Where are the American military bases located and how many are there in the world?

Elizabeth Smith

In the entire history of humanity it has never happened that the armed forces of a country were so present in the world as those of the United States, both in terms of quantity of vehicles and men and in terms of distribution in space. The American military bases throughout the planet has guaranteed and continues to guarantee Washington a great influence on many different geographical contexts and dominion over global trade routes and choke points. In this article we see how many US military bases and troops are and where they are located.

How many bases and soldiers does the USA have in the world

The number of American military bases around the world, as well as the quantity of soldiers abroad, have changed a lot in the last thirty years. In the latest available official document, containing data for 2021, there are 544 US bases in 43 foreign states plus another 159 in US overseas territories.

However, the Pentagon’s Base Structure Report is limited to listing Department of Defense properties that are worth more than $10 million and/or are larger than 10 acres (about 40,000 m2) in size.

Professor David Vine of the American University in Washington has explored the topic in depth and has surveyed at least 642 bases in 76 countries (data updated as of July 2021). Despite this, much information remains secret.

This is demonstrated by a note from the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA estimates. There are American troops operating in every sea and on every continent, including Antarctica. And US military personnel can be found in more than 170 countries around the world.

In particular, using data estimated by the CIA, the quadrants and states with a greater presence of American troops would be Europe (about 100,000 soldiers, in particular in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom). Then Japan (about 56,000 soldiers). Then South Korea (approximately 28,000 military personnel). And the Middle East (approximately 15,000 military personnel).

Where the American bases are located

Currently, the highest number of bases is found in two countries in particular. Thus Germany and Japan, the two main countries defeated during the Second World War (and therefore to be monitored with particular attention).

The first contains at least 123 bases, the second at least 113. We use “at least” for the stakes used in the Base Structure Report with respect to the value and size of the registered bases. The Ramstein base in Germany is also the largest in Europe, occupying more than 1400 hectares of land (14.4 km2).

The American presence in Germany and Japan is functional today to counter the two greatest threats that Washington feels it must contain. Namely Russia, currently occupied in the bloody war in Ukraine. And China, which is establishing itself as an economic giant and which has expansionist aims towards the island of Taiwan.

In third place in terms of the number of US bases hosted is South Korea, with at least 79 bases. Which the US still considers crucial to deal with the threat posed by Beijing and also by North Korea.

Beyond Taiwan, in fact, various military and geopolitical analysts agree on the fact that the next arena of conflict between China and the United States will be precisely in the quadrant of the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

Italy is in fourth place, with at least 49 American bases. According to estimates that also consider very small sites, however, there would be more than 120.

What types of US bases exist

Not all American bases are the same. It always depends on the purpose and strategic use that the American Department of Defense finds from time to time around the world. The bases thus differ in size and management.

For example, the Aviano military base, one of the American bases in Italy, is very large and includes take-off and landing runways, shooting ranges, bunkers where some atomic weapons are supposed to be stored, American schools and fast food outlets from US chains such as Taco Bell.

In essence, many compare them to mini-colonies. Other bases, however, such as the Al Udeid base in Qatar, and an estimated 400 other similar ones, are smaller. They are mostly narrow launch pads or storage warehouses or transmission bases.

Over the years, however, precisely because of the great US influence transmitted through these bases, many states have become reluctant to host them and open protests have even broken out in some countries. For example, in Shannon, Ireland, people took to the streets over the decision to let Washington use the city’s airport to transport weapons.

How the US military is divided

Not all bases, as we have already established, accommodate all possible military functions. The distinction between one and the other also depends a lot on the US force that manages the base, because it is more strategic for the occupied context.

In this regard, it is worth remembering that the US armed forces are divided into 6 army corps (the first 4 of which have bases abroad). Each with a different and more or less defined specialization and tasks.

Here they are, with the related bases abroad and in overseas territories:

  • United States Army (Army): 220 bases abroad and 29 in overseas territories

  • United States Marine Corps (amphibious infantry): 31 overseas bases

  • United States Navy (navy): 123 bases abroad and 97 in overseas territories

  • United States Air Force (air force): 170 bases abroad and 9 in overseas territories

  • United States Space Force (astronautics)

  • United States Coast Guard (coast guard)

Read also: The 6 strongest military powers in the world today

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