The Great Patriotic War

Russia vs Britain: How Do The Militaries Stack Up?

Global Firepower ranks Russia as the second-most-powerful military power - so how does its military strength compare to Britain's?

The Great Patriotic War

In 2016, a leaked British Army report admitted that the UK would be outgunned by Russia if a conflict were to occur between the two countries. 

This is an updated version of a comparison between the UK and Russia that the Forces Network did August of 2016.


As Global Firepower points out, "The Russian military continues to make strides towards modernization - and the in-the-field experience in Syria has helped".

Just as in 2016, Global Firepower continues to rank Russia as having the second-most-powerful military force in the world, trailing only the US.

This is with a total population of 142 million, compared to now approximately 329 million for the United States.

Of this total, Russia is listed as having just under 70 million people available for military service from their population base, with just under 47 million who are deemed fit for service; 1,013,628 are active personnel and there are 2,000,000 in reserve (up from 766,055 and down from 2.5 million, respectively, in 2016.) 

More: The Two Craft In The Latest British/Russian Face-Off 

Unlike the UK, Russia's military is made up of both volunteers and conscripts, with around 1.3 million reaching military age annually, both in 2016 and still today. Though Russia has signalled its intention to end conscription in 2019, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The Factbook also says that while conscription has gone on, males have been registered for service at 17 and have had a service obligation of one year - giving the country a rolling stock of reservists to boost its numbers annually. Though now there is the option to do a two-year contract, as opposed to a single year of conscription service.

By contrast, according to the MoD's figures for the end of 2019, the UK has 192,660 military personnel, approximately 132,000 of whom are full-time, trained personnel.

Global Firepower ranks the UK eighth in its list of military powers (down from sixth in 2016.)


Here too, the numbers are stacked heavily in Russia's favour - Global Firepower lists the following figures.

Britain: tanks: 227 (down from 407 in 2016); AFVs or armoured vehicles: 5,000 (down from 5,948); self-propelled guns: 89 (the same number as in 2016); towed artillery: 126, from 138; rocket projectors: 35 - down from 42 Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRSs in 2016.

Russia: tanks: 12,950 (down from 15,398 in 2016); armoured vehicles: 27,038 (down from 31,298 AFVs). In 2016, Russia had 5,972 SPGs, 4,625 towed-artillery pieces and 3,793 MLRSs. Today, the website lists its strength at 6,083 pieces of self-propelled artillery, 4,465 pieces of towed artillery and 3,860 rocket projectors.

The Russian T-14 Armata, featuring an unmanned turret and a crew of three housed in the hull


In 2016, the UK had a total fleet of 76 craft, consisting of 13 frigates, 6 destroyers, 10 submarines, 18 coastal defence craft, and 15 craft for mine warfare. No aircraft carriers were then in service, although one was to be commissioned in 2017 and another in 2020.

Now, of course, the UK has two aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, though as this article points out, they are at different stages in the process of becoming fully operational. 

Global Firepower also lists the UK currently as having six destroyers, 13 frigates, 10 submarines, 22 patrol boats and 13 mine warfare vessels.

Russia meanwhile did have a total naval strength in 2016 of 352 craft, including one aircraft carrier, four frigates, 15 destroyers, 31 corvettes, 60 subs, 14 coastal defence craft, and 45 mine warfare craft. Now it has 603 total naval assets, of which 16 are destroyers, one is an aircraft carrier, 10 are frigates, 79 are corvettes, 62 are submarines, 41 are patrol boats and 48 are for mine warfare.

The Great Patriotic War
Russian troops on parade for the 67th anniversary of the end of the 'Great Patriotic War' in 2012, or, from a western perspective, the end of World War 2 (image:


Again, Global Firepower listed the UK's total air capacity in 2016 as consisting of 879 aircraft, with 91 fighters, 168 fixed-wing attack aircraft, 348 helicopters, with 337 aircraft for transport, and 330 for training.

It now has 733 aircraft, 133 of which are fighters, with an additional 15 for dedicated attack and 49 attack helicopters; it also has 312 other helicopters, 44 transport aircraft, 241 training aircraft and 28 aircraft for special missions.

More: 'The Supersonic Russian Planes That Could Carry 400 Tanks'

In 2016, Russia had 3,547 aircraft, with 751 fighters, 1,438 fixed-wing attack aircraft, 1,237 helicopters, with 1,124 and 370 transport and trainer aircraft. It's 2020 total figure stands at 4,163, with various attack aircraft - 873 fighter planes, 742 dedicated attack aircraft and 531 attack helicopters - and others for transport, training and special missions, 424, 497 and 127 respectively. It also has an additional 1,522 helicopters.


According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in 2015 Russia was the fourth biggest military spender in the world with a total annual budget of $66 billion (£51bn), while the UK was ranked fifth with a total budget of $56bn (or £43bn, which was to increase to £46bn over the course of 2016).

The US spends the most. Its 2015 budget of $598 billion was 10 times that of the UK (while its population is five times as large as the UK's.)

More: 'Russia Ramping Up Military Spending'

Global Firepower lists Russia's current military budget as being the equivalent of 48 billion US dollars, as compared to 55.1 billion US dollars for the UK. This puts Russia and the UK in 8th and 5th place globally in terms of how much they spend on defence in comparison to other countries.

There are almost certainly a number of factors that contribute to Russia's relatively low budget and high military power - since it now spends less in absolute terms than the UK, but is more militarily powerful - though exchange rates may be part of the story.

It must also be borne in mind that Britain would only ever fight Russia as part of the NATO alliance, and thus, its military strength must be considered in that context.

Sources: CIA Factbook;; International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

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