These Will Be the Most Powerful Militaries In 2020

It may be half a year away, but military planners
around the world are always looking ahead, and the year 2020 will prove pivotal for many
of the world’s militaries. With the possibility of another major conflict
in Europe brewing, and China seeking to economically damage the US for its support of Taiwan, national
priorities have been shifting for the last year, and who ends up at the top of the world’s
military dog pile in 2020 may just surprise you. 5. France France looks set to retain its spot in the
world’s top 5, even despite very strong gains on the behalf of the Japanese military which
currently sits- and is set to remain at- the number 6 spot. The United States has long complained of European
nations not meeting the NATO goal of 2% of GDP spent on defense, which is meant to ensure
that NATO remains strong without the need for the US to carry most of the burden. France has officially stepped up to that challenge,
aiming to hit 2% of GDP by 2020 or 2025 at the latest. With the current French budget at 42.2 billion
dollars, they are currently hitting a mark of 1.82% of GDP, putting them leaps and bounds
ahead of most other NATO members. Part of that increased budget is going towards
overseas operations- namely peacekeeping and anti-terror operations in Africa. While money spent on active operations won’t
be used for procuring new hardware or training new troops, ongoing overseas campaigns do
provide the French military with critical battlefield experience and greatly increases
the proficiency of not just individual soldiers, but the military on the whole. It is this on-going real-world experience
in the very difficult task of carrying out full-domain operations around the world that
is expected to propel France into the number four spot as a military power in the near
future, dislodging India from its current perch. Major procurements by the French military
will also boost its capabilities and firepower though, with the planned purchase of 10 more
Mirage 2000D fighters. France’s current fighter jet procurement is
slow and limited as it continues to evolve its Rafales 4.5 gen fighters. Though not nearly as stealth-capable as the
F-35, the Rafale has proven to be an extremely capable fighter with some impressive electronic
warfare capabilities. In the near to mid-term future, France plans
on rolling out a sixth generation fighter in cooperation with Germany, further securing
its slow but steady climb up the world power ladder. Featuring one of the world’s best military
industrial complexes, France is set to remain a military heavy weight, but will eventually
outclass India simply by its ability to innovate at home. As the backbone of most European Union forces,
the French have vast experience in low to medium intensity conflicts, and while the
nation hasn’t been tested in high intensity combat since the 1950s, its arsenal of modern
and very capable tanks, artillery, and ships make France the European Union’s reigning
military power, and one of the United State’s most important allies. 4. India India currently enjoys the number four spot
amongst military powers, yet its long-time hold on the fourth rung of the top five ladder
is tenuous and being aggressively challenged by France. While its longtime rival, China, may be ranked
higher than it in the power spectrum, India has one thing going for it that China does
not: a great amount of experience at various levels of combat intensity. It has for a long time dealt with an ongoing
Maoist insurgency at home, and its military intelligence services have a great deal of
experience detecting and foiling terror plots which are often directly backed up or orchestrated
by the Pakistani intelligence services. They also have a history of high-intensity
conflict against Pakistan, and though its last war against Pakistan was in 1971, the
Indian military has continued a long-standing tradition of strenuous and realistic training
programs for its naval, army, and air forces. Currently India’s major weakness is a relatively
weak domestic arms industry, but that too is changing- albeit likely too slow to prevent
France’s eventual replacement of India as the world’s 4th most formidable military power. One of India’s major advantages over any other
nation though is its ambivalent relations towards all major powers around the globe,
which allows its military to purchase equipment from Russia, Europe, Israel, and the United
States. This allows the Indian military to pick and
choose the absolute best fit for its requirements in any category of military hardware, and
while that may hurt with equipment standardization issues, it gives India the pick of the litter
when it comes to cutting edge military tech. China’s aggressive expansion into the South
China Sea has seen India gradually shift closer and closer towards the United States, but
just in case of war with China without any foreign aid, India is set to continue to grow
the strength of its fleets. India’s geographic position has been likened
to ‘standing on China’s jugular’, thanks to the fact that the majority of China’s imports
and exports all flow through the Indian ocean. This has placed a need on India to develop
a more capable fleet than China, as in any war India’s navy would be enemy number one
for the Chinese military. 3. China Currently China is set to retain its number
