United States, Russia or China – Who Might Win

I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but I do know that World War IV will be fought with rocks. - ALBERT EINSTEIN, attributed, Congressional Record, 1968

military might

For many years, Russia, China and the United States have all been in competition against each other. Whether it be the space race, technology or showing off military capabilities so they can gain an edge over each other in a possible military confrontation, the race is permanently on. But who stands the best chance of winning?

Military Expense and Manpower

The Pentagon.

The official United States military budget is known as one of the largest in the world. The United States spent over 600 billion on defense in 2016 and is expected to increase that figure under the current leadership.

Compared to both Russia and China, nations who respectfully spend 80 billion and 150 billion – the American military budget is unmatchable.

The Russian Ministry of Defence.

Although the United States spends a lot of green on its military, it fails when it comes to manpower.

One of the advantages China has over the world is its population – a staggering 1.371 billion (census of 2015). When compared to the United States’ population of 321.4 million (2015) and Russia’s at 144.1 million (2015), they are dramatically less.

Ministry of National Defense compound, China.

The manpower of China, which is readily available for action, is over 350 million people more than the entire population of the United States.

Currently, China’s active personnel is at 2,335,000; while the United States stands at 1,400,000 and Russia at 766,055.

Financially, the United States is above and beyond both China and Russia when it comes to spending money. Nevertheless, when it comes to people power, China clearly has the advantage. Russia shows no threat when it comes to spending on military, much less its manpower.

Main Battle Tanks and On-Ground Technology

Russian Army T-90A tank on display during a parade.

Out of the three nations, the United States is the weakest of them all when it comes to quantities of tanks. The United States military has more than 8,000 tanks. Yet, China has over 9,000 main battle tanks and Russia has 15,000 tanks ready for battle.

In terms of advancements, the Russians are way ahead of both the countries mentioned here.

The T-14 Armata tank in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

Russia’s T-14 Armata tank is a heavy beast from hell, with its 125mm smoothbore cannon, laser guided missiles (range of 4,000+ meters) and stealth technology. Currently, Russia is using the T-90A with a 125mm cannon, remote weapons system and auto-loading technology. Its very impressive armour can take a direct hit from a TOW missile.

U.S. Army M1A2 Abrams with TUSK equipment.

Comparing the M-1 Abram tank that is employed by the United States military, it carries a 120mm cannon, weapons stations and a special armour setup on the body of the tank.

A Type 99 tank at the China People’s Revolution Military Museum.

Meanwhile, China is producing Type 99 tanks with a 125mm smoothbore cannon that is capable of firing missiles from its cannon.

Conclusion: if talking about the numbers of the tanks, then Russia and China are leading. However, comparing the features of the current technology that Russia and the United States share, then it’s a draw. That is, until Russia replaces all of its T-90 tanks with T-14 Armata. Then the Russians win.

 Air Capabilities

Schiphol ATC tower.

In numbers, the United States has roughly around 13,762 airworthy military aircraft. Whereas Russia has about 3,794 aircraft and China is under 3,000 units.

Two F-22s during flight testing.

Furthermore, the United States military has more than 6,000 helicopters out of the 8,400 helicopters distributed around the world. The Russians own roughly around 1,000 helicopters that are active.

There’s little doubt that the American aircraft possesses impressive advancements, and their government is willing to spend on technologies to maintain an edge against China and Russia. However, Russia and China are also working on powerful stealth jets to match the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning.

J-31 prototype at Zhuhai Air Show.

China’s Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 are stealth aircraft that can be compared to America’s F-22 and F-35.

Sukhoi T-50 Beltyukov.jpg
A T-50 prototype flies at the MAKS.

Russia is working on the Sukhoi PAK FA T-50, a stealth jet fighter set to pose significant threat to the F-22 Raptor. Experts suggest that Russia’s T-50 is a more maneuverable aircraft than the F-22 Raptor.

Conclusion: It is undeniable that the Americans have a lot of power when it comes to taking control of the skies. Nevertheless, Russia and China are rapidly catching up to the stealth technology.

Sea Warfare

The interior of the Research Vessel bridge.

In recent years, China has boosted its naval capabilities tremendously due to the South China Sea dispute. The country has naval assets set at 714, including submarines, corvettes, and destroyers.

But when it comes to aircraft carriers, China nor Russia can compete with the United States. The US has 19 aircraft carriers whereas China and Russia only have one.

Russia is also making one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world, capable of carrying 100 aircraft. Even with such a powerful aircraft carrier, it isn’t Russia making the United States question capabilities, but rather, it’s China. Experts believe that China is jumping through advancements. Its heavy coast guard ships look a lot like warships with special missiles.

Under the Sea

USS Seawolf (SSN 21) Control Room.

Current statistics show that America has an advantage over China and Russia with over 13 submarines capable of firing ballistic missiles, and an arsenal of more than 200 nuclear missiles. There are also the 4 submarines with guided missiles technology that carry more than a hundred rounds of Tomahawk cruise missiles. The United States Navy also has more than 50 submarines capable of launching a nuclear attack – giving it a wow! factor second to none.

Saying this, Russia has 63 submarines just as impressive as the American ones. In fact, the Russian submarines can challenge an American submarine on any given day. Worthy of mentioning is that Russia is also working on a 100 megaton torpedo capable of razing an entire city.

Typhoon-class submarine underway.

China owns 70 submarines, where it owns more than 50 diesel attack submarines, 4 submarines with nuclear-attacking technologies, and 5 nuclear attack submarines.

With the current stats, the United States has a clear advantage over its two enemies. In any case, if the United States enters the forbidden waters against China and Russia then the United States will still struggle to win a war.

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