Who Will Be The Top Military Super Power in 2050?

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States was quickly dubbed the only superpower in the world, but Russia and China soon rebounded from the collapse of the Soviet Union in their own ways to challenge US supremacy. Because of these countries’ increasing military power and economies, the paradigm of the world has shifted from a monopoly of power to more of a multipolar power world. So what does the future hold? 

Mightiest Military Super Power in 2050

Military superpower in 2050
“A formation of armored vehicles, manned by U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel” by Sgt. M Benjamin Gable is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States was quickly dubbed the only superpower in the world, but Russia and China soon rebounded from the collapse of the Soviet Union in their own ways to challenge US supremacy. Because of these countries’ increasing military power and economies, the paradigm of the world has shifted from a monopoly of power to more of a multipolar power world. 

While these countries and organizations like NATO have been traditionally seen as the world’s top powers now and for years to come, with advances in technology and an ever-increasing global economy, there are still plenty of opportunities for other countries and organizations to join the elite club of “top powers.”  

So what does the future hold?  A single superpower like today- and one that’s not necessarily the US?  Or multiple superpowers?  Let’s take a look at two possibilities for powers that could dethrone not just the US, but China and Russia as well!  


Number One- India 

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” India Military Nova Délhi (Índia)l” by Antônio Milena is licensed under CC BY 3.0

India seems like they should already be a world military power simply because it has the second largest population and second-largest military service in the world behind China, but that is not the case. With a threat so close to home, India has been unable to flex its military muscle abroad.

India and Pakistan have fought a series of wars starting in the late 1940s up until today over their borders. These clashes have broken out in full-scale wars several times and even today, there has been an ongoing insurgency along India’s northwest frontier, mainly fueled in part by Pakistan. 

It’s not just its western border that’s seen conflict, though, because along its northern border India has also been focused on preventing Chinese intrusions into their territory and has had several skirmishes and disputes with the Chinese along its northeastern border with Tibet. Most recently, India suffered heavy casualties from a skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops, though all-out war was averted.  

India Military might

But in recent years, India has decided to shift its military and economy towards a more global focus. The Indian army in itself is massive, with its total military personnel boasting over one million active-duty soldiers, its Navy having one active aircraft carrier in its fleets, and an Air Force with thousands of combat aircraft. India is also one of the few countries in the world to have a nuclear triad, meaning they could launch nuclear missiles from the land, sea, and air. 


Despite all these advantages, the Indian military still has some issues that need to be resolved to get them from a regional to global power. The first of these is modernizing its equipment and producing its own military hardware.

India still imports most of its military equipment from the US, Russia, and Israel. Some of their most important assets for power projection, like their bomber aircraft and ships, are decades old. These aging platforms, though still serviceable and well-kept by the Indians, would be outmatched by most of today’s ships and aircraft. 

Powerful Military budget

Air Defence Tactical Control Radar (ADTCR), at the 71st Republic Day Celebrations, at Rajpath, in New Delhi on January 26, 2020.

The Indian military also needs to democratize its military spending. Though the Indian defense budget is the fourth largest globally at almost 57 billion dollars, the vast majority of it goes to the army.


While this is partially understandable since the army has been fighting various insurgencies for decades- especially after the 9/11 terror attacks- it showcases just how much influence the military has on politicians in the government. 

In order to fully modernize its air force and navy to project power abroad, larger sums of money need to be spent on these two services since the army gets more money than both of them combined. 

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Their naval strategy also needs to be figured out. Without a doubt, having a strong bluewater navy is a precursor to becoming a superpower. The Indian navy is quite capable since they are one of only a handful of countries in the world to operate an aircraft carrier and they have started producing their nuclear-powered submarines. However, these positive attributes are outweighed by the debate amongst Indian naval leadership over what kind of strategy they should adopt for the future. 


One side wants to take a more conservative, regional approach known as the Soviet fortress fleet doctrine to keep the navy subservient to the army and just worry about protecting the coast, where it can be supported by land-based power.

Other Indian officers of the British school of thinking want to model their navy after the Royal and US Navies that conduct operations globally well past their shores. Until this conflict is resolved, it is unclear if the Indians will have a unified naval strategy. 

What India Need to do to become a Military Superpower

Agni II missile Republic Day Parade 2004
An Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile on a road-mobile launcher, displayed at the Republic Day Parade on New Delhi’s Rajpath, January 26, 2004.“This work” by Antônio Milena is licensed under CC BY 3.0

While there are several issues for the Indians to work on, they have taken steps in the past decade to get themselves known as a player on the global power scene. One of the ways they have done this has been becoming the number one contributor of military personnel for UN peacekeeping missions. Since its foundation, the UN Security Council has authorized 46 different tasks, and Indian soldiers and police officers have served in 43 of them. 


By being so involved in peacekeeping abroad, India has continued to build strong relations with fledgling nations across the globe. This might not seem important now, but once these conflicts are over the influence the Indian people will have will be enormous. Because they helped provide the peace and security of the nation, they have set themselves up to build future allies with strong military and economic ties across the globe in places other powers might not have a foothold in yet.

India has also taken steps to produce more of its own technology. Over the past several years, there have been various indigenous programs created to develop new technology. Some of these programs like their program to build unmanned, armed drones like the US, have met with limited success compared to some of their missile programs, which just last year was able to shoot down a satellite in orbit. This test ranked India among the few nations in the world who have been able to accomplish such a feat. 

Indian navy march
” Indian navy sailors” by Rushrrs09 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

What can they do better?

These somewhat impromptu programs have finally been codified in official defense policy as of July 2020. Released by the Defense Ministry as the Draft Defence Production & Export Promotion Policy this plan calls for a number of significant defense industry reforms. One of the biggest ones is calling for the indigenization of thousands of critical defense technologies so India does not have to rely on imports as much. The government also wants to streamline the procurement process and create special defense industrial zones within the country. 


