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10 Countries with the Most Military Drones in the World

In this article, we look at 10 countries with the most military drones in the world. You can skip our detailed analysis on the technological advancements in this segment of military warfare and head over directly to the 5 Countries with the Most Military Drones in the World.

The wars between Azerbaijan and Armenia first in 2020, and then later involving Russia and Ukraine have been the kind of conflicts that western powers had been worrying about, and are now scrambling to prepare themselves for a future that already seems to be here. Demand for military drones have surged over the last few years with countries actively using their unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target operations.

Drones were a prominent feature of the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and have been clouding the skies in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Borodyanka among other towns and cities in Ukraine, in what is being seen as the arrival of a new threat in the aerial defense space. These uninhabited aerial vehicles have made it difficult for enemy targets to move and hide on the battlefield with their aerial footages offering unprecedented birds-eye views of the war.

The Americans have been operating drones for about a century now, having deployed them first during World War II, between 1939 and 1945, and then more recently in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. Defense experts believe the proliferation of military drones is a concern for US policymakers who worry about China taking a leaf out of Russia’s book (strikes on Ukraine), and launching similar attacks against US interests in the Pacific. Moreover, US troops have also come under drone attacks from non-state actors in the Middle East in recent years – most notably from ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

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Considering the rapidly evolving threat, the Americans are taking initiatives to stay a step ahead of their foes. In August 2023, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced to build ‘attritable autonomous systems’ in mass over the next two years. Moreover, under the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, the US Air Force plans to develop drone wingmen to fly alongside its premier fighter and bomber jets – Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT)’s F-35 and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)’s B-21 Raider.

These unmanned combat air vehicles will be used to perform several missions, such as surveillance, striking enemies and jamming their signals. The Air Force expects about a thousand CCAs to enter service by 2028, which will mean that they would be ready for deployment with the sixth-generation of fighter jets that are currently being developed under the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

According to a report, Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT), Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA), and General Atomics, are all vying for contracts for the classified CCA initiative. All of these companies have played a significant role in the development of the United States’ current fleet of drones.

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) is the manufacturer of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-4 Triton and the RQ-180 fleets of drones operated by the US military. Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT)’s RQ-170 Sentinel was introduced in 2007, and is operated by the Air Force for CIA missions. On the other hand, the MQ-9 Reaper built by General Atomics is one of the most potent drones operated by the US, and serves as the primary offensive strike uninhabited aerial vehicle of the Air Force.

The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) is currently overseeing the development of the MQ-25 Stingray drone, which will become the first unmanned aerial refueling vehicle that will be carrier-based and will extend the range of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers. The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) received a $805 million contract in 2018 for four MQ-25 Stingrays to be delivered by August 2024.

Another prominent defense contractor that builds unmanned aerial vehicles in the US is AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV). It is the manufacturer of the RQ-11B Raven, a small drone, that is the most widely used unmanned aerial vehicle in the world, with more than 19,000 units produced. While originally designed for the US military, AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV)’s RQ-11B Raven are used by air forces of several other countries as well now – including the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Pakistan. According to figures released by The Center of the Study of the Drone at Bard College in 2020, about 60% of the American drone fleet comprises RQ-11B Raven.

Recently, AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV) reported a revenue of $180.8 million in its second quarter results for the fiscal year 2024 – up 62% year-to-year. Wahid Nawabi, the Chairman, President and CEO of the company shared the following remarks in AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV)’s Q2 2024 Earnings Call on December 5, 2023:

We’re very pleased with our performance through the first half of this fiscal year, which included significant topline revenue acceleration and record EBITDA. We remain optimistic about our future exemplified by higher growth, improving operating results and enhanced value creation for our shareholders. As we said last quarter, this reflects not only near-term demand dynamics related to global complexity but also a long-term shift in military strategy to the more frequent use of intelligent multi-domain Unmanned Systems which are either use, highly effective and provide a compelling value proposition. Our differentiated portfolio offers the greatest breadth and depth of unmanned solutions to meet the growing demands of our country and allies.

We are an industry leader in contested environments as well as AI-enabled autonomous operations and governments around the globe are witnessing these unmatched capabilities effectively perform on real and highly contested battlefields. As a testament to the incredible effectiveness of our innovative solutions, we now have nine different unmanned platforms deployed in Ukraine, all receiving high levels of praise. We could not be prouder and more honored of how our solutions and team members are helping our customers successfully achieve their vital missions.

10 Countries with the Most Military Drones in the World
10 Countries with the Most Military Drones in the World

Pixabay/Public Domain

Methodology

Countries with the most military drones in the world are ranked in ascending order of their fleet size of drones. Data has been sourced from Power Atlas, a joint publication of the European Council of Foreign Relations and Stiftung Mercator, released in December 2021; and The Drone Databook published by The Center of the Study of the Drone at Bard College in March 2020.

If interested, you can also take a look at the 15 Countries with the Highest Number of Military Satellites in Orbit.

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a similar consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders.

Let’s now head over to the list of countries that have the most military drones.

10 Countries with the Most Military Drones in the World:

10. Finland

Drones: 412

More than half of Finland’s large fleet of military drones consist of Orbiter 2-B manufactured by Israel’s Aeronautics Defense Systems. These are lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles that are designed for military and security purposes, and are integrated into all eight brigade-level formations of the Finnish Army. Another potent aerial vehicle operated by Finland is Ranger, which was built as part of a joint venture between Switzerland’s RUAG Aviation and Israel Aerospace Industries.

9. South Korea

Drones: 518

South Korea is among countries with the most military drones in the world, with a sizable fleet of 514 unmanned aerial vehicles that are used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence gathering missions. Majority of the drones that are currently in operation of the South Korean military are locally produced, while some were acquired from foreign countries – including four RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV from the United States. These are manufactured by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC).

8. Australia

Drones: 557

Australia has a fleet of 557 drones used for military purposes, according to Power Atlas and The Drone Databook. These include 161 PD-100 Black Hornet and 350 Phantom, which are unarmed but used for military needs such as battle planning, surveillance, and intelligence gathering. The Australian Air Force also possesses between 12-16 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles manufactured by General Atomics. Moreover, there are six MQ-4C Triton drones that are in use by the country’s Navy. 

7. France

Drones: 591

France is one of the countries with the most military drones in the world. Its fleet of uninhabited aerial vehicles include 210 mini Spy’Ranger UAVs developed by Thales, 11 Safran Patroller aircraft made by Sagem, and 12 MQ-9 Reaper drones it procured from the United States. According to The Center of the Study of the Drone at Bard College, France’s Système de Drones Aérien de la Marine (SDAM) program is working to develop an unmanned rotorcraft for frigates operated by the French Navy.

6. India

Drones: 625

Next up on sixth spot is India, which has a sizable fleet of 625 drones, at least. These include 600 Spylite, which were introduced in 2019, according to The Drone Databook. In addition to this, the country procured 10 Heron 1 drones from Israel for a deal worth $400 million in 2015. India also operates 15 Harop unmanned aircraft. All of the drones operated by India are of Israeli-origin. It is among countries with the most military drones in the world.

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Disclosure: None. 10 Countries with the Most Military Drones in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.