Armed forces of the United Kingdom
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The British Armed Forces, also known as His Majesty's Armed Forces, are the
military forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct ...
responsible for the defence of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
, its
Overseas Territories A territory is an area of land, sea, or space, particularly belonging or connected to a country, person, or animal. In international relations, international politics, a territory is usually either the total area from which a state may extr ...
and the Crown Dependencies. They also promote the UK's wider interests, support international
peacekeeping Peacekeeping comprises activities intended to create conditions that favour lasting peace. Research generally finds that peacekeeping reduces civilian and battlefield deaths, as well as reduces the risk of renewed warfare. Within the United N ...
efforts and provide
humanitarian aid Humanitarian aid is material and logistic assistance to people who need help. It is usually short-term help until the long-term help by the government and other institutions replaces it. Among the people in need are the homeless, refugees, and ...
. Since the formation of the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain (officially Great Britain) was a Sovereign state, sovereign country in Western Europe from 1 May 1707 to the end of 31 December 1800. The state was created by the 1706 Treaty of Union and ratified by the Acts of ...
in 1707 (later succeeded by the United Kingdom), the British Armed Forces have seen action in a number of major wars involving the world's
great power A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power i ...
s, including the
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) was a global conflict that involved most of the European Great Powers, and was fought primarily in Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific. Other concurrent conflicts include the French and Indian War (1754–1 ...
, the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was a major war of the American Revolution. Widely considered as the war that secured the independence of t ...
, the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic Wars, Europe ...
, the 1853–1856
Crimean War The Crimean War, , was fought from October 1853 to February 1856 between Russian Empire, Russia and an ultimately victorious alliance of the Ottoman Empire, Second French Empire, France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Uni ...
, the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
, and the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
. Britain's victories in most of these decisive wars, allowed it to influence world events and establish itself as one of the world's leading military and
economic An economy is an area of the production, distribution and trade, as well as consumption of goods and services. In general, it is defined as a social domain that emphasize the practices, discourses, and material expressions associated with ...
powers. As of October 2022, the British Armed Forces consist of: the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by Kingdom of England, English and Kingdom of Scotland, Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were foug ...
, a
blue-water navy A blue-water navy is a Navy, maritime force capable of operating globally, essentially across the deep waters of open oceans. While definitions of what actually constitutes such a force vary, there is a requirement for the ability to exercise se ...
with a fleet of 72 commissioned ships, together with the
Royal Marines The Corps of Royal Marines (RM), also known as the Royal Marines Commandos, are the UK's special operations capable commando force, amphibious warfare, amphibious light infantry and also one of the :Fighting Arms of the Royal Navy, five fighti ...
, a highly specialised amphibious light infantry force; the
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
, the UK's principal
land warfare Land warfare or ground warfare is the process of military operations eventuating in combat that takes place predominantly on the battlespace land surface of the Earth, planet. Land warfare is categorized by the use of large numbers of combat pe ...
branch; and the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
, a technologically sophisticated
air force An air force – in the broadest sense – is the national military branch that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an ar ...
with a diverse operational fleet consisting of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. The British Armed Forces include standing forces, Regular Reserve, Volunteer Reserves and Sponsored Reserves. The head of the Armed Forces is the
British monarch The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy, constitutional form of government by which a hereditary monarchy, hereditary sovereign reigns as the head of state of the United ...
, currently
Charles III Charles III (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948) is King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms. He was the longest-serving heir apparent and Prince of Wales and, at age 73, became the oldest person to a ...
, to whom members of the forces swear allegiance. Long-standing constitutional convention, however, has vested ''de facto'' executive authority, by the exercise of
royal prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in Civil law (legal system), civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the monarch, sovereign and whic ...
, in the
prime minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
and the
secretary of state for defence The secretary of state for defence, also referred to as the defence secretary, is a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, with overall responsibility for the business of the Ministry o ...
. The prime minister (acting with the Cabinet) makes the key decisions on the use of the armed forces. The
UK Parliament The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It meets at the Palace of We ...
approves the continued existence of the British Army by passing an Armed Forces Act at least once every five years, as required by the
Bill of Rights 1689 The Bill of Rights 1689 is an Act of the Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliam ...
. The Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines among with all other forces do not require this act. The armed forces are managed by the Defence Council of the
Ministry of Defence {{unsourced, date=February 2021 A ministry of defence or defense (see spelling differences), also known as a department of defence or defense, is an often-used name for the part of a government A government is the system or group o ...
, headed by the secretary of state for defence. The United Kingdom is one of five recognised nuclear powers, a permanent member on the
United Nations Security Council The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and internatio ...
, founding and leading member of the
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental military alliance between 30 Member sta ...
military alliance, and party to the
AUKUS AUKUS (, ) is a trilateral Defense pact, security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced on 15 September 2021 for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact, the US and the UK will help Australia to acquire Nu ...
security pact and the
Five Power Defence Arrangements The Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) are a series of bilateral defence relationships established by a series of multi-lateral agreements between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, all of which are Commonwe ...
. Overseas garrisons and training facilities are maintained at
Ascension Island Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island, 7°56′ south of the Equator in the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean. It is about from the coast of Africa and from the coast of South America. It is governed as part of the British Overse ...
,
Bahrain Bahrain ( ; ; ar, البحرين, al-Bahrayn, locally ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, ' is an island country in Western Asia. It is situated on the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Persian Gulf, and comprises a small archipelago made u ...
,
Belize Belize (; bzj, Bileez) is a Caribbean and Central American country on the northeastern coast of Central America. It is bordered by Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Guatemala to the west and south. It also shares a wate ...
,
Bermuda ) , anthem = "God Save the King" , song_type = National song , song = "Hail to Bermuda" , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , mapsize2 = , map_caption2 = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = , es ...
,
British Indian Ocean Territory The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is an British Overseas Territories, Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Tanzania and Indonesia. The territory comprises the seven atolls of the Chago ...
,
Brunei Brunei ( , ), formally Brunei Darussalam ( ms, Negara Brunei Darussalam, Jawi alphabet, Jawi: , ), is a country located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Apart from its South China Sea coast, it is completely sur ...
,
Canada Canada is a country in North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over , making it the world ...
,
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geo ...
, the
Falkland Islands The Falkland Islands (; es, Islas Malvinas, link=no ) is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf. The principal islands are about east of South America's southern Patagonian coast and about fro ...
,
Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated between ...
,
Gibraltar ) , anthem = "God Save the King" , song = "Gibraltar Anthem" , image_map = Gibraltar location in Europe.svg , map_alt = Location of Gibraltar in Europe , map_caption = United Kingdom shown in pale green , mapsize = , image_map2 = Gibra ...
,
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"() , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Nairobi , coordinates = , largest_city = Nairobi , ...
,
Montserrat Montserrat ( ) is a British Overseas Territories, British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. It is part of the Leeward Islands, the northern portion of the Lesser Antilles chain of the West Indies. Montserrat is about long and wide, with r ...
,
Nepal Nepal (; ne, :ne:नेपाल, नेपाल ), formerly the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal ( ne, सङ्घीय लोकतान्त्रिक गणतन्त्र नेपाल ), is a landlocked country in S ...
,
Qatar Qatar (, ; ar, قطر, Qaṭar ; local vernacular pronunciation: ), officially the State of Qatar,) is a country in Western Asia. It occupies the Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East; it sha ...
,
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
, and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
.


History


Organisational history

With the
Acts of Union 1707 The Acts of Union ( gd, Achd an Aonaidh) were two Act of Parliament, Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act 1707 passed by the Parliament of Scotland. They put ...
, the armed forces of England and Scotland were merged into the armed forces of the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain (officially Great Britain) was a Sovereign state, sovereign country in Western Europe from 1 May 1707 to the end of 31 December 1800. The state was created by the 1706 Treaty of Union and ratified by the Acts of ...
.Acts of Union 1707
parliament.uk, accessed 31 December 2010

