Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword probably didn't endure the wrath of the .50 caliber Browning M2 HB mounted on an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. If we have learned one thing from the history of civilization, that is you can only live in peace if your weapons are bigger and better than those of the adversaries.
Since the creation of Little Willie in 1915 in the United Kingdom, armies around the world have been trying to one-up each other in an endless race to make bigger, better, and more tanks. Let's see where we stand today in terms of the countries with the biggest tank fleets.
United States of America - 5,500
The cutting edge of the Arsenal of Democracy is this, the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank. Developed in the late 1970s, the M1A2, equipped with a 120mm XM256 Smooth Bore Cannon, a 7.62 M240 coaxial Machine gun, and a .50 cal M2 Machine gun, is one of the most feared tanks in the world.
While DPRK and Russia might have a numerical advantage over the Leaders of the Free World in tanks, when push comes to shove, no one has a better fighting machine than the US Marines.
China - 4,950
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China is taking aggressive steps to modernize its tank fleet, which is currently a mix of modern and obsolete vehicles. The most modern Chinese Tank is the third-generation Type-99.
A couple of areas where these tanks are better than their NATO counterparts include a diesel engine instead of gas which can perform better in mountainous regions, and the 125mm main cannon as opposed to NATO's 120mm.
Egypt - 4,664
Egypt has been in close coordination with the US for the last couple of decades to co-develop and produce tanks, resulting in it becoming the fifth-largest tank fleet owner in the world.
Egypt has even co-produced the cutting-edge M1A1 third-generation Abrams tank with the US and currently owns 13.6% of the total tanks shared between the top-5 tank-owning nations of the world. This arsenal includes the American M1 Abrams and T60 Patton, as well as Russian T-90, T-62, and T-55.
India - 4,614
India spends a considerable amount on its defense. Being one of the strongest armies in the world, it is logical for India to own one of the biggest fleets of tanks too.
Consisting mainly of indigenous Vijayanta and Arjun MBTs and Russian T-90 BHISHMA, K-9 Vajra, and T-72 Ajeya, the Indian tank force has seen its fair share of combat.
Iran - 4,071
Iran has an impressive fleet of 4,071 tanks, given that it is one of the most severely sanctioned countries in the world right now. The bulk of this force is comprised of the Karrar MBT, an improved license-produced version of the Russian T90MS tank.
Improvements to the Russian design include an add-on armor, a better fire control system, and a turret.
Pakistan - 3,742
Pakistan has a variety of different tanks ranging from license-made indigenous ones and imported Chinese MBTs. The most notable of Pakistani tanks is Al-Zarrar, a variation of the Type-59 Chinese tank.
Pakistan was the third country to buy tanks from China, and the two countries have also worked together to co-develop tanks.
Syria - 2,616
Syria ranks on this list with a considerable arsenal of 2,616 tanks, but it is rather difficult to get an accurate number of Syrian tanks due to the ongoing civil war in the country. Of these 2,616 tanks, around 2,000 are of Soviet or Russian origin, mostly the T-55/T-55/MV MBTs.
Syrian armed forces have seen notable combat in the Arab-Israeli War and the Gulf War.
South Korea - 2,331
Threatened for their existence by their Northern neighbors, this Korea has a fleet of more than 2,300 tanks, most of which are the K2 Black Panthers. South Korea might not have as many tanks as the DPRK or China, but these tanks are believed to be far superior than what China, Russia, or North Korea have.
The K2 is even better than the famous M1A2 Abrams as it has similar armor protection but weighs significantly lesser than its American counterpart.
Turkey - 2,229
Turkey has the largest ground forces in the Black Sea region and the second-largest tank fleet among the NATO nations. The majority of these tanks are German Leopard tanks, while the rest are mostly American-made M40 and M60 units.
Turkey has put its tanks to use in various regional conflicts.
Israel - 2,200
Israel has found itself surrounded by a bunch of hostile nations since the day of its inception, and it is reasonable for them to develop a formidable force to defend themselves.
