Russian Military vs American Military: a Quick Look at Military Capability

Updated: February 15, 2017


By RU Twisted

The Russians are Coming! Maybe…

With our apparently reignited Cold War, it’s time to give a shotgun blast-style overview of how America’s military stacks up against those Ruskies. But don’t worry—this isn’t going to be a super-technical look at the specs of each possible aspect, but rather a fast overview of capabilities.

First and foremost, I’d like to set the tone by stating upfront that America’s military is, bar none, the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen. We have so many capabilities that it’s difficult to appreciate them in a meaningful sense.

But one of the ways we can do just that is to offer a comparison to another force. In this case, let’s take a look at Russia’s military, since they’re the ones hogging all the headlines.

Air Force SavageAF

He who controls the skies controls the battle space, right? So goes the saying, at least.

Without getting into the specific abilities of each country’s aircraft, we notice a stark contrast between the two air forces—namely, the entire decade called the 1990s. Sure, you remember it for Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band, but the Russians think of it as the time when all their funding for things like, say, technological advancement in the field of aerospace engineering completely dried up.

While American companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing were convincing politicians to write them bigger and bigger checks, the Russians were happy just to get the tax off a vodka shipment to use for fuel in their aging fighter jets. The point being, yes, they’ve advanced since then, but given the advancements we’ve made in that time, it’s difficult to see how they could keep up.

Bottom line: we’ve certainly had our share of wasted spending (anyone up for an argument about the F-35? No?), smart money says our aircraft are, as a whole, in far better shape than those of the Russians, as well as being much more advanced.


Loose lips do something something…

As of 2015, best intel had the Russian Navy at 172 ships—less than a third of the size it was during the days of the Soviet Union. Obviously the technological ability of any given ship today makes up for a great deal of the difference in numbers, but that’s still a pretty huge difference.

So when we look at their size and ability compared to the US Navy, it’s not so much a juxtaposition of superpowers as it is like putting me next to Tim Kennedy. Sure I know a lot about martial arts, have two arms, two legs, and can use them (somewhat) effectively if need be, but he’s on an entirely different level of capability.

Just in the world of aircraft carriers—an incredibly lethal aspect of our fighting force—the United States outnumbers the Russians 10 to 1. And that’s not taking into account how much bigger (i.e. how many planes it can carry) US carriers are compared to those from Russia or anywhere else.

Bottom line: bigger and more doesn’t always mean better. Just ask the Persians who fought Alexander the Great or some of the British who got upset by the likes of George Washington or Andrew Jackson (no, I don’t care that they’re all dead—ask them anyway!). But it’s tough not to give a pretty sizable advantage in this realm to the US Navy, untested over the last couple decades though they may be.

Land Forces

In the world of mobile armor, Russia still boasts an incredible force of tanks, which outnumber the US by almost 2 to 1 (more than that if you count self-propelled artillery). After a massive increase in military spending, they unveiled a new tank in 2015 and the word on the street is that they’ve got at least 2000 of them being built and put on line by 2020.

According to some reports, these tanks are more advanced than our own Abrams, which shouldn’t be too surprising given that it’s been in service since the first time David Lee Roth was fronting Van Halen. They are, however, currently untested where it matters most.

When it comes to infantry, the Russians have an edge based on numbers. But this is an area where numbers matter less than they do in the Navy and Air Force—at least relatively speaking. Both the US Army and Marine Corps infantry forces are, as we speak, not exactly inexperienced, given what we’ve been doing for the last 15 years.

But how does one compare infantries without them actually fighting? That’s a tough call. I think in terms of shooting, moving, and communicating, the Army and Marine Corps have that down better than anyone in history, but it’s a tough thing to demonstrate. I’d also argue that they have the best gear (everything from battle rifles and night vision to boots and food), and those factors can make up for a lot in miserable conditions.

Bottom line: of course I’m biased towards America’s for obvious reasons, but I think it’s got an edge due to experience and a better support system. Nobody can resupply Rip Its and bullets faster than the US military—two items I believe to be inextricably linked in the natural order of things.


You know that awesome “freedom” thing we have? Well, it does come with a downside, especially in relation to information security. Russia has demonstrated an ability America simply does not possess—moving large numbers of troops into an area without anyone knowing about it until they’re already there. This is no small feat, and it’s one that the US would certainly struggle with. GetSome1

But there are also more intangibles than that. Restriction of communication also means…restriction of communication. Remember the three fundamentals of combat mentioned above? Shoot, move, and communicate—you all should’ve learned that in Basic Training. Well, when it’s restricted for security purposes, it often makes it difficult to do it when it’s needed most.

Americans are great at communicating. Just look at Facebook! Why, it’s a cornucopia of open sharing of ideas! Hmm, on second thought…

Seriously, though, we’re becoming masters of technology, which is no small attribute when bullets start flying, given how much of it is used in the modern military. That can be a hindrance or a help, of course—just a matter of whether it’s essential, whether it works, and whether warfighters can work without it.

Bottom line: if it’s just Russia versus the United States, I think it’s fair to say we have a decided edge (we haven’t even gotten into economic factors, which are largely in favor of the US). That doesn’t address anything relating to allies of either side, of course, but doing that would take away from my binge-watching of The Americans and reliving the 1980s, glorious fashion and all.



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