North Korea vs United States - Updated (2018) - Military Comparison
A lot has happened since we last compared the militaries of the USA and North Korea. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, have been involved in spats that are both amusing and deeply worrying at the same time. Each leader has issued insults as well as threats. Kim Jong Un famously called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard”, while Trump later bragged about the size of his button when compared to his nemesis’ button. It all seems quite juvenile, but we might ask how big the threat of conflict really is. After North Korea was accused by the U.S. of being behind the WannaCry cyber-attacks, North Korea responded by saying this was just more American propaganda. The quest for the truth can be quite exhausting. Today we’ll pit these two nations against each other again, in this episode of the Infographics Show, USA vs North Korea - Updated (2018).
We all know that the USA has the largest and most expensive military in the world, but when it comes to North Korea, the country’s military arsenal and the power of its missiles is still somewhat speculative, as it is a very secretive nation.
The USA has the largest GDP in the world, at $19.36 trillion. The country spends more on its military than any other nation. The financial website, The Balance, tells us that for 2018 the U.S. will spend $824.6 billion on defense, which is more than the next nine nations combined. We are told that $574.5 billion will be spent on the base budget for the Department of Defense, $64.6 billion on Overseas Contingency Operations, and rest on all the other departments such as Homeland Security and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Certain programs are also very expensive, such as the cost of 70 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, which will set the USA back $10.3 billion alone.
The military will also purchase a bunch of new toys, and they don’t come cheap. In 2018, some of this new equipment will be: One CVN-78 Class Aircraft Carrier for $4.6 billion, two DDG-51 Destroyers for $4.0 billion, 15 KC-46 Tanker strategic military transport aircrafts for $3.1 billion, one B-21 Bomber for $2.0 billion, two Virginia Class Submarines for $5.5 billion, 2,647 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles for $1.1 billion, and a further $13.2 billion will be spent on science and technology. Most of the new equipment comes with very advanced tech, and systems these days have vastly improved automated processes. All of this obviously comes at a cost.
North Korea has a tiny economy in comparison. In 2016 it was said the GDP for the country was $28.5 billion, which was 3.9 percent higher than the year before, according to the BBC. The same report also said that this growth rate was the fastest rate in 17 years. What’s quite shocking is how much of this GDP is spent on military, with some media reporting it’s as much as 22 percent. It’s thought that spending of late has been about $10 billion. This obviously is more than 22 percent of the GDP we stated, although some media does say that North Korea’s GDP could be as much as $40 billion. Much of this, of course, goes to the upkeep of a massive armed forces, but South Korean analysts also point out that around $1-$3 billion goes to the country’s nuclear program. Still, if we put things in perspective here, the mighty supercarrier belonging to the USA, the USS Gerald Ford, has an $8 billion price tag and that’s before all the cash is spent on research and development to get the thing working properly.
One thing North Korea does have in large numbers is people willing to fight. While all nations use propaganda to compel their citizens to be proud and get them jacked-up enough to risk their lives in times of conflict, North Korea has something called “Songun”. This is a military-first policy, meaning people must put the military before all other aspects of their lives. The same could not be said to exist in the USA, where most people have grown used to relative freedoms and even, for some, quite a decadent lifestyle. In North Korea, men must serve in the military for at least ten years, while women serve for seven years. It’s estimated that about 25 million people live in the country, and 6,445,000 are military personnel. Most of these are paramilitary personnel. We should also mention that numerous reports state that North Korean soldiers are depressed and underfed. It’s difficult to say for sure, as the opinions of defectors could potentially be biased.
The USA is quite different. From its population of nearly 326 million people (325,687,772 as of time of writing), 2,363,675 are military personnel. Almost one million of those people are reserves.
But, as you know, the USA has quite the cache of weapons. We won’t go through all this again as not so much has changed since our last show, and you already know what new purchases the USA is about to make. We will say that the USA’s 13,762-strong military air fleet is like no other in the world. As well as all those new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the country also owns large fleets of other advanced aircraft. This includes fleets of F-22 Raptors, F-15E Strike Eagles, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and F-16 Fighting Falcons. We can’t possibly mention the rest, but it’s a bigger arsenal of military aircraft than any other country by far.
North Korea has a lot of equipment, but it’s thought much of it is old and nowhere near as advanced as what you’ll find in the U.S. air force. It’s thought the country has around 940 aircraft. This includes 40 Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrums, 105 MiG-23 Floggers and 35 Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoots. The Pentagon has called Pyongyang’s fleet “vintage” machines. It was reported that the country was interested in purchasing Russia’s powerhouse, the Sukhoi Su-35, but it doesn’t look like that ever came to fruition.
The same goes for land artillery; North Korea has a lot, but it’s very old. The USA’s aircraft would likely have easy targets, although North Korea has boasted about all its secret underground bunkers and tunnels. According to Global Firepower, the North Korean Army has around 6,600 tanks, 4,100 armored fighting vehicles, 2,250 Self-Propelled Guns, 4,300 Towed-Artillery and 2,400 Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems. That’s a lot of gear, but besides for the USA having a lot more armored fighting vehicles, it’s similar to the numbers of artillery the U.S. has. The major difference is the technology. North Korea’s machines are largely just leftovers from days gone by, while the U.S., as we know, is buying new equipment and also owns some of the best tanks in the world, including the very capable M1 Abrams tank.
It gets worse in the water for North Korea, as it’s navy is arguably its weakest link. The country has 0 Aircraft carriers, 4 frigates, 0 destroyers, 6 corvettes, 78 submarines, 528 coastal defense crafts, and 23 mine warfares. In contrast, the U.S. is buying those new destroyers we talked about and also owns those floating islands we call supercarriers. What does this mean? Well, reports tell us that the three U.S. Nimitz-class supercarriers floating around the Asia-Pacific region is big trouble for North Korea. The ships are there to show the “ability to rapidly consolidate joint forces in response to a regional contingency,” according to the U.S. Apparently the focus was on North Korea.
Finally, we come to nuclear capabilities, which is possibly North Korea’s strongest asset after its large and possibly unshakable personnel force.
Along with Russia, we know that the USA has the largest cache of nuclear warheads in the world. This is about 9,600 in total. If you saw our show on North Korea’s missiles, you’ll know the country now claims it can hit anywhere in the world. Analysts are not so sure, but some do think the country’s Hwasong-14 missile could be capable of reaching the USA. It’s thought the country has about 20 large nuclear warheads in total, but the problem is launching them. Some analysts believe this is still a big problem for North Korea. The country also has a lot of shorter-range less powerful missiles, but those could cause a lot of destruction closer to its borders.
Nonetheless, The Washington Post reported in 2017 that even if North Korea did fire a missile at the USA, a $40 billion defense system would destroy it on its way. This is called the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD. First the rocket carrying the missile is detected, and when that happens the GMD gets ready. Apparently, it would take about 30 minutes for a missile to reach the U.S. from North Korea. While the missile is in the “midcourse phase” outside of the atmosphere, it would be intercepted, or so the game plan goes. Others have said such tech should come second after trying to improve the diplomatic mess between the two countries. Amen to that.
So, what do you think of this hypothetical matchup between the US and North Korea? Would it totally be one-sided, or would North Korea stand a chance? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called USA vs Russia! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!