UK v France – their armed forces compared

Watch: France v UK – How do their militaries stack up?

What are the latest figures regarding the UK's three armed services and how do they compare with the French, and does it really matter?

Forces News looks at how many troops, warships and fighter jets the French and British armed forces can muster.

President Emmanuel Macron has announced an increase in France's defence spending by a third, with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace seeking to squeeze a further £11bn in funding from the Treasury.

According to last year's budget, the UK spent £58bn ($70bn) on defence, the second largest amount by any Nato member, with France spending approximately $54bn.

Straight off the bat, France has a much larger combined military force with 203,000 active personnel, this includes those serving in the French army, air force and navy. Compare this with the UK which currently has just 150,000 active personnel across its three branches.

The French army has 114,000 members while the British Army is 83,000 strong.

With regards to kit and equipment, the question of quality versus quantity kicks in. The French Air Force has 261 combat-ready aircraft, with the Rafale fighter jet being classed as a 4.5-generation fighter.

The UK has fewer combat aircraft at 201, however, these comprise 26 much more modern 5th-generation F35s and 121 of the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The British Army can field 227 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, with the French army possessing 215 homegrown Leclerc tanks.

The navies of both countries are largely similar in terms of military personnel. The UK currently has six Type 45 destroyers and 12 frigates, with France having four destroyers and 17 frigates.

The Royal Navy has two brand new aircraft carriers capable of operating the F-35B fighters, while France on the other hand possesses a single older carrier.

The UK has 10 submarines compared to the French nine, with both countries having four nuclear-armed submarines in their fleet.

Looking to the future, France is expanding its armed forces, particularly the French army, with a focus on armoured vehicles. In contrast, the UK, being an island, is expanding its naval capabilities over the coming years.

All considered, the two countries share similar capabilities across their military, with the differences equalling out. And, of course, the UK and France are close allies, with both countries playing key roles within the Nato military alliance.

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