Israel’s military strength, billions in defense expenditure, US aid: Facts & figures

With a vast arsenal bolstered by billions of dollars annually in defense aid provided by the United States, Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the Middle East.

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Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the Middle East, with advanced surveillance systems and a vast arsenal bolstered by billions of dollars annually in military aid provided by the United States.

In the ongoing war with Hamas, Israel has deployed its military might as it continues to bomb the Gaza Strip in response to the deadly October 7 attack by the Palestinian militant group and the continuous firing of rockets targetting Israeli areas.

Israel’s military strength

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has 169,500 active military personnel, including 126,000 in the army, according to the British International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

The IDF’s reserve forces constitute 465,000 members, and another 8,000 are part of the paramilitary.

Israeli army soldiers patrol at an undisclosed position in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on October 15, 2023. (AFP)
Israeli army soldiers patrol at an undisclosed position in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on October 15, 2023. (AFP)

According to multiple media reports, close to 300,000 Israeli soldiers have been stationed near the Gaza Strip border, as speculations of a possible ground invasion are on the rise.

In Israel, military service is mandatory for citizens over 18, while men must serve for 32 months and women for 24 months.

Israeli land defense

Israel’s military arsenal includes more than 2,200 tanks and 530 artillery, including self-propelled, towed, and multiple rocket launchers, according to IISS’ Military Balance 2023.

Israeli air defense

With some of the world’s most technologically advanced air defenses, Israel has 339 combat aircraft, including 309 fighter ground attack jets – 196 F-16 jets, 83 F-15 jets and 30 F-35 jets.

Israeli F35 I fighter jets take part in the
Israeli F35 I fighter jets take part in the

The IDF also has 142 helicopters, including 43 Apache attack helicopters, according to IISS.

Israeli naval power

The Israeli military has five submarines and 49 patrol and coastal combatants, IISS data says.

Israel’s Iron Dome defense

The Iron Dome is a mobile air defense system with a network of radar detectors and missile launchers that work together to intercept incoming rockets.

First deployed in 2011, the Iron Dome was created with the help of the US, which supplied parts for the system. The multi-billion dollar defense system is highly sophisticated and has intercepted more than 90 percent of rockets fired from Hamas and other Palestinian groups in 2021, according to the IISS.

An Israeli Iron Dome defence system battery, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in pictured in the Hula Valley in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon, on July 27, 2020.
An Israeli Iron Dome defence system battery, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in pictured in the Hula Valley in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon, on July 27, 2020.

The IISS also states that Israel holds nuclear capabilities with Jericho missiles and aircraft capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Although not declared a nuclear state, Israel’s nuclear weapons are deemed an open secret, and the US Arms Control Association puts the number of its warheads at 90.

Israel’s military spending

Israel spent $23.4 billion in military expenditure in 2022, according to data collected by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

This amount equals $2,623 per capita from 2018-2022, making it the second largest military spender per capita after Qatar.

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Israel also spent 4.5 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on the military in 2022, the 10th highest in the world.

US military aid to Israel

Israel has been the largest US military and foreign aid recipient since World War II. To date, the US has provided Israel with $158 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding, according to the Congressional Research Service 2023 report.

The US has provided Israel with military assistance in part due to shared strategic and security goals in the Middle East.

In 2016, under President Barack Obama, the US and Israeli government signed their third 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on military aid, covering years from 2019 to 2028. In the MoU, the United States pledged to provide $38 billion in military aid to Israel plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations, the Congressional Research Service report said.

 Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) greets US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.(AFP)
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) greets US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.(AFP)

Of the $3.8 billion military aid provided to Israel this year, half a billion is for Israeli missile defense, and the US has also stated that it will backfill Israeli munitions in its war against Hamas.

Hours after the deadly Hamas attack, Israel requested Iron Dome interceptors from the US, with President Joe Biden saying that Washington “will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions.”

In his visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Biden reaffirmed America’s commitment to Israel, where he said he planned to ask Congress for an “unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense” but did not elaborate further.

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