three spot, with a rather large gulf separating itself from India at the number four spot. Yet in the future, possibly as soon as 2030,
China will almost definitely overtake Russia for the number two spot as the second most
powerful military force in the world. Currently China fields one of the largest
armies on earth, and has an almost unlimited pool of manpower to call upon if war fares
poorly. The modernization of the Chinese military
is a wonder in and of itself, having operated a large, if mostly backwards, ground force
up until the 1990s. For decades China focused on fielding a massive
army capable of repelling another invasion by hostile foreign powers, yet as China’s
economy began to rise, so did its reliance on overseas trade. This quickly led to a critical need to secure
that overseas trade, and thus the focus shifted from China’s army to its air and naval forces. Today China is seeking to desperately make
up for shortfalls in equipment in terms of ships and planes versus its projected current
and future rival, the United States. The Chinese Navy, currently a force only truly
capable of defensive operations close to Chinese shores, is looking to become a true ‘blue
water’ navy that can conduct global naval operations. That however will require a major expansion
of its naval carrier forces, and it’s hoped that by 2030 the Chinese navy will field two
fully-operational aircraft carriers- which still places it far short of the US’s own
carrier fleet of 11 full-sized carriers and nine smaller carriers capable of carrying
up to 20 vertical take-off and launch aircraft each. China is also looking to make huge gains on
its fleet of 76 submarines, which will put it on course to rival US submarine power by
2030. However on both of these critical fronts,
China faces serious problems. Firstly, its projected purchases of aircraft
carriers will be of the ski-jump assisted take off design like the Type 001 and Type
002- this means that Chinese carriers will be limited to launching smaller jets with
smaller payloads than the US. Secondly, though China may achieve a numerical
superiority to the US in submarines, Chinese submarines are notorious for being considered
the noisiest in the ocean and very easy to track. Technological limitations will no doubt be
broken in time, but China still faces serious issues in realistically challenging the United
States. It has not fought a major military operation
since a brief conflict with Vietnam in 1979, and despite its growing arsenal of modern
weapons, its ability to coordinate all of those weapons in a modern combat environment
is doubtful. Its military is still plagued by corruption
issues stemming from the longtime practice of selling military ranks off by communist
party officials, and its troops have routinely and woefully underperformed under realistic
training scenarios. 2. Russia Russia continues to hang on to its number
two spot as the world’s second most powerful military in 2020, yet its hold is tenuous
at best, and there is little doubt that by 2030 Russia will drop to the number three
spot as China rises to claim the number two position in the military dogpile. A former global superpower, the fall of the
Soviet Union devastated the Russian military, and it has since spent almost twenty years
trying to reinvent itself as a modern and capable force. After a humiliating performance against Chechnyan
rebels in the 1990s, the Russian conflict against Georgia offered a new opportunity
for the Russian military to prove to the world that it had picked itself up from the rubble
of the Soviet Union to become a modern military power. While Russian forces quickly crushed Georgian
resistance as many had predicted, the brief war did showcase several fundamental weaknesses
of the Russian military- many of which it has still failed to address. Where Russia exceeds though, it does so stunningly. The military of 2020’s Russia continues
to field the best air defenses in the world, with the family of S-300, S-400, and the new
S-500 anti-air missile systems making up the backbone of Russian air defenses. Long delayed, the S-500 is expected to rival
the American THAAD- or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Unlike the American THAAD though, the S-500
will be able to engage both ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles and aircraft,
with the projected ability to shoot down even low orbiting space craft. Russia is also set to lead the world in electronic
warfare capabilities, with a host of new EW systems even today entering service. Facing the threat of American networked weapons,
Russia quickly shifted priorities from trying to match the firepower of these weapons to
instead trying to disrupt them, and has historically fielded some of the best EW assets in the
world. Conflicts in the Ukraine and cyber operations
against NATO and the US show that Russia maintains a keen edge in electronic warfare operations,
and everything from disrupting enemy communications to directly hacking foreign adversaries. Unfortunately, Russia faces several crippling
problems which will all-but-guarantee its eventual downfall to the number 3 spot, and
China’s ascension to number 2. Most glaring of these problems is the fact
that the bulk of the Russian military continues to be very poorly trained and low-morale conscripts,
and despite several initiatives to create an all-volunteer force like the United States,
