British Armed Forces

combined military forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom. The British Armed Forces are officially called Her Majesty's Armed Forces, and they are sometimes called the Armed Forces of the Crown.[3] The British Armed Forces is made up of three parts: the British Army, the Royal Navy (and the Royal Marines) and the Royal Air Force.[4]

British Armed Forces
The tri-service badge
Service branches Royal Navy
British Army
Royal Air Force
Commander-in-ChiefCharles III
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
(de facto authority)
Secretary of State for Defence
Liz Truss

Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
Chief of the Defence StaffGeneral Sir Nick Houghton
Available for
military service
14,607,725 males, age 15–49,
14,028,738 females, age 15–49
Fit for
military service
12,046,268 males, age 15–49,
11,555,893 females, age 15–49
Active personnel150,000 active personnel
Reserve personnel82,000 regular reserve[N 1]
BudgetFY 2013-14: GBP £36.3 billion[1]
Percent of GDP2.1%[2]

The Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces is the British monarch.[5] Members of the British Armed Forces must swear that they will obey the orders of the monarch (swear allegiance). Under the constitution of the United Kingdom, the armed forces controlled by the Crown, however, because of the 1689 Bill of Rights, the UK cannot have an army during peacetime unless the British Parliament allows it.[6] Nowadays, the British Parliament passes an Armed Forces Act every five years, which means the UK can keep its military. The British Prime Minister is the de facto commander of the British Armed Forces.[7] The armed forces are managed by the Ministry of Defence.

The British Armed Forces protect the United Kingdom, the British overseas territories and the Crown dependencies. They also take part in United Nations peacekeeping missions.[8] The British Armed Forces often take part in NATO missions. The most recent wars the British Armed Forces have fought are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Operation Palliser, peacekeeping in the Balkans and Cyprus, and defending the no-fly zone over Libya. The British Armed Forces have bases in the following places: Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, Qatar and the Sovereign Base Areas (Cyprus).[9][10]

The United Kingdom tested its first nuclear weapon in Operation Hurricane in 1952. As of 2012, Britain is one of the five recognised nuclear powers. It has around 225 nuclear warheads. The United Kingdom's nuclear weapons are controlled by the Royal Navy.


  1. There were 181,720 regular reserves from all services of the British Armed Forces. 33,380 were in the Royal Air Force (2007), 121,820 were in the Army (2007) and 26,520 were in the Royal Navy (2002).


  1. HM Treasury Archived 2013-04-25 at the Wayback Machine 2013 Budget 56.1 billion USD ranked 6th, 2018
  2. "The 15 countries with the highest military expenditure in 2013 (table)". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-01-04. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
  3. Armed Forces Act 1976, Arrangement of Sections Archived 2009-02-21 at the Wayback Machine,
  4. "Ministry of Defence". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  5. "The Queen and the Armed Forces". The Royal Family. 2017-01-09. Retrieved 2022-11-15.
  6. "Bill of Rights 1689". Wikisource. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  7. "U.S. Relations With United Kingdom". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2022-11-15.
  8. The Mission of the Armed Forces,
  9. Permanent Joint Operating Bases Archived 2007-06-07 at the Wayback Machine,
  10. House of Commons Hansard,