nationalarchives.gov.uk, accessed 31 December 2010
Making the Act of Union 1707
scottish.parliament.uk, accessed 31 December 2010
There were originally several naval and several military regular and reserve ''forces'', although most of these were consolidated into the Royal Navy or the British Army during the 19th and 20th Centuries (the
Royal Naval Air Service The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was the air arm of the Royal Navy, under the direction of the Admiralty's Air Department, and existed formally from 1 July 1914 to 1 April 1918, when it was merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps t ...
and the
Royal Flying Corps The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force. During the early part of the war, the RFC support ...
of the British Army, by contrast, were separated from their parent forces in 1918 and amalgamated to form a new force, the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
, which would have complete responsibility for naval, military and strategic aviation until the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
). ''Naval'' forces included the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by Kingdom of England, English and Kingdom of Scotland, Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were foug ...
, the Waterguard (subsequently
HM Coastguard His Majesty's Coastguard (HMCG) is a section of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency responsible, through the Secretary of State for Transport to Parliament, for the initiation and co-ordination of all maritime search and rescue (SAR) within the ...
), and
Sea Fencibles The Sea Fencibles were naval fencible (a shortening of ''defencible'') units established to provide a close-in line of defence and obstruct the operation of enemy shipping, principally during the French Revolutionary Wars, French Revolutionary a ...
and ''River Fencibles'' formed as and when required for the duration of emergencies. The Merchant Navy and offshore fishing boat crews were also important manpower reserves to the armed naval forces (any seaman was liable to
impressment Impressment, colloquially "the press" or the "press gang", is the taking of men into a military or naval force by compulsion, with or without notice. European navies of several nations used forced recruitment by various means. The large size of ...
, with many so conscripted especially during the two decades of conflict from the French Revolution until the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and from 1835 registered on the ''Register of Seamen'' to identify them as a potential resource), and many of their seamen would serve part time in the
Royal Navy Reserve The Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) is one of the two Volunteer Reserves (United Kingdom), volunteer reserve forces of the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom. Together with the Royal Marines Reserve, they form the Maritime Reserve (United Kingdom), M ...
(created under the ''Naval Reserve Act of 1859'') and
Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Royal may refer to: People * Royal (name), a list of people with either the surname or given name * A member of a royal family Places United States * Royal, Arkansas, an unincorporated community * Royal, Illinois, a village * Royal, Iowa, a cit ...
(created in 1903). The British military (those parts of the British Armed Forces tasked with land warfare, as opposed to the naval forces) historically was divided into a number of
military forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct ...
, of which the British Army (also referred to historically as the 'Regular Army' and the 'Regular Force') was only one. The oldest of these organisations was the Militia Force (also referred to as the ''Constitutional Force''), which (in the
Kingdom of England The Kingdom of England (, ) was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 12 July 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, until 1 May 1707, when it united with Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of t ...
) was originally the main military defensive force (there otherwise were originally only Royal bodyguards, including the Yeomen Warders and the
Yeomen of the Guard The King's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard is a bodyguard of the British monarch. The oldest British military corps still in existence, it was created by King Henry VII in 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth Field The Battle o ...
, with armies raised only temporarily for expeditions overseas), made up of civilians embodied for annual training or emergencies, and had used various schemes of compulsory service during different periods of its long existence. The Militia was originally an all infantry force, organised at the city or county level, and members were not required to serve outside of their recruitment area, although the area within which militia units in Britain could be posted was increased to anywhere in the Britain during the Eighteenth Century, and Militia coastal artillery, field artillery, and engineers units were introduced from the 1850s.''The Militia Artillery 1852-1909'', by Norman EH Litchfield. The Sherwood Press (Nottingham) Ltd. 1987 The
Yeomanry Yeomanry is a designation used by a number of units or sub-units of the British Army, British Army Reserve (United Kingdom), Army Reserve, descended from volunteer British Cavalry, cavalry regiments. Today, Yeomanry units serve in a variety of ...
was a mounted force that could be mobilised in times of war or emergency.
Volunteer Force The Volunteer Force was a citizen army of part-time rifle, artillery and engineer corps, created as a Social movement, popular movement throughout the British Empire in 1859. Originally highly autonomous, the units of volunteers became increasi ...
units were also frequently raised during wartime, which did not rely on compulsory service and hence attracted recruits keen to avoid the Militia. These were seen as a useful way to add to military strength economically during wartime, but otherwise as a drain on the Militia and so were not normally maintained in peacetime, although in Bermuda prominent propertied men were still appointed ''Captains of Forts'', taking charge of maintaining and commanding fortified
coastal artillery Coastal artillery is the branch of the armed forces concerned with operating anti-ship artillery or fixed Artillery battery, gun batteries in coastal fortifications. From the Middle Ages until World War II, coastal artillery and naval artillery ...
batteries and manned by volunteers (reinforced in wartime by embodied militiamen), defending the colony's coast from the Seventeenth Century to the Nineteenth Century (when all of the batteries were taken over by the regular Royal Artillery). The Militia system was extended to a number of English (subsequently ''British'') colonies, beginning with
Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States, between the East Coast of the United Stat ...
and
Bermuda ) , anthem = "God Save the King" , song_type = National song , song = "Hail to Bermuda" , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , mapsize2 = , map_caption2 = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = , es ...
. In some colonies, ''Troops of Horse'' or other mounted units similar to the Yeomanry were also created. The Militia and Volunteer units of a colony were generally considered to be separate forces from the ''Home'' Militia Force and Volunteer Force in the United Kingdom, and from the Militia Forces and Volunteer Forces of other colonies. Where a colony had more than one Militia or Volunteer unit, they would be grouped as a Militia or Volunteer Force for that colony, such as the Jamaica Volunteer Defence Force, which comprised the St. Andrew Rifle Corps (or Kingston Infantry Volunteers), the Jamaica Corps of Scouts, and the Jamaica Reserve Regiment, but not the Jamaica Militia Artillery. In smaller colonies with a single militia or volunteer unit, that single unit would still be considered to be listed within a force, or in some case might be named a force rather than a regiment or corps, such as is the case for the
Falkland Islands Defence Force The Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) is the locally maintained volunteer defence unit in the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. The FIDF works alongside the military units supplied by the United Kingdom to ensure the security ...
and the Royal Montserrat Defence Force. The Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteer Forces collectively were known as the ''Reserve Forces'', ''Auxiliary Forces'', or ''Local Forces''. Officers of these forces could not sit on Courts Martial of regular forces personnel. The
Mutiny Act Mutiny is a revolt among a group of people (typically of a military, of a crew or of a crew of Piracy, pirates) to oppose, change, or overthrow an organization to which they were previously loyal. The term is commonly used for a rebellion among ...
did not apply to members of the Reserve Forces. The other ''regular'' military force that existed alongside the British Army was the
Board of Ordnance The Board of Ordnance was a British government body. Established in the Tudor period, it had its headquarters in the Tower of London. Its primary responsibilities were 'to act as custodian of the lands, depots and forts required for the defence o ...
, which included the ''Ordnance Military Corps'' (made up of the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, and the Royal Sappers and Miners), as well as the originally-civilian Commissariat Stores and transport departments, as well as barracks departments, ordnance factories and various other functions supporting the various naval and military forces. The English Army, subsequently the British Army once Scottish regiments were moved onto its establishment following the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England, was originally a separate force from these, but absorbed the Ordnance Military Corps and various previously civilian departments after the Board of Ordnance was abolished in 1855. The ''Reserve Forces'' (which referred to the Home Yeomanry, Militia and Volunteer Forces before the 1859 creation of the British Army ''Regular Reserve'' by
Secretary of State for War The Secretary of State for War, commonly called War Secretary, was a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, which existed from 1794 to 1801 and from 1854 to 1964. The Secretary of Sta ...
Sidney Herbert, and re-organised under the ''Reserve Force Act, 1867'') were increasingly integrated with the British Army through a succession of reforms over the last two decades of the Nineteenth Century (in 1871, command of the Auxiliary Forces in the British Isles was taken from the Lords-Lieutenant of counties and transferred to the
War Office The War Office was a department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army between 1857 and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the new Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence (MoD ...
, though colonial Governors retained control of their militia and volunteer forces, and by the end of the century, at the latest, any unit wholly or partly funded from Army Funds was considered part of the British Army) and the early years of the Twentieth Century, whereby the Reserve Forces units mostly lost their own identities and became numbered
Territorial Force The Territorial Force was a part-time volunteer component of the British Army, created in 1908 to augment British land forces without resorting to conscription. The new organisation consolidated the 19th-century Volunteer Force and yeomanry i ...
sub-units of regular British Army corps or regiments (the Home Militia had followed this path, with the Militia Infantry units becoming numbered battalions of British Army regiments, and the Militia Artillery integrating within Royal Artillery territorial divisions in 1882 and 1889, and becoming parts of the
Royal Field Artillery The Royal Field Artillery (RFA) of the British Army provided close artillery support for the infantry. It came into being when created as a distinct arm of the Royal Regiment of Artillery on 1 July 1899, serving alongside the other two arms of t ...
or
Royal Garrison Artillery The Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) was formed in 1899 as a distinct arm of the British Army's Royal Artillery, Royal Regiment of Artillery serving alongside the other two arms of the Regiment, the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and the Royal Horse ...
in 1902 (though retaining their traditional corps names), but was not merged into the Territorial Force when it was created in 1908 (by the merger of the Yeomanry and Volunteer Force). The Militia was instead renamed the ''Special Reserve'', and was permanently suspended after the First World War (although a handful of Militia units survived in the United Kingdom, its colonies, and the Crown Dependencies). Unlike the Home, Imperial Fortress and Crown Dependency Militia and Volunteer units and forces that continued to exist after the First World War, although parts of the British military, most were not considered parts of the
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
unless they received Army Funds (as was the case for the
Bermuda Militia Artillery The Bermuda Militia Artillery was a unit of part-time soldiers organised in 1895 as a reserve for the Royal Garrison Artillery detachment of the British Army, Regular Army Bermuda Garrison, garrison in Bermuda. Militia Artillery units of the Unit ...
and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps), which was generally only the case for those in the Channel Islands or the Imperial Fortress colonies (Nova Scotia, before
Canadian confederation Canadian Confederation (french: Confédération canadienne, link=no) was the process by which three British North American provinces, the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, were united into one federation called the Canada, Dom ...
, Bermuda, Gibraltar, and Malta). Today, the British Army is the only Home British military force (unless the
Army Cadet Force The Army Cadet Force (ACF), generally shortened to Army Cadets, is a national Youth organisations in the United Kingdom, youth organisation sponsored by the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence and the Brit ...
and the
Combined Cadet Force The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) is a Youth organisations in the United Kingdom, youth organisation in the United Kingdom, sponsored by the Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence (MOD), which operates in schools, and normally ...
are considered), including both the regular army and the forces it absorbed, though British military units organised on Territorial lines remain in British Overseas Territories that are still not considered formally part of the British Army, with only the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and the
Royal Bermuda Regiment The Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR), formerly the Bermuda Regiment, is the home defence unit of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. It is a single Territorial Army (United Kingdom), territorial infantry battalion#British Army, battalion tha ...
(an amalgam of the old Bermuda Militia Artillery and Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps) appearing on the British Army order of precedence and in the Army List. Confusingly, and similarly to the dual meaning of the word
Corps Corps (; plural ''corps'' ; from French , from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber a ...
in the British Army (by example, the 1st Battalion of the
King's Royal Rifle Corps The King's Royal Rifle Corps was an infantry rifle regiment of the British Army that was originally raised in British North America as the Royal American Regiment during the phase of the Seven Years' War in North America known in the United St ...
was in 1914 part of the 6th Brigade that was part of the 2nd Infantry Division, which was itself part of 1st Army Corps), the British Army sometimes also used the term expeditionary force or field force to describe a body made up of British Army units, most notably the British Expeditionary Force, or of a mixture of British Army, Indian Army, or Imperial auxiliary units, such as the Malakand Field Force (this is similarly to the naval use of the term task force). In this usage, ''force'' is used to describe a self-reliant body able to act without external support, at least within the parameters of the task or objective for which it is employed.