Russia is still only able to field a low number of volunteer troops- which it considers its
elite forces. Another problem Russia faces is the continued
collapse of its economy thanks to international sanctions against it and a lack of diversification
amongst its economy. Russia’s economy has stagnated so drastically
that the majority of its economy is now directly tied to energy, and thus is highly vulnerable
to disruptions in global energy markets. As the world shifts to renewable sources of
energy, Russia’s stagnant economy will only worsen as exports of oil and natural gas dwindle-
unless of course Russia manages to find a way to convince the international community
to lift much of its sanctions against it. That would require a commitment to good behavior
versus its neighbors that it seems loathe to commit to though, and seems unlikely. By 2030 Russia will remain a formidable military
power equipped with select pieces of excellent military hardware, but fielding a force that
is overwhelmingly poorly equipped and can’t afford large numbers of critical next-generation
weapon systems such as the indefinitely postponed 5th generation Su-57 and T-14 Armata tanks-
neither of which will be built in numbers larger than a token demonstration force. 1. United States The United States will continue to remain
the world’s number one military power by a large margin in 2020, and even in the decades
to come is set to remain markedly apart from its near-peer competitors, China and Russia. A variety of factors determine the US’s continued
dominance, yet its greatest asset is its robust and diversified economy. Such strong economic performance allows the
US to field the most capable military in the world, and a carefully cultivated system of
alliances throughout the globe sees it work together with many regional partners to contain
would-be threats. This, even more so than American firepower
alone, is what truly makes the American military a global leader. Plagued by problems, the F-35 is nonetheless
slated to enter full production sometime in 2020, and present bugs continue to be ironed
out of the design. The F-35 is widely misunderstood though, and
often derided for shortcomings in scenarios it was never designed to enter into. Widely known to be an inferior dog fighter,
the F-35 is instead meant to operate as a long-range assassin with a first-look-first-kill
capability and the greatest networked capabilities of any other platform in the world. Despite this though the F-35 is having the
most troubled rollout of any weapons program in US history, and many planes from the first
few procurement waves are not likely to last their planned operational lifetime- further
adding to the cost of the most expensive weapons program in history. This has the potential to leave the US critically
short of much needed air assets during an emergency, and is a contingency for which
it still has no solution to. Thanks to a reinvigorated defense budget,
the US will also ensure that it maintains adequate numbers of attack submarines of the
new Virginia class, widely considered the best submarine design in operation other than
the vaunted Seawolf class- a Cold War American sub that is nonetheless considered even more
capable than modern Virginia class subs, and of which the US maintains three in operation
for its most critical and sensitive undersea operations. With near-peer competitors such as Russia
and China making big technological strides to catch up with american capabilities, a
new emphasis on a third offset strategy has seen billions spent on next-generation tech. Future US military goals for winning or deterring
a major war are focused on artificial intelligence, increasing the networked capabilities of American
weapon systems, reducing the vulnerability of the US and its allies to the loss of space-based
communications and recon assets, and big investments into undersea warfare systems such as unmanned
submarines. Facing the threat of mission kills against
its carriers by Chinese ballistic missiles, the US Navy has also focused on a distributed
firepower capability, which would allow any ship in its fleet, via networking, to engage
a variety of targets with their own- or other ship’s- weapon systems. The world of 2020 looks to remain ruled by
the same military powers as today, yet in the very near future major changes to the
world’s top 5 militaries will see the balance of power shift dramatically. France’s ascension over India to the fourth
spot of the top 5 signals a renewed capability for Europe to defend itself, something the
US has long been calling for after decades of footing the majority of the cost of Europe’s
defense against the Soviet Union and Russia. China’s ascension over Russia to the number
2 spot also signals a dramatic change in the global order, as Russia’s economy continues
to contract and shrink the nation’s military power, even as China completes its incredible
modernization initiatives. Hopefully the shift in the world’s top five
military powers will be a peaceful one, and not herald the brewing of a new global conflict-
the entire point of military power in our modern world being to prevent and deter war,
not to cause it. Who do you think will be in the top 5 by 2030? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments, and as always
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