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Military Balance 2011

Global redistribution of military power under way, says IISS

There is persuasive evidence that a global redistribution of military power is under way, according to the latest edition of The Military Balance, published today by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The US and other Western powers are losing their monopoly in key areas of defence technology, including stealth aircraft, unmanned systems and cyber warfare.

The Military Balance 2011, among other things, notes:

  • There is now a stark contrast between the contracting defence budgets of many Western states and the booming military spending and arms procurement that characterises the Gulf, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

  • Tight finances and a focus on asymmetric threats have led in the West to a diminishing appetite for grand defence projects. In the naval area, this means fewer large ships and greater numbers of smaller multirole vessels. But in India, China and Brazil there is still a desire to expand or establish fleets based on aircraft carriers and other large vessels.

  • While media attention has focused on China’s aircraft carrier plans, its submarine programme, new landing platform docks and deployment of more effective anti-ship missiles hold greater strategic significance. The recent unveiling of the J-20 aircraft is another indication that China is gradually closing the military technology gap between itself and the West.

  • Difficult choices will arise for western militaries as the Afghan war gradually winds down. There will be a need to choose which equipment types employed in the conflict – protected patrol vehicles, UAVs and helicopters, among others – have enduring value and should be retained, and which capabilities should be cut.

  • For US and European defence companies faced with contracting domestic order-books, military exports to other regions are more important than ever.


The Military Balance will prove invaluable to those analysing global flashpoints and the role of military forces:

  • With the Korean peninsula now as dangerous a place as it has been at any time since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the book provides detailed capability assessments of each party to the dispute.

  • The outbreak of border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand has dashed the expectation that ASEAN member states would not go to war with each other. Thailand and other Southeast Asian states - notably Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam - continue to increase their defence spending and all have major military procurement programmes.

  • The Military Balance notes how long-running mistrust between India and China, focused on border disputes, has led India to significantly reinforce its air force deployments to northern bases.

  • Recent instability in the Middle East has sharpened the need for the analysis of roles and capabilities of regional militaries which the IISS provides.


Through The Military Balance and other products of its newly inaugurated Defence and Military Analysis Programme, the IISS will continue to sharpen and deepen its analysis of military affairs, confirming the Institute as the principal international authority on questions of defence policy.

Notes for editors

In a packed edition of 496 pages, The Military Balance 2011 is the Institute’s latest assessment of global military capabilities and defence economics, with supporting essays, graphics and tables. Its inventory assessments have long been of value to defence analysts and policymakers. The IISS is a think tank concentrating on politico-military conflict. It has been influential in setting the agenda in nuclear deterrence, non-proliferation and arms control since its formation in 1958. Headquartered in London, the IISS has offices in Washington, Bahrain and Singapore.

The Director of the IISS Defence and Military Analysis Programme, Dr Tim Huxley, Editor of The Military Balance James Hackett and other staff of the Defence and Military Analysis Programme are available for interview.

For press enquiries, contact Kelly Signorelli-Chaplin, Press Officer and External Relations Administrator in London at +44 (0)20-7395-4112.

Military Balance 2011 - Press Release - 2.42 MB Download the press release as a pdf.