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Countries across the globe with the most U.S. military bases

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Karis Mattingly // U.S. Marine Corps

Countries across the globe with the most U.S. military bases

In 2019, the United States increased its defense budget by 4.9%, bringing the total number of dollars to be spent to $717 billion. Those who argued for the budget increase alleged that the sum was necessary in order to “maintain the [U.S. Military’s] position as the world’s military superpower.” It’s a gamble that seems to have paid off. So far Global Firepower recognized the United States’ military as the most powerful military in the world once again when it released its 2019 rankings.

According to Global Firepower, the United States military has 2,141,900 total personnel and 1,218,900 active-duty personnel. Its airpower, land strength, and naval strength are among the top in the world with 13,298 total aircraft (the most of any country) and 415 total naval assets. That’s on top of 6,287 tanks, 1,056 rocket projectors, and 39,223 armored fighting vehicles.

So where is the most powerful military in the world keeping all of its troops and vehicles? It turns out, all over the world. In this article Stacker looks at the countries across the globe with the most U.S. military bases. Using data from MilitaryBases.com, which was updated in 2018, Stacker has ranked the top 25 countries by the total number of U.S. military bases in each location. Ties were broken by the number of Air Force bases. It’s also important to note that Kuwait, Italy, Iraq, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and Kyrgyzstan all have one or more bases that are closed, but these bases are still included in the final count.

From Peru to Saudi Arabia to Japan, read on to find out which country has the most bases and why. Along the way, Stacker will be looking at strategic, interesting, and notable bases in each country. Military historians and civilians alike are sure to learn something new. 

You may also like: Countries spending the most on their militaries

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U.S. Department of Defense

#25. Peru

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 1
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

Peru is home to one military base, Naval Medical Research Unit 6, which houses 16 active duty military members and 300 civilians. Opened in 1983, the base’s main goal is to increase general wellbeing in the military as well as to identify and reduce potential ailments. The base’s current commander, Capt. Guillermo Pimentel has led more than 150 projects of this nature.

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Paul Farley // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Greece

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 1
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

One of the military’s most valuable bases in Europe, the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, is located on the island of Crete with close proximity to mainland Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. In a perpetual state of “standby mode,” the base’s main objective is to provide support to the Navy when unexpected or critical situations arise.

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Drae Parker // U.S. Navy

#23. Djibouti

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 1
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

The primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command and Djibouti's sole military base, Camp Lemonnier, is also the only permanent U.S. base in Africa. A Navy-led base, Camp Lemonnier is home to 4,000 allied military forces and civilian personnel (including 1,000 special forces members), as well as to U.S. Department of Defense contractors and 100 regional workers. The base is in a constant state of combat readiness but also works year-round to encourage positive relations between the United States and Africa.

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Bill Mesta // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Cuba

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 1
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

The oldest military base established outside of the country, Guantánamo Naval Base is an essential part of the United States treaty with Cuba. The base is home to one of the world’s most notorious military prisons, but the base’s main aim is to help in the fight against illegal drug traffic (much of which comes through the Carribean). It’s also the only U.S. military base established in a communist country.

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Task Force Falcon Public Affairs Office // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Kosovo

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 1
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

Camp Bondsteel is located on the eastern side of Kosovo and is the United State’s main military base in the region. Run under the Kosovo Force (KFOR) laws and regulations, the base is responsible for maintaining the peace in this problematic section of Europe. It has also been accused of housing severe and harsh detention facilities, which have been described by human rights officers as being “less significant versions of Guantánamo.”

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U.S. gov // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Qatar

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 1
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

Owned by the Qatar Emiri Air Force, Al Udeid Air Force Base, located just west of Qatar's capital, Doha, is home to the United States Central Command and the United States Air Force Central Command. Used primarily during the War in Afghanistan, it housed over 4,000 soldiers at its peak and hundreds of warplanes. To combat the summer heat, the airbase also has two military-issued above-ground swimming pools for the airmen to use.

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Charles Beha // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Portugal

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 1
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

In 1949, Portugal became a part of NATO and brought arguably its most important contribution, Lajes Field Air Base, into the alliance. According to the NATO agreement, any of the member states could use the base, which is how the United States Air Force began to utilize this Portuguese Air Force-owned base. Lajes Field was used intensively by the U.S. during the Cold War and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but today it houses only one American unit.

