aircraft on board (but can go beyond that), a ship company of about 3,200 people and an air wing of 2480 people.
The final Nimitz class super carrier will enter service in 2009 and will replace last of the aging Kitty Hawk class.
It is anticipated that in 2014 a new generation of super carriers, the Ford class will enter service. The first ship of this kind has already started construction in 2007.

Amphibious Warfare Ships
The amphibious warfare ships are of mainly 3 types, amphibious assault, amphibious transport dock and dock landing.
The amphibious assault ships, the Tarawa class (LHA) built in the 70s with a full displacement of 39,500 tons and the Wasp class, 41,000 tons, (LHD) built between 1989-2006 (one more still in construction) are designed to transport, land and support of full Marine Detachment of 1,900 troops. In order to provide such support, these ships carry a significant number of helicopters, Harrier attack aircraft and even armoured vehicles.
Amphibious Transport Dock are designed to “embark, transport, and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions” ( There are two types of ships in service right now, the Austin class (17,000 tons) built between 1965 and 1970 and the new San Antonio class (25,000 tons) which is actually built to replace the aging Austin class. The Austin class can carry up to 900 troops wile the San Antonio up to 800 troops including equipment.
The Dock Landing “Ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel in amphibious assault operations” ( There are two classes currently operating the Harpers Ferry Class (16,700 tons) which started building in 1995 and carries up to 600 marines and the Whidbey Island Class (16,000 tons) which started building in 1985 and can transport up to 500 troops.

Guided Missile Cruisers
The current guided missile cruisers are all Ticonderoga class and were built between 1984 and 1994, having a full weight of 10,000 tons. Although originally they were designed as a primary anti-air role, they now have a wide variety of missiles including anti-submarine missiles and Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. They can now carry out a multitude of roles from support for Carrier Battle Groups to attack of land targets.

Guided Missile Destroyers
All destroyers in US Navy’s service are Arleigh Burke class. The first of them was built in 1988 and 7 more are to be build by 2010, their full weight varies from 8,500 tons to 9,200 tons. They are “fast warships provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, and can operate independently or as part of carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups” ( They have a similar arsenal to that of the Guided Missile Cruisers.

Guided Missile Frigate
Built between 1978 and 1987 the current fleet of Oliver Hazard Perry guided missile frigates is mainly aimed at anti-submarine warfare and battle group protection. Their full weight is 4,100 tons.

Ballistic & Guided Missile Submarines
The current fleet of ballistics missile submarines was build between 1976 and 1996. They are all Ohio class and have a full displacement of 16,800 tons surfaced or 18,750 tons submerged. They have a full speed of more than 37km/h and can carry up to 24 Trident II ballistic missiles. The first 4 Ohio submarines built were refitted in 2002 with Tomahawk cruise missiles instead of ballistic missiles. They are now reclassified as guided missile submarines and can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Ohio class is considered to be one of the most stealthy ballistic missile submarines in the world.

Nuclear Attack Submarines
The nuclear attack submarines are made for hunting down enemy ships both on surface and underwater, but can also attack land targets using Tomahawk missiles or gather military intelligence. The attack submarines in US navy service are mostly Los Angeles class built between 1972 and 1995 (6,900 tons), but there are a few, new Virginia class (7,800 tons) of which 4 are in service and 6 more are planned to be available by 2015. They are designed to replace the Los Angeles class. They incorporate a multitude of modern technologies, including two Photonics Masts which replace the periscope.


