For millions of years, the northern half of North America has remained bonded together, when other present continents were busy breaking-off from the ‘super continents’ of the past. Trade routes ran through both countries throughout the centuries, and still today the U.S. and Canada, in terms of imports and exports, are heavily reliant on each other. Economic ties, the European influence, democratic governance, to some extent an intermingling of religion and culture, and of course English as the dominant language, makes the two nations part of the same family. Nonetheless, as most Canadians and Americans will tell you, the two countries are also different in many ways. One big difference is how the nations have developed in terms of defense. Today we thought we’d compare them militarily, in this episode of the Infographics Show, the USA vs. Canada.

The United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. Canada became a self-governing country on July 1, 1867, but it wasn’t until the Canada Act of 1982 that the British ceased to have any influence on the Canadian constitution. These two bordering nations each have a massive land mass, with Canada being the second biggest nation on Earth behind Russia. Canada’s 3,855,100 square mile land mass, however, is not too much larger than fourth placed USA. America’s land mass is 3,705,407 square miles. And, of course, China is the world’s third largest nation.

Given the size of these giant nations you may not be surprised to hear the Canada-U.S. border is the longest border in the world at 5,525 miles long. While there were disputes in the past over the demarcation of land in some border areas, as borders go, the USA-Canadian divide has seen few conflicts. The only time the two countries went head-to-head was in 1812, when Canada, as a colony of Great Britain, became embroiled in the latter’s spat over USA expansionism. Since that time, the countries have been the best of allies.

In fact, the necessity of safe trading routes and an amiable relationship allowed both countries to prosper. After China, Canada is America’s biggest trading partner, while for Canada the U.S. is its main trading partner. The USA has a much bigger GDP than Canada, though, as we all know. Its 18 trillion-plus GDP is the biggest in the world, whereas Canada’s GDP is said to lie in 10th place on the list at 1.53 trillion dollars.

The U.S. is regarded as having the world’s strongest military, and with a 611 billion dollar defense budget, about 3.3 percent of the GDP, America outspends the rest of the world by a mile. Canada, a country not often exalted for its military prowess, spends around 15.5 billion dollars on defense, which is around one percent of the GDP. This, however, will soon change. It was reported in June this year that Canada will increase military spending to $32.7 billion in the next ten years. Canada’s Defense Minister, Harjit Sajjan, was quoted as saying, “If we are serious about Canada’s role in the world, then we have to be serious about funding our military.”

Let’s now have a look at where all the money goes. The U.S. has a population of 325 million people, 1.3 million of whom are active military personnel, and a further 811,000 acting as reserve personnel. By comparison, the Canadian military is minuscule, with 95,000 active frontline personnel and another 51,000 working as reserves.  Canada’s population is just over 35 million. Size does matter, and while the Canadian army is low in numbers, its special forces are said to be some of the most skilled soldiers in the world.

In terms of land equipment, the U.S. weapons cache of arms is almost unparalleled. The country has around 5,884 tanks, 41,000 armored fighting vehicles, 1,934 self-propelled guns, 1,299 towed artillery, and 1,331 multiple-launch rocket systems.

Canada has 80 tanks, 3,004 AFVs, 0 SPGs, 161 towed artillery, and 0 MLRSs. This somewhat meagre arsenal, however, consists of mostly modern equipment. Canada’s main battle tanks include a fleet of German-made Leopard 2A4s and Leopard 2A6s, some of the most advanced tanks ever created. Canada has also just been hailed as a great innovator of military equipment for developing what’s been called a “Terminator-like weapon.” According to military analysts, the Canadian Defence Research and Development organization has created the weapon of the future in its Soldier Integrated Precision Effects Systems “super-gun” or “smart-gun.”

Nonetheless, intelligent rifles might not be enough to hold back America’s thousands of highly rated M1 Abrams battle tanks, a proven machine that has clocked a vast number of work hours. The USA is also spending big on developing its own super-tank, the M1A2 SEP v3.

The Royal Canadian Air Force is also somewhat outmatched in the skies when compared with the United States Air Force. Canada has a total of 414 military aircraft, 60 of which are fighters/interceptors, and 64 that are fixed-wing attack aircraft. The country has no attack helicopters. It’s cream of the crop is its 103-strong fleet of American-made multi-role fighter, the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet. The Canadian government has also mulled over the purchase of the American F-35 stealth fighter, although that will come at some cost. Perhaps with the 70 percent increase in defense spending, Canada may have the aircraft in its sights.

The USA out-guns any other air force, and is pretty much spoiled for choice in terms of inventory. The U.S. has around 13,444 aircrafts, many of which are touted as the world’s best. This includes legions of F-22A Raptors, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15E Strike Eagles and the notoriously expensive F-35A Lightning II. The U.S. also has a large fleet of the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornets, some of which have been converted to F/A-18E Super Hornets.

Canada’s naval strength is rather small in comparison to the giant of the U.S. navy, although the Royal Canadian Navy has fought many battles over the years and is currently in the process of enlarging its fleet. The RCN consists of 0 aircraft carriers, 12 frigates, 12 coastal defense vessels, 4 patrol submarines, and 8 unarmed patrol/training vessels. The U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, 22 cruisers, 67 destroyers, 8 frigates, 75 submarines, 0 corvettes, 9 amphibious assault ships, 11 mine warfare ships, and 55 patrol ships. It’s also developing its multi-billion behemoth, the Gerald R. Ford class super-carrier.

As for nuclear capabilities, Canada does not have its own nuclear weapons, although it contributes to America’s military programs. Canada is also protected under NATO’s nuclear umbrella. The U.S., on the other hand, along with Russia, owns almost half of the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons. 1,800 of these weapons are currently deployed.  

Super-guns and weapons of mass destruction aside, these two countries share a long-lasting partnership when it comes to their defense strategies. The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries outside of European nations that belong to NATO. Together, the two friendly neighbors have formed an alliance that combines one huge military force. This is recognized in official pacts, such as the bi-national organization: the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Combined Defence Plan, and even the sharing of military resources in times of natural disasters under the Canada-U.S. Civil Assistance Plan. Besides the skirmish in 1812, the two countries have enjoyed arguably the most peaceful border relationship on the planet. Canada and the U.S. are the closest of allies, culturally intertwined, and, from an economic standpoint, reliant on their buoyant trading relations.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tale of two brotherly nations. Do you think the bond between the US and Canada is unbreakable, or is it just a matter of time before it fizzles? Let us know in the comments!




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