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Max Despain // U.S. Air Force

#18. Kyrgyzstan

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 1
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

One of the newer U.S. Air Force bases, Ganci Air Base, or the Transit Center at Manassas, was a part of the Afghanistan invasion plan. Established shortly after 9/11, it originally housed a number of American troops and various allied forces troops, but today, it’s used primarily for Americans entering and exiting Afghanistan. While it’s a strategic base for America, not every country appreciates its existence—at one point Russia and China worked together to push for the base’s closure, a fight they ended up losing.

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USACE NY // Flickr

#17. Greenland

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 1
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 1
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

About 750 miles away from the North Pole lies Thule Air Force Base, the United State’s northernmost military base. An unusual base, Thule is located at the only point in the world where three glaciers come together and can provide once in a lifetime sightings of various polar animals. The base’s main job is to provide missile warning operations and to work for general space control.

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Joshua Fulton // U.S. Navy

#16. Singapore

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 2
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 2
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

One of the newest and most advanced military bases in all of Asia, Singapore’s COMLOG Westpac Navy Base maintains a constant state of combat readiness and works closely with Singaporean forces. It was originally established to better relations between America and Singapore, but it has since become responsible for maintaining communications and relationships with the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Because of its huge number of responsibilities, the base has become critical to the United States military.

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John Bouvia // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Bahrain

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 2
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 2
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

While the United States has two naval bases in Bahrain, Naval Activity Support Bahrain is the more important. The base holds the main role in Middle East operations and was hugely instrumental in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. Originally a Royal Navy base, the United States took it over in 1971, and in 2010 allocated $580 million to update and renovate the facilities.

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Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum // Flickr

#14. Netherlands

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 2
--- Army bases: 1
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 1

Located in Brunssum, Netherlands, Joint Force Command (or USJFCOM) was once a combatant center for the United States of America’s armed forces. Its main purpose was to act as a “transformation center,” or a place where new ideas, techniques, and training were cultivated and implemented. During its run as an active base, USJFCOM hosted the Empire Challenge each year, a demonstration of new intelligence and reconnaissance methods that attracted thousands of viewers. The base we disestablished in 2011 to help cut overall military spending and costs.

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Pierre Courtjoie // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Belgium

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 2
--- Army bases: 2
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

The USAG Brussels Army Base is one of the United States’ most essential military bases in all of Europe. Located a few minutes away from the NATO headquarters, it was originally established as a NATO Support Activity base, offering full support for the American operations in Belgium as well as premiere support for important visitors. While many of the offices and services run in the base have changed over the years, the Brussels base still remains a key component of America’s European operations.

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Pamela J. Farlin // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Spain

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 2
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 1
--- Air Force bases: 1
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

Morón Air Force Base in Spain is one of the most strategically placed Air Force bases in Europe thanks to its close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East. In 2001, Morón Air Force Base was the most active base during the Afghanistan Invasion, and in 2003 it again became one of the most active bases in the world during the invasion of Iraq.

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Tanju Varlikli // www.incirlik.af.mil

#11. Turkey

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 2
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 2
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

Prior to the Invasion of Cyprus in 1974, there were a number of American military bases in Turkey. However, after America barred Turkey from using their equipment during the conflict, the Turkish government shut down all American bases, except for the Incirlik Air Base and the Izmir Air Force Base. These two bases survived due to the fact that they were a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreement, and today they are used only for NATO activities.

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Bill Gomez // U.S. Air Force

#10. Bulgaria

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 4
--- Army bases: 1
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 3
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

The sixth most important and advanced overseas U.S. military base, the Bezmer Air Force Base, lies in Yambol, Bulgaria. Close to the Black Sea, and with easy access to Russia and the Middle East, Bezmer is highly regarded for its close proximity to turbulent regions as well as its ability to store long-range aircraft. The base also works in close proximity with the Novo Selo Range Army Base, a NATO base a few miles away, where tank and reconnaissance troops train and where chemical and biological weapons are stored and tested.

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Richard M. Heileman // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Saudi Arabia

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 5
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 5
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

Located in the heart of the Middle East, Riyadh Air Force Base hosts plenty of American offices and commands, making it a vital piece of war operations. That being said, the base is usually in “stand-by mode,” with several training units, like the Military Training Mission and the Extended Service Training Specialists, taking up permanent residence on the base.