Empire and World Wars

During the later half of the seventeenth century, and in particular, throughout the eighteenth century, British foreign policy sought to contain the expansion of rival European powers through military, diplomatic and commercial means – especially of its chief competitors;
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = ''Plus ultra'' (Latin)(English: "Further Beyond") , national_anthem = (English: "Royal March") , i ...
, the
Netherlands ) , anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = , map_caption = , subdivision_type = Sovereign state , subdivision_name = Kingdom of the Netherlands , established_title = Before independence , established_date = Spanish Neth ...
and
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, Pac ...
. This saw Britain engage in a number of intense conflicts over colonial possessions and world trade, including a long string of Anglo-Spanish and Anglo-Dutch wars, as well as a series of "world wars" with France, such as; the
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) was a global conflict that involved most of the European Great Powers, and was fought primarily in Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific. Other concurrent conflicts include the French and Indian War (1754–1 ...
(1756–1763), the
French Revolutionary Wars The French Revolutionary Wars (french: Guerres de la Révolution française) were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France France (), officiall ...
(1792–1802) and the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic Wars, Europe ...
(1803–1815). During the Napoleonic wars, the Royal Navy victory at Trafalgar (1805) under the command of
Horatio Nelson Vice-admiral (Royal Navy), Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) was a British people, British flag officer in the Royal Navy. His inspirational leadership, grasp of strate ...
(aboard HMS ''Victory'') marked the culmination of British maritime supremacy, and left the Navy in a position of uncontested hegemony at sea. By 1815 and the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain had risen to become the world's dominant
great power A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power i ...
and the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. I ...
subsequently presided over a period of relative peace, known as
Pax Britannica ''Pax Britannica'' (Latin for "British Peace", modelled after ''Pax Romana'') was the International relations (1814–1919), period of relative peace between the great powers during which the British Empire became the global Hegemony, hegemon ...
., pp. 508–10. With Britain's old rivals no-longer a threat, the nineteenth century saw the emergence of a new rival, the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire was an empire and the final period of the List of Russian monarchs, Russian monarchy from 1721 to 1917, ruling across large parts of Eurasia. It succeeded the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad, which ended th ...
, and a strategic competition in what became known as
The Great Game The Great Game is the name for a set of political, diplomatic and military confrontations that occurred through most of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century – involving the rivalry of the British Empire and the Russian Empi ...
for supremacy in
Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the c ...
. Britain feared that Russian expansionism in the region would eventually threaten the
Empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". The center of the empire (sometimes referred to as the metropole) ex ...
in
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
. In response, Britain undertook a number of pre-emptive actions against perceived Russian ambitions, including the
First Anglo-Afghan War The First Anglo-Afghan War ( fa, جنگ اول افغان و انگلیس) was fought between the British Empire and the Emirate of Afghanistan, Emirate of Kabul from 1838 to 1842. The British initially successfully invaded the country taking si ...
(1839–1842), the
Second Anglo-Afghan War The Second Anglo-Afghan War (Dari: جنگ دوم افغان و انگلیس, ps, د افغان-انګرېز دويمه جګړه) was a military conflict fought between the British Raj and the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1878 to 1880, when the l ...
(1878–1880) and the
British expedition to Tibet The British expedition to Tibet, also known as the Younghusband expedition, began in December 1903 and lasted until September 1904. The expedition was effectively a temporary invasion by British Indian Army, British Indian Armed Forces under t ...
(1903–1904). During this period, Britain also sought to maintain the balance of power in Europe, particularly against Russian expansionism, who at the expense of the waning
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire, * ; is an archaic version. The definite article forms and were synonymous * and el, Оθωμανική Αυτοκρατορία, Othōmanikē Avtokratoria, label=none * info page on book at Martin Luther University) ...
had ambitions to "carve up the European part of Turkey". This ultimately led to British involvement in the
Crimean War The Crimean War, , was fought from October 1853 to February 1856 between Russian Empire, Russia and an ultimately victorious alliance of the Ottoman Empire, Second French Empire, France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Uni ...
(1854–1856) against the Russian Empire. The beginning of the twentieth century served to reduce tensions between Britain and the Russian Empire, partly due to the emergence of a unified
German Empire The German Empire (),Herbert Tuttle wrote in September 1881 that the term "Reich" does not literally connote an empire as has been commonly assumed by English-speaking people. The term literally denotes an empire – particularly a hereditary ...
. The era brought about an
Anglo-German naval arms race The arms race between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Great Britain and German Empire, Germany that occurred from the last decade of the nineteenth century until the advent of World War I in 1914 was one of the intertwined causes of W ...
which encouraged significant advancements in maritime technology (e.g.
Dreadnought The dreadnought (alternatively spelled dreadnaught) was the predominant type of battleship in the early 20th century. The first of the kind, the Royal Navy's , had such an impact when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built after her ...
s,
torpedo A modern torpedo is an underwater ranged weapon launched above or below the water surface, self-propelled towards a target, and with an explosive warhead designed to detonate either on contact with or in proximity to the target. Historically, su ...
es and
submarine A submarine (or sub) is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability. The term is also sometimes used historically or colloquially to refer to remotely op ...
s), and in 1906, Britain had determined that its only likely naval enemy was Germany. The accumulated tensions in European relations finally broke out into the hostilities of the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
(1914–1918), in what is recognised today, as the most devastating war in British military history, with nearly 800,000 men killed and over 2 million wounded. Allied victory resulted in the defeat of the
Central Powers The Central Powers, also known as the Central Empires,german: Mittelmächte; hu, Központi hatalmak; tr, İttifak Devletleri / ; bg, Централни сили, translit=Tsentralni sili was one of the two main coalitions that fought in W ...
, the end of the German Empire, the
Treaty of Versailles The Treaty of Versailles (french: Traité de Versailles; german: Versailler Vertrag, ) was the most important of the Peace treaty, peace treaties of World War I. It ended the declaration of war, state of war between Germany and the Allies of ...
and the establishment of the
League of Nations The League of Nations (french: link=no, Société des Nations ) was the first worldwide Intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 by ...
. Although Germany had been defeated during the First World War, by 1933
fascism Fascism is a far-right, Authoritarianism, authoritarian, ultranationalism, ultra-nationalist political Political ideology, ideology and Political movement, movement,: "extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and pol ...
had given rise to
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") (officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945) was ...
, which under the leadership of
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was dictator of Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populo ...
re-militarised in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles. Once again tensions accumulated in European relations, and following Germany's
invasion of Poland The invasion of Poland (1 September – 6 October 1939) was a joint attack on the Second Polish Republic, Republic of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union which marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 Septem ...
in September 1939, the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
began (1939–1945). The conflict was the most widespread in British history, with British Empire and
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy, economics, and political science, the common good (also commonwealth, general welfare, or public benefit) is either what is share ...
troops fighting in campaigns from Europe and North Africa, to the Middle East and the
Far East The ''Far East'' was a European term to refer to the geographical regions that includes East and Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia, South-eastern Asia or S ...
. Approximately 390,000 British Empire and Commonwealth troops lost their lives. Allied victory resulted in the defeat of the
Axis powers The Axis powers, ; it, Potenze dell'Asse ; ja, 枢軸国 ''Sūjikukoku'', group=nb originally called the Rome–Berlin Axis, was a military coalition that initiated World War II and fought against the Allies of World War II, Allies. Its p ...
and the establishment of the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be ...
(replacing the League of nations).


