|HM Armed Forces
The tri-service badge
|Service branches|| Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
|Commander-in-Chief||HM Queen Elizabeth II|
|Secretary of State for Defence||Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP|
|Chief of the Defence Staff||Air Chief Marshal Sir Graham Stirrup|
|14,607,725 males, age 15–49,
14,028,738 females, age 15–49
|12,046,268 males, age 15–49,
11,555,893 females, age 15–49
|Active personnel||240,000 (Jun 2009) (ranked 24th (Jun 2009))|
|Reserve personnel||210,500 regular reserve (April 2005)
|Budget||FY 2009 - ranked 3rd
GBP £42 billion 
|Percent of GDP||2.5% (2009)|
The armed forces of the United Kingdom, known as His/Her Majesty's Armed Forces or sometimes the British Armed Forces, and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, encompasses the Royal Navy, the British Army, and the Royal Air Force. The British Armed Forces are a purely professional and volunteer force with a reported personnel strength of 435,500 in 2009 (197,900 regular force, 195,300 regular reserve, and 42,300 volunteer reserve), HM Armed Forces constitutes one of the largest militaries in Europe, though only the 26th largest in the world by number of troops. The British Armed Forces however has the fourth highest declared expenditure of any military in the world, behind the United States, the People's Republic of China and France.
The United Kingdom has the largest air force and navy in the European Union and the second largest in NATO, is one of only five recognised nuclear powers, and is deemed to have the second highest power projection capability behind the United States in the World. In terms of gross tonnage the Royal Navy is the second largest navy in NATO.  It possesses an array of ships, such as ballistic missile submarines, aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, guided missile destroyers and nuclear powered submarines. Apart from the United States Navy, it is the only navy currently building supercarriers. The UK also possesses a large air force which has—and is in the process of procuring—some of the most advanced aircraft in the world, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II multirole combat aircraft, and C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. The British Army has fought in Iraq and Aghanistan in recent years and has been kept updated with modern equipment, such as Challenger II main battle tanks and Apache Longbow attack helicopters.
The Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces is the British monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth II, to whom members of the forces swear allegiance. Under British constitutional law, the armed forces are subordinate to the crown but can only be maintained in peace time by parliament's continuing consent. As a result, parliament still approves the continued existence of the standing armed forces on an annual basis. Consistent with longstanding constitutional convention, however, the Prime Minister holds de facto authority over the armed forces. The armed forces are managed by the Defence Council of the Ministry of Defence. The British Army however is considered constitutionally the army of parliament not the monarch, this is a result of the civil war and was affirmed in the 1689 Bill of Rights.
The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting Britain's wider security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO and other coalition operations. The UK is also party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Recent operations have included wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2000 intervention in Sierra Leone, and ongoing peacekeeping responsibilities in the Balkans and Cyprus. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, Qatar and the Sovereign Base Areas (Cyprus).
The military history of the United Kingdom has been greatly influential in World history, beginning in 1707 with the merging of the armed forces of England and Scotland to become the armed forces of the Kingdom of Great Britain. Important conflicts in which the British took part later on in history include the Seven Years' War and the Napoleonic Wars of the 18th century/early 19th century, the Crimean War of the mid 19th Century, and the First and Second World Wars of the 20th century. The British Empire, which reached its apogee in the 1920s, was the largest empire in history; almost a third of the World's population were subjects of the British Crown and it controlled a quarter of the World's total land area (and arguably all its seas).
The current structure of defence management in the United Kingdom was set in place in 1964 when the modern day Ministry of Defence (MoD) was created (an earlier form had existed since 1940). The MoD assumed the roles of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry.
Post-World War II economic and political decline, as well as changing attitudes in British society and government reflected by the Armed Forces' contracting global role. Britain's protracted decline was dramatically epitomised by its political defeat during the Suez War of 1956. The 1957 Defence White Paper decided to abolish conscription and reduce the size of the Armed Forces from 690,000 to 375,000 by 1962. Seeking an inexpensive alternative to maintaining a large conventional military, the government pursued a doctrine of nuclear deterrence. This initially consisted of free-fall bombs operated by the RAF, but these were eventually superseded by the submarine-launched Polaris ballistic missile. While assurances had been made to the United States that Britain would maintain a presence "East of Suez", a process of gradual withdrawal from its eastern commitments was undertaken in the 1960s, primarily for economic reasons. By the mid-1970s, Britain had withdrawn permanently deployed forces from Aden, Bahrain, Malaysia, Mauritius, Oman, Sharjah, and Singapore. Agreements with Malta (expired 1979) and South Africa (terminated 1975) also ended.
