You're right--Russia has a history of the most varied and extensive air force in the world. The reason: the Russians did not do as we Americans do,
that is, develop our aircraft to the point of near-perfection. Instead, the Russians made their planes (generally at least) cheaper, which allowed a
far greater amount to be built in comparison to the more expensive US planes. Although since the end of the Cold War Russia has not been blowing up
its defense programs, it should not be discounted.
I do not know enough detail on each country's air force to give an accurate this-is-better-than-that list, so I will simply give an estimate in
Before all, IRAQ! (oh, wait, the Iraqi AF doesn't exist)
1. USA -- money, size, experience, edge in technology
2. UK -- been working alongside USA for VERY long time
3. RUS -- I would like to see another air force attempt to beat Russia's even in its present state of economic uncertainty. If upgraded, would only
be inferior to the USA because of its size.
4. Israel -- while not as large as some of the others, Israel has an outstanding record (why?
) against impossible odds.
5. China -- like the US and Russia, it has resources, people, and size. Soon, I think it will be number two or number three
6. India -- large country, fine AF, but climbing out of economic disaster
7. France -- still keeping its military up-to-date within its means
8. Australia -- I know they haven't had as much opportunity to show off, but reports say they are not bad at all
Third Tier: (Hmm. The tough task of placing the best of the rest)
8. Italy -- still keeping up
9. Japan -- who makes all the electronics?
10. Two contenders:
Germany -- despite post WWII "non-militarization," retains population, and industrial might;
North Korea -- I dunno, just guessing; who knows, the Russians may have sold them all of their Black Shark 'copters and other hardware.
Realistically, of course, a good analysis takes painstaking research and insider information; I believe, however, that the best air force would
combine the strengths of and differences between the major air forces of the world.
[edit on 22-8-2004 by MoleMan]