The Cold War

Post–Second World War economic and political decline, as well as changing attitudes in British society and government, were reflected by the armed forces' contracting global role,Focus on Europe
, raf.mod.uk
and later epitomised by its political defeat during the
Suez Crisis The Suez Crisis, or the Second Arab–Israeli war, also called the Tripartite Aggression ( ar, العدوان الثلاثي, Al-ʿUdwān aṯ-Ṯulāṯiyy) in the Arab world and the Sinai War in Israel,Also known as the Suez War or 1956 Wa ...
(1956). Reflecting Britain's new role in the world and the escalation of the
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
(1947–1991), the country became a founding member of the
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental military alliance between 30 Member sta ...
military alliance in 1949. Defence Reviews, such as those in
1957 1957 (Roman numerals, MCMLVII) was a Common year starting on Wednesday, common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1957th year of the Common Era (CE) and ''Anno Domini'' (AD) designations, the 957th year of the 2nd millennium, t ...
and
1966 Events January * January 1 – In a coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa takes over as military ruler of the Central African Republic, ousting President David Dacko. * January 3 – 1966 Upper Voltan coup d'état: President Maurice Yaméogo is ...
, announced significant reductions in conventional forces, the pursuement of a doctrine based on
nuclear deterrence Deterrence theory refers to the scholarship and practice of how threats or limited force by one party can convince another party to refrain from initiating some other course of action. The topic gained increased prominence as a military strategy ...
, and a permanent military withdrawal East of Suez. By the mid-1970s, the armed forces had reconfigured to focus on the responsibilities allocated to them by NATO.Vanguard to Trident 1945–2000
, royal-navy.mod.uk
Kennedy (2004), ''British Naval Strategy East of Suez, 1900–2000: Influence and Actions'', p193 The
British Army of the Rhine There have been two formations named British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). Both were originally occupation forces in Germany, one after the First World War and the other after the Second World War. Both formations had areas of responsibility located a ...
and
RAF Germany The former Royal Air Force Germany (RAFG) was a command of the Royal Air Force and part of British Forces Germany. It consisted of units located in Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Ce ...
consequently represented the largest and most important overseas commitments that the armed forces had during this period, while the Royal Navy developed an
anti-submarine warfare Anti-submarine warfare (ASW, or in older form A/S) is a branch of underwater warfare that uses surface warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to th ...
specialisation, with a particular focus on countering
Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
submarines in the Eastern Atlantic and
North Sea The North Sea lies between Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. An epeiric sea, epeiric sea on the European continental shelf, it connects to the Atlantic Ocean through the English Channel in the south and the ...
. While NATO obligations took increased prominence, Britain nonetheless found itself engaged in a number of low-intensity conflicts, including a spate of insurgencies against colonial occupation.Chandler & Beckett (2003), pp350–351 However the
Dhofar Rebellion The Dhofar Rebellion, also known as the Dhofar War or the Omani Civil War, was waged from 1963 to 1976 in the province of Dhofar against the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman. The war began with the formation of the Dhofar Liberation Front, a group w ...
(1962–1976) and
The Troubles The Troubles ( ga, Na Trioblóidí) were an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to 1998. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict, it is sometimes described as an "i ...
(1969–1998) emerged as the primary operational concerns of the armed forces. Perhaps the most important conflict during the Cold War, at least in the context of British defence policy, was the
Falklands War The Falklands War ( es, link=no, Guerra de las Malvinas) was a ten-week undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982 over two British Overseas Territories, British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland I ...
(1982). Since the end of the Cold War, an increasingly international role for the armed forces has been pursued, with re-structuring to deliver a greater focus on
expeditionary warfare Expeditionary warfare is a military invasion of a foreign territory, especially away from established bases. Expeditionary forces were in part the antecedent of the modern concept of rapid deployment forces. Traditionally, expeditionary forces w ...
and
power projection Power projection (or force projection or strength projection), in international relations, is the capacity of a state to deploy and sustain forces outside its territory. The ability of a state to project its power into an area may serve as an ...
. This entailed the armed forces often constituting a major component in
peacekeeping Peacekeeping comprises activities intended to create conditions that favour lasting peace. Research generally finds that peacekeeping reduces civilian and battlefield deaths, as well as reduces the risk of renewed warfare. Within the United N ...
and humanitarian missions under the auspices of the United Nations, NATO, and other multinational operations, including: peacekeeping responsibilities in the
Balkans The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographical area in southeastern Europe with various geographical and historical definitions. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the who ...
and
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geo ...
, the 2000 intervention in Sierra Leone and participation in the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya (2011). Post-
September 11 Events Pre-1600 *AD 9, 9 – The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest ends: The Roman Empire suffers the greatest defeat of its history and the Rhine is established as the border between the Empire and the so-called Germanic peoples, barbarian ...
, the armed forces have been heavily committed to the
War on Terror The war on terror, officially the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), is an ongoing international Counterterrorism, counterterrorism military campaign initiated by the United States following the September 11 attacks. The main targets of the campa ...
(2001–present), with lengthy campaigns in
Afghanistan Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,; prs, امارت اسلامی افغانستان is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. Referred to as the Heart of Asia, it is bordere ...
(2001–2021) and
Iraq Iraq,; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq officially the Republic of Iraq, '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to Iraq–Turkey border, the north, Iran to Iran–Iraq ...
(2003–2009), and more recently as part of the
Military intervention against ISIL In response to rapid territorial gains made by the so-called Islamic State during the first half of 2014, and its universally condemned Killing of captives by ISIL, executions, reported Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant#Human rights abuses, h ...
(2014–present). Britain's military intervention against
Islamic State An Islamic state is a State (polity), state that has a form of government based on sharia, Islamic law (sharia). As a term, it has been used to describe various historical Polity, polities and theories of governance in the Islamic world. As a t ...
was expanded following a parliamentary vote to launch a bombing campaign over
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, translit=Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, الجمهورية العربية السورية, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asian country loc ...
; an extension of the bombing campaign requested by the Iraqi government against the same group. In addition to the aerial campaign, the British Army has trained and supplied allies on the ground and the
Special Air Service The Special Air Service (SAS) is a special forces unit of the British Army. It was founded as a regiment in 1941 by David Stirling and in 1950, it was reconstituted as a corps. The unit specialises in a number of roles including counter-terro ...
, the
Special Boat Service The Special Boat Service (SBS) is the special forces Special forces and special operations forces (SOF) are military units trained to conduct special operations. NATO has defined special operations as "military activities conducted by sp ...
, and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (British special forces) has carried out various missions on the ground in both Syria and Iraq. The armed forces have also been called upon to assist with national emergencies through the provisions of the military aid to the civil authorities (MACA) mechanism. This has seen the armed forces assist government departments and civil authorities responding to flooding, food shortages, wildfires, terrorist attacks and, most notably, the ongoing
COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identif ...
; the armed forces' support to the latter falls under Operation Rescript, described as the UK's "biggest ever homeland military operation in peacetime" by the Ministry of Defence. Figures released by the Ministry of Defence on 31 March 2016 show that 7,185 British Armed Forces personnel have lost their lives in medal earning theatres since the end of the Second World War.UK Armed Forces Deaths: Operational deaths post World War II 3 September 1945 to 17 February 2016
, Ministry of Defence, gov.uk, Published 31 March 2016