The plan also calls for the private sector to take over more of the market and put more money into research and development. Indian policymakers also hope that this investment will increase their arms exports by one hundred percent over the next five years and aim to make India a leading exporter in the world arms market. 

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While India is not a superpower today, they are without a doubt making positive progress in getting there by 2050. Suppose their ambitious plan for revamping their defense industry works and it can create a unified, global strategy amongst their different military branches. In that case, it is quite likely India will be a military superpower in the years to come.

Number Two The African Union 

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For over the past fifty years, the nations of Africa have been working together to unite under common political and military lines to leverage the combined power of the African continent. The various attempts at organizing African states under one political body either failed or missed the mark slightly until 2002 when the African Union was finally organized. 


The African Union Makeup

The African Union is a multi-faceted organization modeled after the European Union and is made up of numerous entities. The political arm is composed of the two major bodies: the Pan-African Parliament and the Assembly of the African Union. The Pan-African Parliament is made up of elected citizens from every African nation and the Assembly is composed of heads of state of each country. 

The judicial wing is made up of the Court of Justice whose purpose is to interpret rules and disputes about treaties within the organization, as well as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which seeks to adjudicate human rights violations among signatory nations. 

Unlike the EU, the AU also has a military component called the Peace and Security Council. The council is made up of fifteen member nations who are all elected. The purpose is to stop and end conflicts wherever they arise. African nations voluntarily contribute soldiers and police officers to these missions, and since its inception, the body has already deployed troops in 12 different countries. 


Availability of resources

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Newly deployed troops who will serve under the African Union Mission in Somalia disembark a plane from Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, on July 21, 2017. AMISOM Photo

The AU has significant leverage both in terms of people, natural resources, military, and economic power. There are over 1.25 billion people within the AU borders and seven of the thirteen members of OPEC are also members of the AU. The AU also has tremendous military power at its disposal-  just the top ten member states have a total combined strength nearly equal to the United States, at least in terms of manpower. Over the past decade, the continent of Africa has also emerged as the number one developing economic powerhouse. 

Though current economic output is about 7 trillion, compared to the current US output of 21 trillion per year, that has been rapidly growing year over year. Some countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia have been pressing double-digit GDP growth each year for the past several years. It is expected that by 2050 the continent will nearly double its population and have an estimated output of 29 trillion dollars. 

Showing promise as a superpower

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30th African Union Summit | Addis Ababa, 29 January 2018

Africa is already well on its way to getting there. Over the past ten years the number of people living in extreme poverty has decreased by about one percent a year, while the number of people living in urban areas has also increased one percent.


Living in urban environments has been shown to increase economic productivity, leading to the number of African nations entering what is called “middle-income countries”-countries where the average GDP per person is above $1,000- to increase significantly. 

In 2013, the African Union developed an aggressive economic plan to propel the continent forward as a global economic superpower. That plan, called Agenda 2063, intends to institute a number of what the AU calls “flagship projects.”

There are fifteen such projects that include things like creating an African industrial base to process its own natural resources, a high-speed train network connecting all major economic centers developing a Pan-African air route for goods, creating a joint economic forum, eliminating all visas and creating a new common passport, implementing a common currency, creating centralized banks, and increasing education among others. 


Achievements so far

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So far, the AU has made excellent progress towards reaching these lofty goals. In its first report issued in February of 2020, the AU and UN were both amazed at what had already been accomplished and the fact that they were already ahead of schedule.

Then, just five months later, the Continental Free Trade Agreement was ordered to be put into its first operational phase by the AU. This agreement will eliminate practically all tariffs among members and will promote more trade, especially among the less developed nations. 

But for all of this progress made, the AU still has a lot of challenges to overcome before it can become a world superpower. For one, everything that the AU does depends on the participation of its member countries. Since membership is voluntary, there is nothing that can force members to adopt or follow any treaty that the AU adopts.


For instance, when the human rights court makes rulings if the member does not recognize the court- as many members do not- then there is nothing that can be enforced. Likewise, with the Continental Free Trade Agreement, not every member chose to participate, with fewer than half of member nations sending forward their plans to implement the agreement.  

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Ugandan soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are seen on the the back of military trucks 25 May 2012

No shortage of challenges

Not to mention that to become a military power, issues such as education and corruption need to be addressed. On average, African nations educate their citizens far less than in other countries. While some nations such as South Africa and Ethiopia perform quite well, there are many that lag behind the rest of the world, and the education for women is of particular concern in most AU countries.

The AU is also home to some of the most corrupt countries in the world, with nations like Libya, Sudan, and Somalia among the most corrupt in the world. Most AU nations do not break the top 100 least corrupt countries on the globe. 


There have also been many objections from member nations about implementing a common currency called the Afro, and there does not yet exist a Central African Bank. Though the AU wants a central bank along with a central investment and pension fund managed by the AU, these projects have not yet come to fruition. 

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Ugandan soldiers, as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, gather around their tanks on August 29, one day before the beginning of Operation Indian Ocean, which aims to liberate several towns off of the terrorist organization Al Shabab in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia. AMISOM Photo / Tobin Jones

Even though the African Union was founded less than twenty years ago, it has made an extraordinary amount of progress since its inception. The combined economic and military might of all the African nations is a force to be reckoned with, and the AU’s plans have already set themselves up for long-term success. However, the biggest challenge to the AU becoming a leading military power is getting all of the member nations to agree and fully comply with AU policies so that countries are not just looking out for each other but for the good of the whole. 

Wrapping up

These two budding powers could one day upend the old world order, but will they do so peacefully or will the world fall into the Thucydides Trap, where one great power dislodging another inevitably ends in war?  Only time can tell.