Israel is one of the very few countries that have developed a main battle tank from scratch, the Merkava, and that, too is one of the most feared tanks in the world.
North Korea - 6,645
Next up, we have the Hermit Kingdom with its 6,645 tanks, the 2nd highest total number of tanks under the command of a single country but the most number of tanks per square mile any country has. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea started developing armor capabilities when the first Korean War broke out in 1950.
The pioneering North Korean fleet of tanks consisted of a humble 12 T-34/85 but quickly grew to include T-55s from Russia and the Type-59 tanks from China. The DPRK has developed indigenous designs like the Chonma-ho "Flying Horse" and the Pokpung-ho “Storm.”
Vietnam - 1,829
For a very long time, Vietnam was receiving highly discounted tanks and other equipment from the USSR in exchange for propagating the communist agenda, but those days have far been over. Now, the Vietnamese army is looking to modernize its aging fleet of tanks, consisting mainly of T55s from Russia.
An Israeli defense contractor has won the bid to upgrade 870 Vietnamese tanks with improved armor, better night vision, and newer fire control systems.
Morocco - 1,761
The Royal Moroccan Army has tanks originating from America (M1A1), Pakistan (Al Khalid), Russia (T-72), and France (AMX-10).
This African country actually had more than 3,300 tanks up until a little while back before they decided to retire the aging fleet and keep in commission just the most efficient ones.
Eritrea - 1,756
With 1,761 tanks, Eritrea has the second-biggest tank fleet in Africa. These tanks are mainly of Russian origin and of the T-55 and T-62 series. Eritrea is the country that has put its tank to good use since it came into being, and even has a living monument to remind that.
There is a place in Eritrea called the tank graveyard, a vast expanse of land littered with broken down, rusting tanks, reminding of the 30-year-long war the country fought with Ethiopia right after its independence. To modernize its fleet, Eritrea has ordered more tanks from former Soviet republics.
Algeria - 1,700
Algeria commands the most capable land force in all of Africa and has the most well-equipped artillery in the region. The backbone of the Algerian land forces is a fleet of 573 T-90SA tanks from Russia, making Algeria the only African country to have commissioned such an advanced weapons system. Other tanks in its fleet include the T-72 and T-80 from Russia.
Algeria has put that capable fleet to good use in the Sand War of 1963, the Western Sahara War of 1975, and the Algerian Civil War in the 1990s.
Jordan - 1,588
Jordan might not be the wealthiest country in the Middle East, but it does command one of the biggest fleets of tanks, some 1,588 strong. The Royal Jordanian Army operates tanks from the US, like the M60A3 Patton, UK-made Al-Hussein, and French Leclerc Tanks, recently donated by the UAE.
Jordan is in a geographic location that is the hotspot of tensions in the Middle East and hence has been using its tanks and other military assets quite heavily.
Greece - 1,365
Greece has historically been one of the major European powers, and even now, the Hellenic Army commands a formidable fleet of tanks. These are mainly variants of the German Leopard tanks and US-made M48 and M60 MBTs. Greece has also undertaken massive efforts recently to upgrade these tanks with the latest fire control systems and armor.
The Hellenic Army used these tanks on a number of NATO missions as well as to safeguard Greece's own interests in the Greek Civil War.
Saudi Arabia - 1,273
The Saudi Arabian Land Forces might not have the most number of tanks in the region, but they only have the finest ones.
These include the most advanced M1A2S version of the American Abrams tanks, M60 Pattons, and French-made AMX-30SA, which are kept in reserve. Saudi Arabia also has deals with the US to keep their tanks updated to the latest specs, most recently that was done in 2016.
Cuba - 1,230
The next biggest fleet of tanks is found on the other side of the world, in Latin America. Cuba, with its 1,230-strong force, has the most tanks of any country in the region, second only to the USA in the whole continent.