Over 800 fighter/attack jets:
Over 590 F-18 striker fighter jet (~350 F-18 Superhornets & 240 F-18 )
215 (130 operational) strike jet Harrier II used by the Marine Corps

Over 640 different purpose aircraft including
o 63 E-2C radar aircraft
o 115 EA-6B electronic warfare
o 40 P-3 anti-submarine patrol aircraft
o 12 EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft
o 48 MV-22 (360 planned)
o 223 T-45 for training

120 C-130 transport aircraft

1,200+ helicopters, including:
o 400 SH/MH-60 Sea Hawk – medium lift, utility or assault helicopter
o 220 CH-46 Sea Knight – medium lift helicopter, to be replaced by the MV-22
o 220 CH-53 Sea Stallion – heavy-lift transport
o 186 AH-1W/Z Cobra attack and support, operated by the Marine Corps

The F-18 is one of the most modern fighter jets in the world. Developed in the 1970s it serves the navy to this day. In 1999 a new generation of F-18s entered service, the Super Hornet. They are larger and more advance with an increase in ground attack capabilities. In the end the Navy and Marine Corps will have about 580 F-18 Super Hornets, while the current older F-18 fleet will be replaced by F-35s.
The Harrier II, designed in the 1970s, is a tactical strike aircraft used by the Marines Corps in support operations, as well as engagement of ground and air targets.
Another noticeable aircraft in the service of the Marine Corps is the MV-22 (V-22 Osprey). With a long development which started in the early 1980s and ended in late 1990s, the MV-22 is a hybrid between a propeller aircraft and a helicopter.

Vehicles in use by the Marine Corps:

400 M1A1 Abram tanks
2,035 light armoured vehicles composed of:
o 735 LAV (light armoured vehicle) with amphibious capabilities
o 1300 AAV (amphibious assault vehicles)

20,000 HMMWV (Humvee)

Due to poor performance in battle, starting with 2015, the AAVs will pe replaced by the new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). The USMC intends to procure about 500 EFVs.

US Air Force, Air National Guard and reserve

328,200 personnel

181 Bombers:

– 67 B1
– 20 B2
– 94 B-52

2360 Fighter/Attack Aircraft
aprox. :
– 350 A-10/OA-10A,
– 660 F-15A-E
– 1248 F-16
– ~100 F-22}

193 Helicopters :
– 101 HH-60
– 92 UH-1

310 Reconnaissance/BM (Battle Management)/C3I (Intelligence) aircraft (these include 130 MQ-1, 22 RC-135, 33 U-2)
~120 for special operations (these include 25 AC-130, 64 MC-130, 22 MH-53)
600 tanker aircraft (505 are KC-135)
865 Transport aircraft (these include 440 C-130, 108 C-5, 169 C-17, 57 C-21)

About 1110 trainer aircraft: {179 T-1,320 T-6, 87 T-37, 462 T-38}

The bulk of the Air Force’s fighter/attack jets are composed of F-15s and F-16s.
F-15 maiden flight was in 1972, but a series of improved versions were later developed, one in 1979 and one in 1988. The F-15 is an air-superiority fighter, comparable to the Su-27. It has powerful engines, high manoeuvrability and high tech air-to-land and air-to-air target engagement. However, with the development of the very modern F-22, the F-15 will slowly be replaced by the newer model.
The F-16 had its maiden flight in 1976 and entered service n in 1979, with a further improved version entering production in early 1980s. It is a multi-role aircraft, designed for intense air combat. In the near future, it will be replaced by the new generation of jet fighters, the F-35. The F-35 is expected to enter service in 2011.
US Air Force has a number of impressive bombers. The B-2 is the most advanced bomber to date, being able to carry long missions into deep enemy territory. An older but still good bomber is the B-1, comparable to the Russian T-160.

The average age of the Air Force’s aircraft is 23 years. Main source is the Airforce magazine May 2008.

Strategic forces

At the end of 2007, the US was down to 2,871 “operationally deployed” warheads. Their main lunch vector consists of an active arsenal of 450 Minuteman III ICBMs which entered service in 1970 and have a range of 9,600 km. To this is added the 12 operational Ohio class Submarines which carry a total of about 1,150 nuclear warheads.
The total number of US nuclear warheads at the beginning of 2008 was around 4,075


Also it is important to note that US has at least 16 military satellites in operation, excluding the 30 GPS satellites.

Notes. After this post I will probably give up for a while on writing about world military powers. The actual documentation and reading involved is pushing my spare time to its limits