Today


Command organisation

King Charles III Charles III (Charles Philip Arthur George; born 14 November 1948) is King of the United Kingdom and the 14 other Commonwealth realms. He was the longest-serving heir apparent and Prince of Wales and, at age 73, became the oldest person to a ...
, sovereign of the United Kingdom, is the Head of the Armed Forces, with officers and personnel swearing
allegiance An allegiance is a duty of fidelity said to be owed, or freely committed, by the people, subjects or citizens to their state (polity), state or Monarch, sovereign. Etymology From Middle English ''ligeaunce'' (see medieval Latin ''ligeantia'', ...
to him. Long-standing constitutional convention, however, has ''de facto'' vested military authority and associated royal prerogative powers in the
prime minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
and the
secretary of state for defence The secretary of state for defence, also referred to as the defence secretary, is a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, with overall responsibility for the business of the Ministry o ...
, with the former (acting with the support of the Cabinet) making the key decisions on the use of the armed forces. The sovereign retains the power to prevent the unconstitutional use of the armed forces, including that of its nuclear arsenal. The
Ministry of Defence {{unsourced, date=February 2021 A ministry of defence or defense (see spelling differences), also known as a department of defence or defense, is an often-used name for the part of a government A government is the system or group o ...
is the government department charged with formulating and executing defence policy. It currently employs 56,860 civilian staff members as of 1 October 2015. The department is administered by the secretary of state for defence who is assisted by the
Minister of State for the Armed Forces The minister of state for the armed forces is a mid-level ministerial position at the Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence in the Government of the United Kingdom. When of Minister of State rank (until the appointment of Jam ...
, Minister for Defence Procurement, and Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Responsibility for the management of the forces is delegated to a number of committees: the Defence Council,
Chiefs of Staff Committee The Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC) is composed of the most senior military personnel in the Military of the United Kingdom, British Armed Forces who advise on operational military matters and the preparation and conduct of military operations. T ...
, Defence Management Board and three single-service boards. The Defence Council, composed of senior representatives of the services and the Ministry of Defence, provides the "formal legal basis for the conduct of defence". The three constituent single-service committees (
Admiralty Board The Admiralty Board is the body established under the Defence Council of the United Kingdom for the administration of the Naval Service of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as ...
, Army Board and Air Force Board) are chaired by the secretary of state for defence. The chief of the defence staff (CDS) is the senior-most officer of the armed forces and is an appointment that can be held by an
admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navies. In the Commonwealth nations and the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental ...
,
air chief marshal Air chief marshal (Air Chf Mshl or ACM) is a high-ranking air officer originating from the Royal Air Force. The rank is used by air forces of many Commonwealth of Nations, countries that have historical British influence. An air chief marshal i ...
or
general A general officer is an Officer (armed forces), officer of highest military ranks, high rank in the army, armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, and marines or naval infantry. In some usages the term "general officer" refers t ...
. Before the practice was discontinued in the 1990s, those who were appointed to the position of CDS had been elevated to the most senior rank in their respective service. The CDS, along with the permanent under secretary, are the principal military advisers to the secretary of state. All three services have their own respective professional chiefs; the
First Sea Lord The First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff (1SL/CNS) is the military head of the Royal Navy and Naval Service (United Kingdom), Naval Service of the United Kingdom. The First Sea Lord is usually the highest ranking and most senior admiral ...
for the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by Kingdom of England, English and Kingdom of Scotland, Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were foug ...
, the chief of the general staff for the
Army An army (from Old French ''armee'', itself derived from the Latin verb ''armāre'', meaning "to arm", and related to the Latin noun ''arma'', meaning "arms" or "weapons"), ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on ...
and the chief of the air staff for the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
.


Personnel

The British Armed Forces are a professional force with a strength of 153,290 UK Regulars and
Gurkhas The Gurkhas or Gorkhas (), with endonym Gorkhali ), are soldiers native to the Indian subcontinent, Indian Subcontinent, chiefly residing within Nepal and some parts of Northeast India. The Gurkha units are composed of Nepalis and Indian Go ...
, 37,420 Volunteer Reserves and 8,170 "Other Personnel" .
UK Armed Forces: Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics. 1 April 2021. MoD. Published 27 May 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2021. See table 1, page 4.
This gives a total strength of 198,880 "UK Service Personnel". As a percentage breakdown of UK Service Personnel, 77.1% are UK Regulars and Gurkhas, 18.8% are Volunteer Reserves and 4.1% are composed of Other Personnel. In addition, all ex-Regular personnel retain a "statutory liability for service" and are liable to be recalled (under Section 52 of the Reserve Forces Act (RFA) 1996) for duty during wartime, which is known as the Regular Reserve. MoD publications since April 2013 no longer report the entire strength of the Regular Reserve, instead they only give a figure for Regular Reserves who serve under a fixed-term reserve contract. These contracts are similar in nature to those of the Volunteer Reserve.gov.uk MoD – reserves and cadet strengths
, table 4 page 13. See note 2. April 2014.
, Regular Reserves serving under a fixed-term contract numbered 44,600 personnel.gov.uk MoD – reserves and cadet strengths
, table 1a-page 10. 12 July 1690.
The distribution of personnel between the services and categories of service on 1 April 2021 was as follows: , there were a total of 9,330 Regular service personnel stationed outside of the United Kingdom, 3,820 of those were located in Germany. 138,040 Regular service personnel were stationed in the United Kingdom, the majority located in the South East and South West of England with 37,520 and 36,790 Regular service personnel, respectively.


Defence expenditure

According to the
International Institute for Strategic Studies The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is a British research institute or think tank in the area of international affairs. Since 1997, its headquarters have been Arundel House in London, England. The 2017 Global Go To Think T ...
and the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international institute based in Stockholm. It was founded in 1966 and provides data, analysis and recommendations for armed conflict, military expenditure and arms trade as well a ...
, the United Kingdom has the fourth-largest defence budget in the world. For comparison's sake, this sees Britain spending more in absolute terms than France, Germany, India or Japan, a similar amount to that of Russia, but less than China, Saudi Arabia or the United States. In September 2011, according to Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the
Royal United Services Institute The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI, Rusi), registered as Royal United Service Institute for Defence and Security Studies and formerly the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, is a British defence and security think tank. ...
, current "planned levels of defence spending should be enough for the United Kingdom to maintain its position as one of the world's top military powers, as well as being one of NATO-Europe's top military powers. Its edge – not least its qualitative edge – in relation to rising Asian powers seems set to erode, but will remain significant well into the 2020s, and possibly beyond." The
Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 The National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 was published by the British government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Roya ...
committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence and announced a £178 billion investment over ten years in new equipment and capabilities.


Nuclear weapons

The United Kingdom is one of five recognised nuclear weapon states under the
Non-Proliferation Treaty The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is ...
and maintains an independent
nuclear deterrent Nuclear strategy involves the development of doctrines and strategies for the production and use of nuclear weapon A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either nuclear fissio ...
, currently consisting of four
ballistic missile submarine A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine capable of deploying submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with nuclear warheads. The United States Navy's Hull classification symbol#Submarine type, hull classification symbols for ballisti ...
s,
UGM-133 Trident II The UGM-133A Trident II, or Trident D5 is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), built by Lockheed Martin Space in Sunnyvale, California, and deployed with the US Navy, American and Royal Navy, British navies. It was first deployed in M ...
submarine-launched ballistic missile A submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is a ballistic missile capable of being launched from Ballistic missile submarine, submarines. Modern variants usually deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), each of whic ...
s, and 160 operational thermonuclear warheads. This is known as
Trident A trident is a three-tine (structural), pronged spear. It is used for spear fishing and historically as a polearm. The trident is the weapon of Poseidon, or Neptune (mythology), Neptune, the God of the Sea in classical mythology. The trident ma ...
in both public and political discourse (with nomenclature taken after the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missile). Trident is operated by the
Royal Navy Submarine Service The Royal Navy Submarine Service is one of the :Fighting Arms of the Royal Navy, five fighting arms of the Royal Navy. It is sometimes known as the Silent Service, as submarines are generally required to operate undetected. The service opera ...
, charged with delivering a 'Continuous At-Sea Deterrent' (CASD) capability, whereby one of the ''Vanguard''-class strategic submarines is always on patrol.Royal Navy – Continuous at sea deterrent
, royalnavy.mod.uk, Accessed 6 December 2014
According to the British Government, since the introduction of
Polaris Polaris is a star in the northern circumpolar constellation of Ursa Minor. It is designated α Ursae Minoris (Latinisation of names, Latinized to ''Alpha Ursae Minoris'') and is commonly called the North Star or Pole Star. With an a ...
(Tridents predecessor) in the 1960s, from April 1969 "the Royal Navy's ballistic missile boats have not missed a single day on patrol", giving what the Defence Council described in 1980 as a deterrent "effectively invulnerable to pre-emptive attack". As of 2015, it has been British Government policy for the ''Vanguard''-class strategic submarines to carry no more than 40 nuclear warheads, delivered by eight UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles. In contrast with the other recognised nuclear weapon states, the United Kingdom operates only a submarine-based delivery system, having decommissioned its tactical
WE.177 The WE.177, originally styled as WE 177, and sometimes simply as WE177, was a series of tactical nuclear weapon, tactical and Strategic nuclear weapon, strategic nuclear weapons with which the Royal Navy (RN) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) were e ...
free-fall bombs in 1998. The
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. T ...
voted on 18 July 2016 in favour of replacing the ''Vanguard''-class submarines with a new generation of s. The programme will also contribute to extending the life of the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles and modernise the infrastructure associated with the CASD. Former weapons of mass destruction possessed by the United Kingdom include both biological and
chemical weapons A chemical weapon (CW) is a specialized Ammunition, munition that uses chemicals chemical engineering, formulated to inflict death or harm on humans. According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), this can be an ...
. These were renounced in 1956 and subsequently destroyed.


