France has one of the strongest militaries in the world -- and can use it to bring the fight to ISIS

Within 48 hours of the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris, France had already mobilized it air force to strike back at ISIS.

French president Francois Hollande immediately declared the Paris attack “an act of war.” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls echoed the sentiment, vowing to “annihilate the enemies of the republic.”

France has one of the most forward-deployed militaries in the world, with around 3,000 troops across Africa. France is the only country other than the US with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and is one of only nine countries with nuclear weapons.

Leaders around the world, including Barack Obama, have pledged to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with France.

But France has plenty of muscle of its own, too.

France has over 215,000 active-duty troops across all branches of its military.

REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

France has a network of military bases across Africa, too.

Google Maps / Jeremy Bender

For more information on, here's a recent history of French military interventions in Africa.

France's navy is 42,100 strong, with 103 surface vessels and 10 submarines.

The French Navy bagpipe band Bagad de Lann Bihoué.


France builds its own warships, and was set to supply two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia. The deal was eventually canceled amid growing tensions between Europe and Moscow.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

France operates the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier outside of the US, the Charles de Gualle.

The French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (right) and the American nuclear-powered carrier USS Enterprise (left), each of which carry nuclear-capable fighter aircraft

France's aircraft carrier isn't the biggest on earth -- but it's an important tool for power projection.

France has a nuclear deterrent as well. Paris maintains up to 300 warheads which are carried on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as well as missiles that can be fired from fighter aircraft.

SNLE-NG type Le Triomphant class submarine, Le Vigilant.

France's regular army is 112,800 strong, with another 18,000 reserves.

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The French army includes the French Foreign Legion, an elite force that accepts recruits from any nation or background. The Legion has fighters from more than 150 countries, and is famous for fighting in conditions where death is nearly certain.

Foreigners who join the Legion are can apply for French citizenship after three years of service, or if they're wounded during service.

France's air force consists of 57,000 airmen and over 600 planes.

Armée de l'air

Many of France's jets are Mirage and Rafale fighters, which are built in France.

Armée de l'air

French troops have been battle-tested recently. In 2013, France came to the defense of the Malian government, sending troops to reverse a jihadist offensive and secure the northern half of the country. French peacekeepers have been deployed to other hotspots as well, including the Central African Republic.

Armée de l'air

France has also been bombing ISIS targets since September 2014 as part of a US-led coalition fighting the jihadist group. French aircraft have flown more than 1,285 missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

Thierry Chesnot

France also has one other big asset: It's a member of NATO, the most powerful military alliance in history. France has a powerful military of its own, but it's allied with the strongest armed forces in the world, which are obligated to come to France's defense under Article 5 of the NATO charter.

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