With a permanent presence east of Suez effectively reduced to Hong Kong (up to 1997) and Brunei, the Armed Forces reconfigured to focus on the responsibilities allocated to the services during the Cold War. Substantial forces thus became committed to NATO in Europe and elsewhere; by 1985, 72,929 personnel were stationed in Continental Europe. The British Army of the Rhine and RAF Germany consequently represented the largest and most important overseas commitments that the British Armed Forces had during this period. The Royal Navy's fleet developed an anti-submarine warfare specialisation, with a particular focus on countering Soviet submarines in the Eastern Atlantic and North Sea. In the process of this transition and due to economic constraints, four conventional aircraft carriers and two "commando" carriers decommissioned between 1967 and 1984. With the cancellation of the CVA-01 project, three Invincible-class STOVL aircraft carriers, originally designed as "Through-Deck Cruisers", became their ultimate replacements.
While this focus on NATO obligations increased in prominence during the 1970s, low-intensity conflicts in Northern Ireland and Oman emerged as the primary operational concerns of the British Armed Forces. These conflicts had followed a spate of insurgencies against British colonial occupation in Aden, Cyprus, Kenya, and Malaysia. An undeclared war with Indonesia had also occurred in Borneo during the 1960s, and recurring civil unrest in the declining number of British colonies often required military assistance.
Three major reviews of the British Armed Forces have been conducted since the end of the Cold War. The Conservative government produced the Options for Change review in the 1990s, seeking to benefit from a perceived post-Cold War "peace dividend". All three services experienced considerable reductions in manpower, equipment, and infrastructure. Though the Soviet Union had disintegrated, a presence in Germany was retained, albeit in the reduced form of British Forces Germany. Experiences during the First Gulf War prompted renewed efforts to enhance joint operational cohesion and efficiency among the services by establishing a Permanent Joint Headquarters in 1996.
An increasingly international role for the British Armed Forces has been pursued since the Cold War's end. This has entailed the Armed Forces often constituting a major component in peacekeeping missions under the auspices of the United Nations or NATO, and other multinational operations. Consistent under-manning and the reduced size of the Armed Forces has, however, highlighted the problem of "overstretch" in recent years. This has reportedly contributed to personnel retention difficulties and challenged the military's ability to sustain its overseas commitments.
The Strategic Defence Review (SDR)—described as "foreign-policy-led"—was published in 1998. Expeditionary warfare and tri-service integration were central to the review, which sought to improve efficiency and reduce expenditure by consolidating resources. Most of the Armed Forces' helicopters were collected under a single command and a Joint Force Harrier was established in 2000, containing the Navy and RAF's fleet of Harrier Jump Jets. A Joint Rapid Reaction Force was formed in 1999, with significant tri-service resources at its disposal.
The first major post-11 September restructuring was announced in the 2004 Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities review, continuing a vision of "mobility" and "expeditionary warfare" articulated in the SDR. Future equipment projects reflecting this direction featured in the review, including the procurement of two large aircraft carriers and a series of medium-sized vehicles for the Army. Reductions in manpower, equipment, and infrastructure were also announced. The decision to reduce the Army's regular infantry to 36 battalions (from 40) and amalgamate the remaining single-battalion regiments was controversial, especially in Scotland and among former soldiers. Envisaging a rebalanced composition of more rapidly deployable light and medium forces, the review announced that a regiment of Challenger 2 main battle tanks and a regiment of AS-90 self-propelled artillery would be converted to lighter roles.
The UK has the third largest declared military expenditure in the world, after the United States and China. It is also the second largest spender on military science, engineering and technology. Despite Britain's wide ranging capabilities, recent defence policy has a stated assumption that any large operation would be undertaken as part of a coalition. Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan (Herrick), Iraq (Granby, Desert Fox and Telic) may all be taken as precedent—indeed the last large scale military action in which the British armed forces fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982, in which it was victorious.
The Royal Navy is the second-largest navy of the NATO alliance, in terms of the combined displacement of its fleet, after the United States Navy, with 88 commissioned ships. The Naval Service (which comprises the Royal Navy and Royal Marines) had a strength of 42,700  and is charged with custody of the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear deterrent consisting of four Trident missile submarines, while the Royal Marines provide commando units for amphibious assault and for specialist reinforcement forces in and beyond the NATO area. The British Army had a strength of 150,240  while the Royal Air Force had a strength of 46,800. This puts the total number of Armed Forces personnel at around 240,000, nine percent of whom were women. This number is supported by the 328,610 strong reserve forces, of which 83,430 are in the Royal Air Force, 206,670 are in the British Army and 38,510 are in the Royal Navy.