Most of these are obsolete Soviet-era tanks like the T-55 and SU-100. Cuba does also have some light US tanks like the Marmon-Herrington Combat Tank and some M3 and M4s.
Taiwan - 1,012
Taiwan is equipped mainly with legacy tanks dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, like the M60, CM11, and CM12. However, they have been upgraded to include the latest armor, fire control systems, and guns.
Military analysts speculate that Taiwan will keep using the old designs with upgrades and improvements and would rather invest its resources in strengthening its marine and aerial defensive powers.
Japan - 1,004
Japan still having 1000+ tanks after the de-militarization post-WWII is impressive in itself. The Japanese Army operates indigenous tanks like the Type-64, Type-71, Type-90, and Type-10. The Type 10 is the most advanced of the bunch and is slowly replacing the aging fleet. It is equipped with the latest capabilities to respond to anti-tank warfare as well as impressive offensive abilities.
As for seeing actual combat, the Japanese land forces have not seen much since the Second World War.
Ukraine - 1,890
Ukraine, naturally, had most of its tanks sourced from Russia as it was a part of the Soviet Union not very long ago.
Up until recently, the bulk of Ukraine's tank force was made up of the T-72/M1 tanks.
Iraq - 923
Iraq maintains an arsenal of tanks that is only impressive in numbers; those, too, are not very reliable. Most of the tanks under Iraq's command are obsolete Soviet designs and have seldom seen any considerable updates over the last decades.
The most capable ones are the T-72 MBTs from Russia, of which Iraq got 1000 in the 1980s.
Azerbaijan - 920
Azerbaijan has been making efforts to modernize its armored equipment since the fall of the Soviet Union. The tank force of this country consists mainly of Russian T-80 units that have been upgraded with better targeting and fire control systems and improved explosive reactive armor.
The most notable combat of the Azerbaijani land forces was the Soviet-Afghan War which went on for the better part of the 1980s.
Poland - 890
Since Poland was a satellite state of the USSR back in the day, most of its military hardware can be traced back to the Soviet era. Poland operates Russian T-Series tanks, as well as indigenous PT-Series MBTs. The most recent addition to the Polish tank fleet is the Black Panther from South Korea.
Poland has placed a purchase order for 1,000 of these, of which 180 will be assembled in S. Korea, and the balance will be license-made in Poland.
Nigeria - 878
Nigeria commands a fleet of 878 tanks, the majority of which are of Chinese and Soviet origin. The bulk of this fleet is made of the Russian T-72M1 and T-55 tanks, as well as the Chinese VT-4 MBT.
Nigeria also has the UK-made Eagle MBT (160), but their serviceability is doubtful as this design has been phased out by most of the operators.
Myanmar - 800
Myanmar's tank fleet is made up of vehicles manufactured by the Soviet Union and China. These include the Chinese MBT-2000 and Type-59s and the Russian T-72s. Myanmar also operates Chinese Type-63 Amphibious tanks.
Most of these tanks are more than three decades old and in need of serious upgrades to be at par with other modern ones.
Mongolia - 735
Mongolia has a tank fleet consisting solely of obsolete Soviet tanks like the T-55 from the 1950s and the T-62 from the 1960s. These tanks, quite capable for the time they entered production, are no match for the latest tanks under the use of other armies around the world.
The reason for that is Mongolia has not been in a war since the Battle of Baital Bogd in 1948. Mongolia has since maintained amicable relationships with its neighbors and has never felt the need to invest in improving or expanding its military hardware.
Bangladesh - 662
Bangladesh has an impressive fleet of tanks, provided the short history of the country. Most of these tanks are sourced from China, like the VT-5 MBT, the Type-59, and Type-69G. Pride and Joy of the Bangladeshi Army, the VT-5 was custom-made by China to fulfill Bangladesh Army's requirements.
This tank has a lower weight and a more agile powertrain to easily traverse the highland terrain that heavier tanks would have difficulty negotiating.
