These Are the World's Largest Air Forces

Which country rules the skies?
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These Are the World's Largest Air Forces Newsweek

"Today I have decided to throw bombs from the airplane," an Italian soldier, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti, wrote to his father in 1911. "It is the first time that we will try this and if I succeed, I will be really pleased to be the first person to do it."

Gavotti, who was fighting the Italo-Turkish War in Libya, then climbed onto his spindly, Wright brothers-style aircraft and took off. When he reached Ain Zara, east of Tripoli, he picked up a small bomb and hurled it into an enemy encampment in the desert below.

This experimental, scrappy bomb in the desert was the first use of an aircraft as a weapon of war. Gavotti's experiment paved the way for some of the most destructive attacks in human history, from Hiroshima to Guernica, which wouldn't have been possible without a military air force.

Air forces are now an integral part of most defense forces, and are used to gain control of the air, carry out strategic bombing campaigns and support land and naval forces. They usually consist of fighter planes, bombers, helicopters and transport planes.

Website Global Fire Power has counted the aerial strength of global world powers to see how each stacks up. The results are startling—the nation in the number one spot has more than four times as many aircraft as the country at number two.

Italy may have invented the air force, but the list reveals it is now only a middling power in the skies. North Korea packs a punch considering its small size, while large countries like Russia and China also impress.

See also: The World's Biggest Naval Forces—Number One on the List May Surprise You

We've listed the 75 countries with the most military air units. Can you guess which country currently rules the skies?

02 Portugal
75. Portugal. Total Aircraft Strength: 93. Fighter Aircraft: 24. Attack Aircraft: 24. Transport Aircraft: 36. Trainer Aircraft: 23. Total Helicopter Strength: 25. Attack Helicopters: 0. Defense Budget: $3.8 billion. Ints Kalnins/Reuters