As head of state, the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Longstanding constitutional convention, however, has vested de facto executive authority in the office of Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Queen remains the "ultimate authority" of the military and retains the power to prevent its unconstitutional use.
The Ministry of Defence is the Government department and highest level of military headquarters charged with formulating and executing defence policy for the Armed Forces; it employed 103,930 civilians in 2006 The department is controlled by the Secretary of State for Defence and contains three deputy appointments: Minister of State for the Armed Forces, 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, 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, Army Board, and Air Force Board) are chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence.
The Chief of the Defence Staff is the professional head of the Armed Forces and is an appointment that can be held by an Admiral, Air Chief Marshal, or General. 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 (a 5-star rank). The CDS, along with the Permanent Under Secretary, are the principal advisers to the departmental minister. The three services have their own respective professional chiefs: the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff.
The Naval Service consists of the Royal Navy (including the Submarine Service and Fleet Air Arm) and the Royal Marines. As of 21 May 2008, a fleet of 88 vessels (including an aircraft carrier in reserve) is maintained by the Royal Navy, assisted by 17 vessels of the civilian Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
Referred to as the "Senior Service" by virtue of it being the oldest service within the British Armed Forces, the Royal Navy had a strength of 42,700 in 2009 (39,100 Regular personnel and 3,600 Volunteers). The Royal Navy is the 2nd largest navy in NATO. The Navy has been structured around a single fleet since the abolition of the Eastern and Western fleets in 1971. Command of deployable assets is exercised by the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, who also has authority over the Royal Marines and the civilian Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Personnel matters are the responsibility of the Second Sea Lord/Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, an appointment usually held by a vice-admiral.
The United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent is carried aboard the navy's Vanguard-class of four nuclear ballistic-missile submarines. The surface fleet consists of carriers, destroyers, frigates, amphibious assault ships, patrol ships, mine-countermeasures, and miscellaneous vessels.
A submarine service has existed within the Royal Navy for over 100-years. The service possessed a combined fleet of diesel-electric and nuclear-powered submarines until the early 1990s. Following the Options for Change defence review, the Upholder class diesel-electric submarines were withdrawn and the attack submarine flotilla is now exclusively nuclear-powered.
The infantry component of the Naval Service is the Corps of Royal Marines, which had a reported strength of approximately 7,400 in 2006. Consisting of a single manoeuvre brigade (3 Commando) and various independent units, the Royal Marines specialise in amphibious, arctic, and mountain warfare.
Contained within 3 Commando Brigade are three attached army units; 1st Battalion, The Rifles, an infantry battalion based at Beachley Barracks, Chepstow (from April 2008), 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, an 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.
The regular British Army had a strength of 150,240 active personel in 2009 (114,240 regulars and 35,500 Territorial Army).. The British Army is undergoing a restructuring programme envisaged in the 2003 defence white paper, Delivering Security in a Changing World, and the subsequent announcement of the Future Army Structure (FAS).
The army consists of three TLBs (Top Level Budget): United Kingdom Land Command, HQ Adjutant-General, and HQ Northern Ireland. Deployable combat formations consist of two divisions (1st Armoured and 3rd Mechanised) and eight brigades. Within the United Kingdom, operational and non-deployable units are administered by three regionally-defined "regenerative" divisions (2nd, 4th, and 5th) and London District.
The core element of the Army is the 50 battalions (36 regular and 14 territorial) of regular and territorial infantry, organised into 17 regiments. The majority of infantry regiments contains multiple regular and territorial 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, armoured infantry, mechanised infantry, and light role infantry.
Regiments and battalions exist within every corps of the Army, functioning as administrative or tactical formations. Armoured regiments are equivalent to an infantry battalion. There are 11 armoured regiments within the regular army, of which five are designated as "Armoured" and five as "Formation Reconnaissance". The 1st Royal Tank Regiment uniquely forms a component of the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear Regiment.
With the exception of the Household Cavalry, armoured regiments and their Territorial counterparts are grouped under the Royal Armoured Corps. Arms and support units are also formed into similar collectives organised around specific purposes, such as the Corps of Royal Engineers, Army Air Corps and Royal Army Medical Corps.