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Leonard J. DeFransisci // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Afghanistan

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 6
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 1
--- Marine bases: 3
--- Joint bases: 2

Two bases that have sprung up from the ongoing war with Afghanistan include Camp Leatherneck and Camp Dwyer. Both Marine bases, Camp Leatherneck and Camp Dwyer were originally intended to be temporary (Leatherneck was a barren outpost and Dwyer a Forward Operating Base), but their strategic locations resulted in both becoming more permanent installations.

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Randy Hillsgrove // U.S. Air Force

#7. United Kingdom

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 6
--- Army bases: 0
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 6
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

The RAF Croughton Air Force Base is by far the most important U.S. military base in all of Europe. Originally a Royal Air Force base, RAF Croughton was deactivated by the British military after the end of WWII and was given to the United States in 1950. In 1969, the first American unit was hosted there, and today the base is one of the widest military switchboards and is responsible for more than 30% of American communicational operations in the continent.

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Angela Lorden / U.S. Marine Corps

#6. Kuwait

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 8
--- Army bases: 7
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 1

Many of the bases in Kuwait, like the Camp Buehring Army Base and the Camp Arifjan Army Base, are forward-deployment camps. This means that they are places where soldiers who are heading into or out of Iraq pass through before or after duty. On these bases, military members become acclimated to desert conditions and receive additional survival training before heading into direct conflict.

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Cary Smith // U.S. Air Force

#5. Italy

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 8
--- Army bases: 2
--- Navy bases: 5
--- Air Force bases: 1
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

One of the largest U.S. military bases in Europe, the Camp Darby Army Base, located in Tirrenia, Italy, is home to 26 Army units, several Air Force Units, as well as Department of Defense tenants. The base also hosts a 2,000-acre ammunition storage site and the Army Material Command Europe headquarters. Additionally, the thousands of soldiers, airmen, rotating personnel, and their families who are associated with the base have access to the only U.S. military beach in Europe, American Beach.

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Crystal Sklodowski // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Iraq

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 13
--- Army bases: 6
--- Navy bases: 1
--- Air Force bases: 0
--- Marine bases: 1
--- Joint bases: 5

There is a multitude of military installations, both permanent and temporary, all over Iraq. Many of these bases are joint operations, meaning that members of every branch of the military can be housed and can work out of those bases. One notable base in the country is Camp Justice, formerly known as Camp Banzai, where Saddam Hussein and other former Iraqi regime officials Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, and Taha Yassin Ramadan were all executed.

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Al Phillips // U.S. Army

#3. South Korea

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 15
--- Army bases: 12
--- Navy bases: 1
--- Air Force bases: 2
--- Marine bases: 0
--- Joint bases: 0

With the start of the Korean War in 1950, the United States established several military bases throughout South Korea. While many of them have since been deactivated, a few, like Camp Casey, are still active and thriving. The Camp Casey Army Base, commanded by the United States Military 2nd Infantry Division, represents the most successful integration of American and South Korean troops and is regarded as one of the top military bases in the country.

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Melvin Tarpley // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Germany

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 21
--- Army bases: 17
--- Navy bases: 0
--- Air Force bases: 2
--- Marine bases: 1
--- Joint bases: 1

The Landstuhl Medical Center, an Army base in Landstuhl, Germany, is the largest medical base outside of the continental United States. The closest medical center to the Middle East, the Landstuhl Medical Center caters to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to German troops. Over 50% of the staff at the hospital are registered in the Army, 15% are registered in the Air Force, and the remaining 35% are civilian specialist doctors.

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Carl King // U.S. Department of Defense

#1. Japan

- Total number of U.S. military bases: 24
--- Army bases: 3
--- Navy bases: 5
--- Air Force bases: 3
--- Marine bases: 13
--- Joint bases: 0

Following the close of WWII, Japan’s military capacities were all but removed, and a plan was put into place that would allow Japan to slowly rebuild its military prowess while the United States lessened its footprint. The process remains ongoing today, and Camp Fuji is one example of the plan in action. The United States Marines took the base over in 1953, but have slowly been allowing Japanese troops to have an equal stake in the operations of the base.

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