According to Global Firepower’s annual military Power Index, Hungary has moved up to 54th place in the world rankings in 2023. Given that in 2017, Hungary was ranked only 63rd, its new position shows a steady upward trend that is brought on by gradual force development programmes and military reform taking place for years.
What is the Power Index?
The finalised Global Firepower ranking uses over 60 individual factors to determine a given nation’s Power Index (PwrIndx) score with categories ranging from the number of military units and financial standing to logistical capabilities and geography. Based on these numbers, an indicator is calculated where zero is the best theoretically possible value. The smaller a country’s Power Index value, the more powerful its conventional fighting capability is.
For the 2023 GFP review, a total of 145 world powers were considered. The United States, in the absolute first place, has an index of 0.0712; while Bhutan is dead last, with an index of 6.2017, according to the 2023 GFP’s annual ranking. Hungary’s index stood at 0.8633 in 2022; this year, it was 0.8643.
Where Does Hungary Stand?
In 2023, Hungary ranked 54th out of the 145 countries included in the annual GFP index rankings, which means that the country moved up two places compared to 2022 and is now the 20th strongest army in Europe. In the region, only Romania (16th) and the Czech Republic (17th) are ahead of Hungary. This is quite a notable achievement given that in 2010, the Hungarian Defence Forces were still lagging behind the Serbian, Austrian, and even Slovak and Croatian armed forces. So, the question arises, what has happened since 2010?
Breaking the Negative Trend
After decades of downsizing and neglect in the defence sector, in the mid-2010s, the Hungarian government made a commitment to carry out an overall force development programme
to modernise its armed forces. In 2017, the Hungarian government announced the Zrínyi 2026 Defence and Force Development Programme with the promise of realising the long-awaited, much-needed modernisation and reformation of the HDF in the next ten years. The force development programme aims to acquire NATO-compatible equipment, from personal equipment to combat gear, manufactured by the European and Hungarian defence industries. As the Hungarian force development programme unfolds, Hungary’s defence capability has grown significantly. This is essential not only in terms of self-defence and deterrence, but also for the country to remain an influential contributor to regional, European, and transatlantic security efforts in trying times.
A top priority of the Hungarian force development is to have national manufacturing capacities, not just have new technologies imported. This will enable Hungary to produce complete weapon systems on its own. The transition to this type of manufacturing capacity is well underway in several Hungarian cities. In Gyula, parts for military helicopters are being made. Meanwhile in Kaposvár, armoured vehicles and military drones are being built. In Kiskunfélegyháza small firearms, in Várpalota ammunition and mortars, and in Nyírtelek radars are being manufactured. In addition, there is an IT base for high-end military systems located in Budapest, while infantry fighting vehicles are produced in Zalaegerszeg. The latter, namely the Lynx KF41 vehicles, are one of the most significant developments in the HDF’s military technology, with which HDF has also regained a lost capability. According to the Ministry of Defence, the Hungarian Defence Forces will acquire 46 of the Lynx combat vehicles produced by Rheinmetall AG by 2023, while an additional 172 will be manufactured in Hungary by 2029.
‘Hungary is one step ahead, thanks to the investments that strengthen not only the Hungarian defence forces but also the Hungarian economy and our position on the international stage,’ Hungarian Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky has outlined recently.
Earlier in October, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also stressed the importance of the Hungarian force development programme in his speech at a swearing-in ceremony for military volunteers.
‘Hungary is threatened from several directions, and we cannot bury our heads in the sand like ostriches. In the East, guns are thundering in war. Countless weapons are being sent from the West to the Ukrainian front. And from the south, hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants are besieging the borders of Hungary… we Hungarians do not need to be war hawks, but we do need an army that is combat-ready, capable of guaranteeing peace and acting as a deterrent. Those without such readiness and discipline cannot be successful‘.
Defence Minister Szalay-Bobrovniczky also confirmed months ago that, in the wake of the migration crisis and the war in Ukraine, Hungarian military development will continue despite the economic difficulties ahead. The minister’s words are supported by the fact that although the Orbán administration had pledged to meet NATO’s request to spend two per cent of its GDP on defence by 2024, Hungary could reach this level as early as this year. The Hungarian defence sector will see high-end military equipment arriving in 2023, including Leopard tanks and Airbus helicopters, while the first Lynxes will roll off the production line in Hungary also this year.