Consisting of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, the Royal Air Force has a large operational fleet that fulfils various roles. According to a House of Commons written answer made by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, the RAF had in its inventory an estimated 1,046 aircraft of all types in March 2006. In 2008, the figure was revised to nearer 850.
Frontline aircraft are controlled by Air Command, which is organised into three groups defined by function: 1 Group (Air Combat), 2 Group (Air Support) and 22 Group (training aircraft and ground facilities). Deployable formations consist of Expeditionary Air Wings 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 and RAF Regiment. The Royal Air Force Regiment essentially functions as the "ground fighting force" of the RAF. Roled principally as ground defence for RAF facilities, the regiment contains nine regular squadrons, supported by five squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment. By March 2008, the three remaining "Air Defence" squadrons had disbanded or re-roled and their responsibilities transferred to the British Army's Royal Artillery.
The British Armed Forces are supported by civilian agencies owned by the MoD. Although they are civilian, they play a vital role in supporting Armed Forces operations, and in certain circumstances are under military discipline.
The Armed Forces mainly recruits within the United Kingdom, and normally has an annual recruitment target of around 24,000. The minimum recruitment age is 15.9 years (although personnel may not serve on operations below 18 years); the maximum recruitment age is 32-years. The normal term of engagement is 22 years, however the minimum service required before resignation is 4 years. Low unemployment in Britain has resulted in the Army having difficulty in meeting its target, and in the early years of the 21st century there has been a marked increase in the number of recruits from other (predominantly Commonwealth) countries.
Citizens of Commonwealth countries, the Republic of Ireland, and dual-nationals are eligible to join the British Armed Forces. In 2005, the proportion of foreign nationals in the Armed Forces rose from a 2004 figure of 7.5 to almost 10 percent. While the Army has been the destination for the majority of recruits, large contingents exist in the Navy and Air Force. Excluding the Brigade of Gurkhas and the Royal Irish Regiment, 7,155 personnel were recorded as being of foreign nationality in 2005.
The largest tri-service national groups recorded in 2005 were Fijian (2,040), Jamaican (1,030), South African (710), Zimbabwean (590), Ghanaian (590), and Irish (335). Smaller contingents were drawn from countries such as Australia (110) and Canada (105), and island nations with relatively small populations. A Grenadian, Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2005 for actions in Iraq.
Specific initiatives to develop female and ethnic minority representation in the Armed Forces has yielded percentage increases of 3.4 and 4.5 since 1997. In 1997, there were 14,830 (5.7%) women and 2.184 (1.0%) personnel who identified as an ethnic minority. This had increased to 17,870 (9.1%) and 10,180 (5.5%) in 2006. A higher percentage of personnel have attained higher-rank since 2000. Notably included among these officers are Rear-Admiral Amjad Hussain, Air Commodore David Case, Commodore Carolyn Stait, and Squadron Leader Nicky Smith.
Women have been fully integrated into the British Armed Forces since the early 1990s; however, they remain excluded from primarily combat units in the Army, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force Regiment, and the submarine service. Since 2000, sexual orientation has not been a factor considered in recruitment, and homosexuals can serve openly in the armed forces, unlike in the United States armed forces for example. All branches of the forces have actively recruited at Gay Pride 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.
There were over 30,000 members of the British Armed Forces deployed abroad in January 2007, serving in various capacities. Peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief tasks have increased in recent years, many under the auspices of the United Nations and NATO. The Armed Forces most recently contributed to the international humanitarian and reconstruction efforts that occurred in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
Within the United Kingdom, there were approximately 140,000 personnel stationed in England, 13,200 in Scotland, 7,000 in Northern Ireland, and 6,200 in Wales. The conflict in Northern Ireland has required the Armed Forces to provide "Military aid to the civil power" since 1969, with a presence that peaked at over 20,000 regular personnel in 1972. Sectarian and paramilitary violence has subsided since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. and the IRA declared an end to its campaign in 2005. Operational support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, known as Operation Banner, officially ended on 1 August 2007, resulting in the reduction of the military presence to the size of a peacetime garrison.
Personnel are based in a number of overseas territories, though internal security for the majority is provided solely by small police forces. Garrisons and facilities exist in Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus. These deployments accounted for over 5,000 personnel in 2006. Locally-raised units are maintained in Bermuda (The Bermuda Regiment), the Falkland Islands (Falkland Islands Defence Force), and Gibraltar (Royal Gibraltar Regiment). Though their primary mission is "home defence", individuals have volunteered for operational duties. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment has recently mobilised section-sized units for attachment to regiments deployed to Iraq.