Overseas military installations

The British Armed Forces maintain a number of overseas garrisons and military facilities which enable the country to conduct operations worldwide. The majority of Britain's permanent military installations are located on
British Overseas Territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen territories with a constitutional and historical link with the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain ...
(BOTs) or former colonies which retain close diplomatic ties with the United Kingdom, and located in areas of strategic importance. The most significant of these are the "Permanent Joint Operating Bases" (PJOBs), located on the four overseas territories of Cyprus (
British Forces Cyprus British Forces Cyprus (BFC) is the name given to the British Armed Forces stationed in the UK Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on the Geography of Cyprus, island of Cyprus and at a number of related 'retained si ...
), Gibraltar ( British Forces Gibraltar), the Falkland Islands ( British Forces South Atlantic Islands) and Diego Garcia ( British Forces British Indian Ocean Territories). While not a PJOB, Ascension Island (another BOT) is home to the airbase
RAF Ascension Island RAF Ascension Island , also known as Wideawake Airfield or Ascension Island Auxiliary Field, is a military airfield and facility located on Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's fi ...
, notable for use as a staging post during the 1982
Falklands War The Falklands War ( es, link=no, Guerra de las Malvinas) was a ten-week undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982 over two British Overseas Territories, British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland I ...
, the territory is also the site of a joint UK-US
signals intelligence Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is list of intelligence gathering disciplines, intelligence-gathering by interception of ''Signal, signals'', whether communications between people (communications intelligence—abbreviated to COMINT) or from ele ...
facility. Qatar is home to
RAF Al Udeid Al Udeid Air Base ( ar, قاعدة العديد الجوية) is one of two military bases southwest of Doha Doha ( ar, الدوحة, ad-Dawḥa or ''ad-Dōḥa'') is the capital city and main financial hub of Qatar. Located on the Pers ...
, a Royal Air Force outpost at
Al Udeid Air Base Al Udeid Air Base ( ar, قاعدة العديد الجوية) is one of two military bases southwest of Doha Doha ( ar, الدوحة, ad-Dawḥa or ''ad-Dōḥa'') is the capital city and main financial hub of Qatar. Located on the Pers ...
which serves as the operational headquarters for No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group and its operations across the Middle East. A large Royal Navy Naval Support Facility (NSF) is located in Bahrain, established in 2016 it marks the British return East of Suez. In support of the
Five Power Defence Arrangements The Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) are a series of bilateral defence relationships established by a series of multi-lateral agreements between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, all of which are Commonwe ...
(FPDA), the United Kingdom retains a naval repair and logistics support facility at Sembawang wharf, Singapore. ("''The White Ensign is still flying above the operations of Naval Party 1022 (NP1022), based at Sembawang Wharves in Singapore.''") Other overseas military installations include;
British Forces Brunei British Forces Brunei (BFB) is the name given to the British Armed Forces presence in Brunei. Since the handover ceremony of Hong Kong in 1997, the garrison in Brunei is one of remaining British military base in the Far East along with Britis ...
,
British Forces Germany British Forces Germany (''BFG'') was the generic name for the three services of the British Armed Forces, made up of service personnel, UK Civil Servants, and dependents (family members), based in Germany. It was established following the World ...
, the
British Army Training Unit Kenya The British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) is a training support unit of the British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commo ...
, British Army Training Unit Suffield in Canada, British Army Training and Support Unit Belize, and British Gurkhas Nepal. Some British Overseas Territories also maintain locally raised units and regiments; The Royal Bermuda Regiment, the
Falkland Islands Defence Force The Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) is the locally maintained volunteer defence unit in the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. The FIDF works alongside the military units supplied by the United Kingdom to ensure the security ...
, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, the Royal Montserrat Defence Force, the Cayman Islands Regiment, and the Turks and Caicos Regiment. Though their primary mission is "home defence", individuals have volunteered for operational duties. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment mobilised section-sized units for attachment to British regiments deployed during the
Iraq War {{Infobox military conflict , conflict = Iraq War , partof = the Iraq conflict (2003–present), Iraq conflict and the War on terror , image = Iraq War montage.png , image_size = 300px , caption ...
. The
Isle of Man ) , anthem = "O Land of Our Birth" , image = Isle of Man by Sentinel-2.jpg , image_map = Europe-Isle_of_Man.svg , mapsize = , map_alt = Location of the Isle of Man in Europe , map_caption = Location of the Isle of Man (green) in Europe ...
, a Crown dependency hosts a multi-capability recruiting and training unit of the British Army Reserve. Since 1969 Britain has had a military satellite communications system, Skynet, initially in large part to support East of Suez bases and deployments. Since 2015 Skynet has offered near global coverage.


Expeditionary forces

The British Armed Forces place significant importance in the ability to conduct
expeditionary warfare Expeditionary warfare is a military invasion of a foreign territory, especially away from established bases. Expeditionary forces were in part the antecedent of the modern concept of rapid deployment forces. Traditionally, expeditionary forces w ...
. Professor of International Politics, Adrian Hyde-Price, highlights that in the post-
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
era both Britain and France have re-focused their attention ''"towards
expeditionary warfare Expeditionary warfare is a military invasion of a foreign territory, especially away from established bases. Expeditionary forces were in part the antecedent of the modern concept of rapid deployment forces. Traditionally, expeditionary forces w ...
and
power projection Power projection (or force projection or strength projection), in international relations, is the capacity of a state to deploy and sustain forces outside its territory. The ability of a state to project its power into an area may serve as an ...
. Power projection has always been an element of British and French military thinking given their residual over seas interests, but it has now moved centre stage."''
While the armed forces are expeditionary in nature, it maintains a core of "high readiness" forces trained and equipped to deploy at very short notice, these include; the
Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) The Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (or JEF(M)) (formerly the Response Force Task Group (RFTG), and prior to that the Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF)), is the Royal Navy's contribution to the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) maintained at v ...
(Royal Navy),
3 Commando Brigade 3 Commando Brigade (3 Cdo Bde), previously called the 3rd Special Service Brigade, is a Commandos (United Kingdom), commando formation of the British Armed Forces. It is composed of the Royal Marine Commandos, alongside All Arms Commando Course, ...
(Royal Marines), and 16 Air Assault Brigade (British Army). Frequently, these forces will act as part of a larger tri-service effort, under the direction of
Permanent Joint Headquarters The Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) is the British tri-service headquarters Headquarters (commonly referred to as HQ) denotes the location where most, if not all, of the important functions of an organization are coordinated. In the Unit ...
, or along with like-minded allies under the UK Joint Expeditionary Force. Similarly, under the auspices of
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental military alliance between 30 Member sta ...
, such expeditionary forces are designed to meet Britain's obligations to the
Allied Rapid Reaction Corps The Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization High Readiness Force (Land) Headquarters ready for deployment worldwide. History The ARRC was created on 1 October 1992 in Bielefeld based on the former I Corps (U ...
and other NATO operations. In 2010, the governments of the United Kingdom and
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, Pac ...
signed the Lancaster House Treaties which committed both governments to the creation of a Franco-British Combined Joint Expeditionary Force. It is envisaged as a deployable joint force, for use in a wide range of crisis scenarios, up to and including high intensity combat operations. As a joint force it involves all three armed Services: a land component composed of formations at national brigade level, maritime and air components with their associated Headquarters, together with logistics and support functions.


The Armed Forces


Royal Navy

The Royal Navy is a technologically sophisticated naval force, and as of October 2022 consists of 72 commissioned ships with an additional 11 support vessels of various types operated by the
Royal Fleet Auxiliary The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is a naval auxiliary fleet owned by the United Kingdom, UK's Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence. It provides logistical and operational support to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The RFA ...
. Command of deployable assets is exercised by the
Fleet Commander The Fleet Commander is a senior Royal Navy post, responsible for the operation, resourcing and training of the ships, submarines and aircraft, and personnel, of the Naval Service (United Kingdom), Naval Service. The Vice-Admiral incumbent is requ ...
of the Naval Service. Personnel matters are the responsibility of the
Second Sea Lord The Second Sea Lord and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (formerly Second Sea Lord) is deputy to the First Sea Lord and the second highest-ranking officer to currently serve in the Royal Navy and is responsible for personnel and naval shore establish ...
/Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, an appointment usually held by a vice-admiral. The Surface Fleet consists of
aircraft carrier An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows ...
s,
amphibious warfare ship An amphibious warfare ship (or amphib) is an amphibious vehicle warship employed to land and support ground forces, such as marines, on enemy territory during an Amphibious warfare, amphibious assault. Specialized shipping can be divided into ...
s,
destroyer In navy, naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, manoeuvrable, long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a Naval fleet, fleet, convoy or Carrier battle group, battle group and defend them against powerful short range attack ...
s,
frigate A frigate () is a type of warship. In different eras, the roles and capabilities of ships classified as frigates have varied somewhat. The name frigate in the 17th to early 18th centuries was given to any full-rigged ship built for speed and ...
s,
patrol vessels A patrol boat (also referred to as a patrol craft, patrol ship, or patrol vessel) is a relatively small naval ship, naval vessel generally designed for Coastal defence and fortification, coastal defence, Border control, border security, or law ...
, mine-countermeasure vessels, and other miscellaneous vessels. The Surface Fleet has been structured around a single fleet since the abolition of the Eastern and Western fleets in 1971. The recently built
Type 45 destroyer The Type 45 destroyer, also known as the D or ''Daring'' class, is a Ship class, class of six guided-missile destroyers built for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy in the early 21st century. The class is primarily designed for Anti-aircraft warfa ...
s are technologically advanced air-defence destroyers. The Royal Navy has commissioned two s, embarking an air-group including the advanced fifth-generation multi-role fighter, the
F-35B The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather Stealth aircraft, stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both Air superiority fighter, air superiority and attack ...
. A submarine service has existed within the Royal Navy for more than 100 years. The Submarine Service's four nuclear-powered submarines carry
Lockheed Martin The Lockheed Martin Corporation is an American aerospace, arms, defense, information security, and technology corporation with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are business transactions i ...
's Trident II ballistic missiles, forming the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent. Seven nuclear-powered attack submarines have been ordered, with five completed and two under construction. The ''Astute'' class are the most advanced and largest fleet submarines ever built for the Royal Navy, and will maintain Britain's nuclear-powered submarine fleet capabilities for decades to come.


