Where does the IDF rank amongst the world's strongest militaries? - report

Israel is a tiny country whose military punches far above its weight class. But how does it compare to its neighbors, its enemies and the world's top military powers?

 IDF (Israel Defense Force) Artillery Corps near the border with Syria, in the Golan Heights, January 2, 2023.  (photo credit: AYAL MARGOLIN/FLASH90)
IDF (Israel Defense Force) Artillery Corps near the border with Syria, in the Golan Heights, January 2, 2023.
(photo credit: AYAL MARGOLIN/FLASH90)

The Israeli military ranks 18th among 145 considered nations on a list of the world's mightiest armed forces according to the 2023 GlobalFirepower (GFP) index.

The GFP index ranks each military based on assessments of over 60 factors such as active military personnel, vehicles, artillery, destroyers, tanks, economic power, production power and geographic advantages among others.

The first spot on the list was earned by the US, which, according to the index, ranked number one in the world on 21 individual factors such as fighter aircraft, ships, defense budget, natural gas and oil production. Additionally, the index takes into account America's possession of a nuclear arsenal. 

The US has a power index rating of 0.0712. A 0.0000 ranking represents a "perfect, realistically unobtainable" score.

The US is followed by Russia, China, India, the UK, South Korea, Pakistan, Japan, France and Italy. Israel, which historically had, and continues to have, strained relations with Muslim-majority nations, is also beaten out on the list by Turkey in 11th place, Indonesia in 13th, Egypt in 14th, and Iran in 17th.

Israel vs Iran

In a 2018 interview with Fox News, then and current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified the three greatest threats to Israel, "Iran, Iran, Iran." The Islamic Republic regularly calls for the total destruction of the State of Israel and funds its Islamist terrorist proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah to conduct attacks on Israel's military and civilians.

 Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attend an IRGC ground forces military drill in the Aras area, East Azerbaijan province, Iran, October 17, 2022. (credit: IRGC/WANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attend an IRGC ground forces military drill in the Aras area, East Azerbaijan province, Iran, October 17, 2022. (credit: IRGC/WANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Israel and Iran's militaries are neck and neck

According to the GFP index, although Iran takes the spot just ahead of Israel, the power index ratings for the two countries are neck and neck - Israel with a rating of 0.2757, and Iran with a rating of 0.2712.

Each country has its distinct advantages. For instance, Israel neither denies nor confirms its nuclear power. Meanwhile, Iran is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and is a top 10 producer of petroleum and natural gas.

Iran is also a bigger country with a larger population, more active military personnel, and higher purchasing power parity. Israel, however, has a higher defense budget and more aircraft.

Israel, however, is surrounded by more hostility on its border than Iran is. Nevertheless, conversely, it also has the advantage of powerful allies, chiefly the US.

Additionally, aside from Egypt, the countries Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, (Israel's other neighbors) can no longer compete militarily with Israel. They have rankings of 111, 64 and 81 respectively. Furthermore, Israel has the benefit of experience and a history of overcoming disproportionate odds against it. It successfully repelled the combined attacks of multiple Arab nations during wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973.