Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nearly 100,000 Tanks in Service Around the World--Most are Russian

Recently, I wrote an article about the new Russian T-14 tank as a real innovation in a world that is moving away from armored forces.  While writing the article I found a Wikipedia page listing all the tanks in service around the world by country.  While the page is useful, it can't be sorted.

So I made a spreadsheet with all the tanks by country so I could sort it and add up numbers.

The first number is the total of all tanks in service or in reserve for all armies in the world:

99,534 tanks

Wow!  The world is not building a lot of new tanks, but there are a lot in service. 

Wikipedia lists 142 countries with armies.  Of those, 28 have no tanks, leaving 114 countries with armored forces.  From Afghanistan with 771 tanks to Zimbabwe with 77 tanks, it is clear that Russian-made tanks are the backbone of the world's armored united.  Of those 99,534 tanks in service around the world, Russia made 54,853.  

Of the 114 countries with tanks, 49 have Russian-made T-55 tanks for a total of 13,776 tanks.  Fewer countries have the T-72 tank, but including Russian reserves, there are 20,478 T-72s in service.  These are by far the tanks in widest use around the world.

By comparison, the world's number two tank maker is the United States with 15, 538 tanks in more than 20 countries.  About a third of American-built tanks in world service are M48/M60 variants, mostly M60A3s.  The rest are the M1 Abrams in its various forms.  

M1A1 Abrams

The next biggest tank maker is China with 10,902 tanks in service in fewer than 20 countries.  But the Chinese tanks owe a lot to Russian design.  

Chinese Type 69 owes a lot to Russian design

Germany is the number four supplier of tanks with 4,395 Leopards in many variants in service in more than a dozen countries.  

In yet another example of the 80/20 rule dominating all of life, the top four tank-making countries made more than 95,000 of the 99,000 tanks in service in the world.  France and Great Britain are the next leading suppliers with a dozen other countries making tanks for their own use including Israel, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand.  

The two countries that have the most serious on-going development of tanks are Russia and Israel.  The T-14 Armata and the latest Israeli Merkava show these two countries as the most committed to the future of armored warfare. 

Israeli Merkava

The smallest armored force in the world is Malawi with one T-55 tank.  The largest is Russia with almost 22,000, or about one in five of all the tanks in the world.  

I cannot post a spreadsheet on blogger, but if you want a copy I would be happy to send it.  Email me at if you want a copy.

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