Afghanistan - 600
Afghanistan has some of the most sophisticated military hardware, amounting to billions of dollars.
The publicly known tanks owned and operated by the Afghan army include Soviet T-55 and T-62 main battle tanks.
Brazil - 581
Brazil maintains a formidable arsenal of tanks, some 581 strong. Not only that, but most of these tanks are also quite capable, like the German Leopard 1 MBT and the M60 Patton MBT from the US.
The Leopard 1 MBTs under Brazilian use are becoming outdated but are being rapidly overhauled and upgraded.
Thailand - 542
The Royal Thai Army operates 542 tanks, with the Main Battle Tanks sourced from Russia and China and Light Tanks from the United States. The most modern tank of the Thai Army is the MBT-3000 from China, a third-generation tank made by Norinco exclusively for overseas export. Other than that, they also have the T-84 from Ukraine in the fleet.
The main combat this fleet has seen has been in the border conflict with Laos during the 1970s and 1980s.
Spain - 552
Spain has historically had a fleet of Italian and American MBTs; however, recently, the Spanish Army has been replacing them with the German Leopard 2 and Indigenous AMX-30 tanks. The most modern tank in the Spanish Army right now is the Leopard 2E from Germany. It is a special variant of the Leopard 2 developed for Spain (Espana).
The Spanish Army has not been a part of any major war since the Second World War.
France - 527
The French Armed Forces operate 527 tanks, most of which are of the locally-developed AMX-series, serving as the MBTs, and some light and medium tanks from the US. The most advanced of the bunch is the Leclerc that replaced the AMX-30.
Armed with a 120mm smooth-bore main gun, a 12.7 mm coaxial machine gun, and protected by modular composite armor, the Leclerc is one of the most capable tanks in the world.
Italy - 480
Most of the tanks under Italy's command are the Ariete, an indigenous design developed by Iveco-Fiat and OTO Merala. T
he tank is equipped with the latest digital and optical imaging and night vision systems, enabling it to fight effectively during day and night time and fire with accuracy even when moving. 160 Ariete MBTs are in active service, while 40 are in reserve.
UAE - 436
The oil-rich nation of UAE has just 436 tanks, but given the small area of the nation, that is a large number. The UAE operates French AMX-56 Leclerc tanks that they acquired via a $3 billion purchase order in 2018.
The variant UAE has purchased is the one upgraded in 2015 with modular composite armor, an auto-loading 120mm tank gun, and a secondary 12.7mm coaxial machine gun.
Argentina - 430
Argentina maintains a considerable armored division with 430 tanks, but most of these are either obsolete European designs or incapable indigenous tanks that are no match for the modern tanks the US, China, India, and Russia are making.
The only semi-modern tank in this country's command is the Patagon, a franken-tank made by marrying the turret of the French AMX-13 to the hull of the Kürassier.
Romania - 350
Romania operates Soviet and Indigenous tanks, namely the TR-85 and TR-580, which are locally made, and the T-55 from the Soviet era. The most capable of the fleet is the TR-85, which was developed in 1990.
Thankfully, a modernization campaign was launched in 1995 to bring it up to NATO standards.
Lebanon - 310
The Lebanese Army maintains a force of American M48-A5, M60-A3, and Russian T-54 tanks. These tanks, while not among the most capable ones, are also not the most obsolete ones either.
The most capable of the bunch is the US-made M60-A3, a second-generation MBT with a 105mm main armament and a pair of 7.62mm secondary guns.
Russia - 12,556
There's nothing subtle or discreet about Russia. This nation is the physical embodiment of brute force. That can be seen in the biggest fleet of tanks in the world, one that is twice the size of the 2nd-position holder. However, most of these tanks are outdated by modern standards.
Another thing to notice is that out of the 12,000+ tanks, Russia boasts, just 2,600 are Main Battle Tanks (the 'real' tanks), comprising of T-72s, T-80s, and T-90s.