Royal Marines

The Royal Marines are the Royal Navy's amphibious troops. Consisting of a single manoeuvre brigade ( 3 Commando) and various independent units, the Royal Marines specialise in amphibious,
arctic The Arctic ( or ) is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut), Danish Realm (Greenland), northern Finland ...
, and
mountain warfare Mountain warfare (also known as alpine warfare) is warfare in mountains or similarly rough terrain. Mountain ranges are of strategic importance since they often act as a natural border, and may also be the origin of a water source (for example, t ...
. Contained within 3 Commando Brigade are three attached army units; 383 Commando Petroleum Troop RLC, 29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, a field artillery regiment based in Plymouth, and 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers. The Commando Logistic Regiment consists of personnel from the Army, Royal Marines, and Royal Navy.


British Army

The British Army is made up of the Regular Army and the
Army Reserve A military reserve force is a military organization whose members have military and civilian occupations. They are not normally kept under arms, and their main role is to be available when their military requires additional manpower. Reserve ...
. The army has a single command structure based at Andover and known as "Army Headquarters".Army Command reorganization
Defence Marketing Intelligence, 10 November 2011
Deployable combat formations consist of two divisions ( 1st and 3rd Mechanised) and eight brigades. Within the United Kingdom, operational and non-deployable units are administered by two divisions,
Force Troops Command Force Troops Command was a combat support and combat service support command of the British Army. Its headquarters was at Upavon, Wiltshire. It was formed in 2013 as a re-designation of the previous Headquarters Theatre Troops. Force Troops Comma ...
, and London District. The Army has 50 battalions (36 regular and 14 reserve) of regular and reserve infantry, organised into 17 regiments. The majority of infantry regiments contains multiple regular and reserve battalions. Modern infantry have diverse capabilities and this is reflected in the varied roles assigned to them. There are four operational roles that infantry battalions can fulfil:
air assault Air assault is the movement of ground-based military forces by vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft—such as the helicopter—to seize and hold key terrain which has not been fully secured, and to directly engage enemy forces behind e ...
, armoured infantry,
mechanised infantry Mechanized infantry are infantry units equipped with armored personnel carriers (APCs) or infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for transport and combat (see also mechanized force). As defined by the United States Army, mechanized infantry is disti ...
, and light role infantry. Regiments and battalions e.g.: the Parachute Regiment, exist within every corps of the Army, functioning as administrative or tactical formations. Armoured regiments are equivalent to an infantry battalion. There are 14 armoured regiments within the army, ten regular and four
yeomanry Yeomanry is a designation used by a number of units or sub-units of the British Army, British Army Reserve (United Kingdom), Army Reserve, descended from volunteer British Cavalry, cavalry regiments. Today, Yeomanry units serve in a variety of ...
(armoured reserve), of which four are designated as " Armoured", three as "
Armoured cavalry Armoured cavalry are combat units using armoured fighting vehicles An armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) is an armed combat vehicle protected by vehicle armour, armour, generally combining operational mobility with Offensive (military), offe ...
", and six as "
Light Cavalry Light cavalry comprised lightly armed and armored cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry w ...
". Army 2020 Refine has seen developments which will further modify the Royal Armoured Corps. with two existing regiments forming the core of two new STRIKE Brigades. These two regiments, along with the Armoured Cavalry will be equipped with the " Ajax" armoured fighting vehicle, a new £3.5 billion procurement programme. The Ajax will be employed in the task organisation and roles of both Armoured Cavalry and Medium Armour. With a slight exception of the
Household Cavalry The Household Cavalry (HCav) is made up of the two most senior regiments of the British Army, the Life Guards (United Kingdom), Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons). These regiments are div ...
, which maintains quasi-autonomy within the
Household Division Household Division is a term used principally in the Commonwealth of Nations to describe a country's most elite or historically senior military units, or those military units that provide ceremonial or protective functions associated directly with ...
, armoured regiments and their yeomanry counterparts collectively form the
Royal Armoured Corps The Royal Armoured Corps is the component of the British Army, that together with the Household Cavalry provides its armour capability, with vehicles such as the Challenger 2 Tank and the FV107 Scimitar, Scimitar Reconnaissance Vehicle. It includ ...
. Arms and support units are also formed into similar collectives organised around specific purposes, such as the
Corps of Royal Engineers The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually called the Royal Engineers (RE), and commonly known as the ''Sappers'', is a corps of the British Army. It provides military engineering and other technical support to the British Armed Forces and is heade ...
, Army Air Corps and
Royal Army Medical Corps The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all Army personnel and their families, in war and in peace. The RAMC, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the Royal Army Dental Corps a ...
.


Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force has a large operational fleet that fulfils various roles, consisting of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. Frontline aircraft are controlled by Air Command, which is organised into five groups defined by function: 1 Group (Air Combat), 2 Group (Air Support), 11 Group (Air and Space operations), 22 Group (training aircraft and ground facilities) and 38 Group (Royal Air Force's Engineering, Logistics, Communications and Medical Operations units). In addition 83 Expeditionary Air Group directs formations in the Middle East and the 38 Group combines the expeditionary
combat support In the United States Army, the term combat support refers to units that provide fire support and operational assistance to combat elements. Combat support units provide specialized support functions to combat units in the following areas * Chemi ...
and
combat service support The term combat service support (or CSS) is utilized by numerous military organizations throughout the world to describe entities that provide direct and indirect sustainment services to the groups that engage (or are potentially to be engaged) ...
units of the RAF. Deployable formations consist of Expeditionary Air
Wings A wing is a type of fin that produces Lift (force), lift while moving through air or some other fluid. Accordingly, wings have Streamlines, streaklines, and pathlines, streamlined Cross section (geometry), cross-sections that are subject to aer ...
and squadrons—the basic unit of the Air Force. Independent flights are deployed to facilities in Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands, Iraq, and the United States. The Royal Air Forces operates multi-role and single-role fighters, reconnaissance and patrol aircraft, tankers, transports, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and various types of training aircraft. Ground units are also maintained by the Royal Air Force, most prominently the
RAF Police The Royal Air Force Police (RAFP) is the service police branch of the Royal Air Force, headed by the provost marshal of the Royal Air Force. Its headquarters are at RAF Honington and it deploys throughout the world to support RAF and UK defence ...
and the
Royal Air Force Regiment The Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regiment) is part of the Royal Air Force and functions as a specialist corps. Founded by Warrant (law), royal warrant in 1942, the Corps carries out soldiering tasks relating to the delivery of Airpower, air po ...
(RAF Regt). The Royal Air Force Regiment essentially functions as the ground defence force of the RAF, optimised for the specialist role of fighting on and around forward airfields, which are densely packed with operationally vital aircraft, equipment, infrastructure and personnel . The Regiment contains nine regular squadrons, supported by five squadrons of the
Royal Auxiliary Air Force The Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF), formerly the Auxiliary Air Force (AAF), together with the Air Force Reserve, is a component of His Majesty's Reserve Air Forces (Reserve Forces Act 1996, Part 1, Para 1,(2),(c)). It provides a primary rein ...
Regiment. In addition, it provides the UK's specialist Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear capability. It also provides half of the UK's Forward Air Controllers and the RAF's contribution to the Special Forces Support Group. By March 2008, the three remaining Ground Based Air Defence squadrons (equipped with Rapier Field Standard C) had disbanded or re-roled and their responsibilities transferred to the British Army's
Royal Artillery The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is one of two regiments that make up the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises t ...
.


