Nicholas Drummond, a British military consultant and commentator, tallied up all the world’s tanks—some 73,000 in all.

“Of these 24,000 belong to potential adversaries and 20,000 are in storage and at least 10,000 have been modernized over the last decade,” Drummond tweeted.

The numbers tell a story. Russia with its 12,950 tanks unsurprisingly has the biggest armor holdings. The United States is the number-two tank power with 6,333 vehicles. China’s 5,800 tanks make it the No. 3 armor power.

But lower on the rankings, the numbers aren’t a definitive measure of ground combat power.

Sure, Germany has only 236 tanks in its inventory. But that doesn’t mean the German army is inferior to the Lebanese army with its 334 tanks. After all, Germany’s Leopard IIs are some of the most advanced fighting vehicles in the world. Lebanon’s M-60, M-48 and T-55 tanks are obsolete.

Now consider the case of two rival states. Argentina with 231 tanks on paper possesses a bigger armor force than does the United Kingdom with its own 227 tanks.

But in any conceivable conflict between the two countries, British armor most likely would dominate its Argentine opponent.

Which is not to say the British Army’s Challenger 2s are the most advanced tanks in the world. While peer states such as the United States invested in major upgrades for their tanks during the 2000s, the United Kingdom over the same span of time neglected to upgrade its 1990s-vintage tanks.

A new urban camouflage scheme that the Brits’ applied to a few Challenger 2s in 2021 belies the vehicles’ un-upgraded guns and engines. The U.K. Ministry of Defense in 2021 plans to award a contract for the Challenger 2’s first major update in years.

But for all their flaws, the Challenger 2s are effective tanks. And perhaps more importantly, the British armed forces still practice deploying the tanks over long distance aboard the British fleet’s amphibious and transport ships. Once deployed, tankers train for high-intensity warfare alongside infantry, artillery and air power.

Most recently in October 2021, 5,500 British troops with 180 armored vehicles including eight Challenger 2s deployed to Oman for a combined-arms war game. Earlier, in 2021, a regiment of 48 Challenger 2s deployed to Poland for one of the biggest British war games in recent memory.

As recently as 2021, the California think-tank RAND concluded that the British army was “capable of sustaining a deployed armored brigade indefinitely, even if many of the details regarding how remain unknown.” In Western armies, an armored brigade might possess a hundred or more tanks.

Now consider the Argentine army. During the 1982 Falklands War, British forces crossed thousands of miles of open ocean, engaged and soundly defeated an Argentine force. Around the time of the war, the Argentine army was in the process of reequipping its armored brigades with locally-made Tanque Argentino Medianotanks.

Today the roughly 200 TAMs equip two brigades. They have never fought a war. Four decades after the Falklands War, Argentina lacks the transport and logistical capacity to deploy and sustain heavy forces over long distances and spans of time. “Our country cannot even reach the Falkland Islands with combat-equipped military personnel,” Argentine newspaper La Nacionreported in 2021.

But let’s imagine Argentine and British tanks somehow could meet in battle. The TAM weighs just 30 tons, compared to the Challenger 2’s 62 tons. The Argentine tank is armed with a 105-millimeter gun. The Challenger 2 boasts a 120-millimeter gun. In a direct fight, a TAM brigade is unlikely to pose much of a danger to a Challenger 2 brigade.

After all, the armor on the Challenger 2 is “among the best in the world,” according to U.K. Defense Journal. It’s not even clear that a TAM could destroy a Challenger 2 with a direct hit on its frontal armor. By contrast, a direct hit by a 120-millimeter armor-piercing shell on any medium-weight armored vehicle is likely to obliterate the target.

All this is to say that simple numbers don’t tell a complete story. The army with more tanks isn’t necessarily the more powerful army.