Ministry of Defence

The Ministry of Defence maintains a number civilian agencies in support of the British Armed Forces. Although they are civilian, they play a vital role in supporting Armed Forces operations, and in certain circumstances are under military discipline: * The
Royal Fleet Auxiliary The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is a naval auxiliary fleet owned by the United Kingdom, UK's Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence. It provides logistical and operational support to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. The RFA ...
(RFA) operates 13 ships which primarily serve to replenish Royal Navy warships at sea, and also augment the Royal Navy's amphibious warfare capabilities through its three vessels. It is manned by 1,850 civilian personnel and is funded and run by the Ministry of Defence. * The
Ministry of Defence Police The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is a civilian special police force#United Kingdom, special police force which is part of the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence. The MDP's primary responsibilities are ...
(MDP) has an established strength of 2,700 police officers which provide armed security, counter terrorism, uniformed policing and investigative services to Ministry of Defence property, personnel, and installations throughout the United Kingdom. * The
Defence Equipment and Support Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) is a trading entity and joint-defence organisation within the UK Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence. It began operating on 2 April 2007, following the merger of the MoD's Defence Procure ...
(DE&S) is the merged procurement and support organisation within the UK
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) The Ministry of Defence (MOD or MoD) is the Departments of the United Kingdom Government, department responsible for implementing the defence policy set by Government of the United Kingdom, His Majesty's Government, and is the headquarters of ...
. It came into being on 2 April 2007, bringing together the MoD's Defence Procurement Agency and the
Defence Logistics Organisation The Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) was a key element of the UK Ministry of Defence, responsible for supporting the armed forces throughout the various stages of an operation or exercise; from training, deployment, in-theatre training and ...
under the leadership of General Sir
Kevin O'Donoghue General (United Kingdom), General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, (born 9 December 1947) is a retired British Army officer and former Chief of Defence Materiel. He retired from the service in December 2010, being succeeded as Chief of Defence Materiel by ...
as the first
Chief of Defence Materiel The Chief Executive Officer of Defence Equipment and Support, formerly the Chief of Defence Materiel, is a senior post in the UK Ministry of Defence created in April 2007. It merges the roles of Chief of Defence Procurement and Chief of Defence L ...
. it has a civilian and military workforce of approx. 20,000 personnel. DE&S is overseen by the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology. * The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) is an organisation within the
UK government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_es ...
responsible for providing navigational and other hydrographic information for national, civil and defence requirements. The UKHO is located in
Taunton Taunton () is the county town of Somerset, England, with a 2011 population of 69,570. Its thousand-year history includes a 10th-century monastic foundation, Taunton Castle, which later became a priory. The Normans built a castle owned by the ...
,
Somerset Somerset ( , ; Archaism, archaically Somersetshire , , ) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the so ...
, on Admiralty Way and has a workforce of approximately 1,000 staff.


Recruitment

All three services of the British Armed Forces recruit primarily from within the United Kingdom, although citizens from the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the C ...
and the
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland (), is a country in north-western Europe consisting of 26 of the 32 Counties of Ireland, counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, on the eastern ...
are equally eligible to join.Evans (2005)
How British Army is fast becoming foreign legion
, timesonline.co.uk
The minimum recruitment age is 16 years (although personnel may not serve on armed operations below 18 years, and if under 18 must also have parental consent to join); the maximum recruitment age depends whether the application is for a regular or reserve role; there are further variations in age limit for different corps/regiments. The normal term of engagement is 22 years; however, the minimum service required before resignation is 4 years, plus, in the case of the Army, any service person below the age of 18. At present, the yearly intake into the armed forces is 11,880 (per the 12 months to 31 March 2014).UK Armed Forces Quarterly Personnel Report
, gov.uk, 1 April 2014
Excluding the
Brigade of Gurkhas The Brigade of Gurkhas is the collective name which refers to all the units in the British Army that are composed of Gurkha, Nepalese Gurkha soldiers. The brigade draws its heritage from Gurkha units that originally served in the British India ...
and the Royal Irish Regiment, as of 1 April 2014 there are approximately 11,200 Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) persons serving as Regulars across the three service branches; of those, 6,610 were recruited from outside the United Kingdom. In total, Black and Minority Ethnic persons represent 7.1% of all service personnel, an increase from 6.6% in 2010. Since the year 2000, sexual orientation has not been a factor considered in recruitment, and homosexuals can serve openly in the armed forces. All branches of the forces have actively recruited at
Gay Pride LGBT pride (also known as gay pride or simply pride) is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, Social equality, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a social group. Pride, a ...
events. The forces keep no formal figures concerning the number of gay and lesbian serving soldiers, saying that the sexual orientation of personnel is considered irrelevant and not monitored.


Role of women

Women A woman is an adult female human. Prior to adulthood, a female human is referred to as a girl (a female child or Adolescence, adolescent). The plural ''women'' is sometimes used in certain phrases such as "women's rights" to denote female hum ...
have been part of the armed forces, on and off, for centuries, more fully integrated since the early 1990s, including flying fast jets and commanding warships or artillery batteries. As of 1 April 2014, there were approximately 15,840 women serving in the armed forces, representing 9.9% of all service personnel. The first female military pilot was
Flight Lieutenant Flight lieutenant is a junior Officer (armed forces)#Commissioned officers, commissioned rank in air forces that use the Royal Air Force (RAF) RAF officer ranks, system of ranks, especially in Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth countries. I ...
Julie Ann Gibson while Flight Lieutenant Jo Salter was the first fast-jet pilot, the former flying a Tornado GR1 on missions patrolling the then Northern Iraqi No-Fly Zone. Flight Lieutenant Juliette Fleming and
Squadron Leader Squadron leader (Sqn Ldr in the RAF ; SQNLDR in the Royal Australian Air Force, RAAF and Royal New Zealand Air Force, RNZAF; formerly sometimes S/L in all services) is a Officer (armed forces), commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the ...
Nikki Thomas recently were the first Tornado GR4 crew. While enforcing the Libyan No-Fly Zone, Flight Lieutenant Helen Seymour was identified as the first female Eurofighter Typhoon pilot. In August 2011, it was announced that a female lieutenant commander, Sarah West, was to command the
frigate A frigate () is a type of warship. In different eras, the roles and capabilities of ships classified as frigates have varied somewhat. The name frigate in the 17th to early 18th centuries was given to any full-rigged ship built for speed and ...
. In July 2016, it was announced that women would be allowed to serve in close combat, starting with the Royal Armoured Corps. In July 2017, the Secretary of Defence announced that women would be allowed to enlist in the
RAF Regiment The Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regiment) is part of the Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918 ...
from September 2017, a year ahead of schedule. In 2018, women were allowed to apply for all roles in the British military, including the
special forces Special forces and special operations forces (SOF) are military units trained to conduct special operations. NATO has defined special operations as "military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, selected, trained and equip ...
. , the most senior serving woman is three-star Air Marshal Sue Gray.


March


See also

* Armed Forces Day (United Kingdom) * List of military equipment of the United Kingdom *
Atholl Highlanders The Atholl Highlanders is a Scottish ceremonial infantry regiment. They are the only remaining private army in Europe, and act as the personal bodyguard to the Duke of Atholl, chieftain of the Clan Murray, a family that has thrived in Perthshire ...
– The only legal
private army A private army (or private military) is a military or paramilitary force consisting of weapon, armed combatants who owe their allegiance to a private person, group, or organization, rather than a nation or state. History Private armies may for ...
in Europe under the command of the
Duke of Atholl Duke of Atholl, named for Atholl in Scotland, is a title in the Peerage of Scotland held by the head of Clan Murray. It was created by Queen Anne in 1703 for John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl, John Murray, 2nd Marquess of Atholl, with a special ...
in
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...
* Banknotes of the British Armed Forces *
British Forces Broadcasting Service The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) provides radio and television programmes for His Majesty's Armed Forces, and their dependents worldwide. Editorial control is independent of the Ministry of Defence {{unsourced, date=February ...
*
Community Cadet Forces The Community Cadet Forces is a term used by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence (MOD) to group together the Sea Cadet Corps (United Kingdom), Sea Cadets and Volunteer Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force and Air ...
* Military Covenant – The mutual obligations between the nation and its Armed Forces. * Network-enabled capability – British military concept of achieving enhanced military effect through the better use of
information systems An information system (IS) is a formal, sociotechnical, organizational system designed to collect, process, information storage, store, and information distribution, distribute information. From a sociotechnical perspective, information systems a ...
. Similar to the US concept of
network-centric warfare Network-centric warfare, also called network-centric operations or net-centric warfare, is a military doctrine Military doctrine is the expression of how military forces contribute to Military campaign, campaigns, major Military operation#Mili ...
. * The Championships, Wimbledon#Services stewards * Uniforms of the British Armed Forces *
Military history of Scotland Historically, Scotland has a long British military history, military tradition that predates the Acts of Union 1707, Act of Union with England. Its soldiers form part of the armed forces of the United Kingdom, more usually referred to domestica ...
* Armed forces of Wales


Notes


References


External links


British Ministry of Defence
(gov.uk)
Defence Academy of the United Kingdom
(.da.mod.uk)
Royal Navy official website
(royalnavy.mod.uk)
Royal Marines official webpage
(royalnavy.mod.uk)
British Army official website
(army.mod.uk)
Royal Air Force official website
(raf.mod.uk) {{North Atlantic Treaty Organization British Armed Forces deployments