The armed forces of the United Kingdom, commonly known as the British Armed Forces or Her Majesty's Armed Forces, and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, encompasses a navy, an army, and an air force.

The United Kingdom has the second highest level of military spending in the world. Their Commander-in-Chief is the British monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth II and they are managed by the Defence Council of the Ministry of Defence. Consistent with longstanding constitutional convention, however, the Prime Minister holds de facto authority over the armed forces. Day to day management of the armed forces is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, MP.

The British Armed Forces consists of the following services:

Apart from these Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence maintains several civilian agencies including:

  • Ministry of Defence
  • Royal Fleet Auxiliary
  • Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service
  • Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency
    • Ministry of Defence Police
    • Ministry of Defence Guard Service
The tri-service badge


The British Armed Forces are regarded as extremely strong. In terms of gross tonnage, the Royal Navy is the second largest navy in the world, and still has global reach. The RAF is the largest air force in Europe (excepting Russia). The British Army, while smaller than the German and French Armies possesses first grade equipment, and the best trained troops in the world.

Command StructureEdit

The Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces is Queen Elizabeth II. Long-standing constitutional convention however places real authority in the hands of the Prime Minster, and the Cabinet (particularly the Secretary of State for Defence). 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. 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. Other Government Departments important to Defence are HM Treasury, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Home Office.

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 of the Fleet, Marshal of the RAF, or Field Marshal. 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 UK defence budget for the financial year 2009-10 was £55.8 billion.

Joint-Service Flag of the British Armed Forces

Crown coloniesEdit

The United Kingdom governs several Crown colonies, many of which are prominent in a military sense.


  • British Forces Aden
    • British Ground Forces Aden
      • Aden Brigade (British Light Brigade)
      • Aden Protectorate Levies (four locally-recruited Light Infantry Battalions, with light armour and artillery)
    • Royal Navy
      • 1 Frigate (rotational deployment)
      • Support craft
    • RAF Khormaksar
      • 3 BAe Nimrod MR.2 (rotational detachment)
      • 1 Squadron of BAe Harrier GR.7/9
      • 4 Lockheed Hercules (rotational detachment)
      • 5 Boeing Chinook HC.2/HC.2A/HC.3 (rotational detachment)
      • 4 Squadrons of Westland Blackhawk AH.1
      • 8 Britten-Norman Defender AL.1
      • 4 Westland Sea King HAR.3

Ascension IslandEdit

  • RAF Ascension Island - an important air and naval staging post in the mid-Atlantic.


Defence of Bermuda is mostly the responsibility of the (national) British Government, though the Bermuda Regiment is maintained as a local militia. The Regiment is locally funded, uses different equipment (Ruger Mini-14 20GB rifles as opposed to the SA80), and is the only British Army unit that is conscripted.

British Indian Ocean TerritoryEdit

  • Diego Garcia - an important air and naval staging post in the Indian Ocean

Falkland IslandsEdit

  • British Forces Falkland Islands
    • Falkland Islands Defence Force - locally recruited part-time volunteer unit (funded by the Falkland Islands Government)
    • Mare Harbour, Royal Navy anchorage.
      • HMS Clyde (permanently stationed in the Falkland Islands)
      • HMS Endurance (operates in the region supporting British Antarctic operation)
    • British Army Garrison, Mount Pleasant
      • Reinforced Light Infantry Company
      • 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD)
      • Joint Communications Unit
      • Semi-regular Special Forces detachment
    • RAF Mount Pleasant
      • No. 1435 Flight - 4 Grumman Tomcat FR.4
      • No. 1312 Flight - 2 Vickers VC10 C.1K/2 Lockheed Hercules C.3
      • No. 1564 Flight - 3 Westland Sea King HAR.3/5 Westland Blackhawk AH.1
      • RAF Regiment Field Flight
      • RAF Regiment Ground Based Air Defence Flight
    • Joint Rapid Reaction Force - Elements of all UK armed forces maintained in the UK, and elsewhere to respond to Argentine aggression
    • Naval Party 8901, Port Stanley - 1 platoon of Royal Marines


Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of Spain, the main feature of which is the Rock of Gibraltar. The Territory is claimed by Spain.

  • British Forces Gibraltar
    • HQ, British Forces Gibraltar
    • Royal Gibraltar Regiment - home defence unit
    • Joint Provost and Security Unit
    • Gibraltar Squadron - Royal Navy, 2 Scimitar class patrol boats, 3 RHIBs
    • RAF Gibraltar - no resident units
    • Gibraltar Services Police - civilian police force, guards MoD establishments in Gibraltar

Hong KongEdit

  • British Forces Overseas Hong Kong
    • Ground
      • 1 Light Infantry Battalion
      • 1 Light Artillery Battery
      • Royal Hong Kong Regiment
    • Air
    • Naval
      • 5 Peacock class patrol vessels
      • 6 Archer class patrol boats
      • 4 Hunt-class Mine Countermeasures Vessels


  • British Forces Malta
    • Ground
      • Royal Malta Regiment (1 Light Infantry Battalion)
      • 1 Light Infantry Company
      • 1 Mixed Artillery Regiment (1 Close Support Battery, 1 Air Defence Battery)
    • Air
      • 3 Britten-Norman Defender AL.1
      • 6 Westland Blackhawk AH.1
      • 3 Westland Sea King HAR.3
    • Naval
      • 1 River class patrol vessel
      • 3 Archer or P2000-class fast patrol boats
      • 4 Scimitar class patrol boats


The defence of Singapore is largely the responsibility of the Singapore Defence Force.

Permanent Operational Overseas DeploymentsEdit

N.B. This list excludes purely training establishments. The UK Armed Forces maintains training establishments outside the UK to enable British forces to train in a more diverse range of environments.


  • British Military Garrison Brunei
    • 1 Battalion of Light Infantry


  • British Forces Belize
    • 1 Battalion of Light Infantry
    • 1 Squadron of Bell 212 AH.1
    • 1 Squadron of Westland Blackhawk AH.1
    • 1 Squadron of BAe Harrier GR.9

Tri-Service UnitsEdit

United Kingdom Special ForcesEdit

The United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) is a UK Ministry of Defence Directorate which also has the capability to provide a Joint Special Operations Task Force Headquarters. UKSF is commanded by Director Special Forces (DSF), a Major General. It consists of the following units:

British ArmyEdit

  • 22 Special Air Service
    • L Detachment
  • 21 Special Air Service (Reserve)
  • 23 Special Air Service (Reserve)
  • Special Reconnaissance Regiment

Royal MarinesEdit

  • Special Boat Service
    • Special Boat Service (Reserve)

Support UnitsEdit

Special Forces Support GroupEdit

  • 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment
  • F Company, Royal Marines
  • RAF Regiment elements


  • 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment
    • 264 (SAS) Signals Squadron, attached to 22 SAS
    • 267 (SRR) Signals Squadron, attached to the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR)
    • 268 (UKSF) Signals Squadron, specialist sp to UKSF
    • SBS Signals Squadron, attached to the Special Boat Service
    • 63 (SAS) Signal Squadron, reserve unit attached to 21 and 23 SAS


  • 8 Flight Army Air Corps
    • Agusta A109 AH.1, Westland Gazelle AH.1, Aerospatiale Dauphin AH.1
  • 47 Squadron, RAF
    • Lockheed Martin Hercules C.6
  • Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW)
    • 7 Squadron, RAF
      • Boeing Chinook HC.3
    • 651 Squadron, Army Air Corps
      • Britten-Norman Defender AL.1
    • 657 Squadron, Army Air Corps
      • Westland Lynx AH.7

Defence ProcurementEdit

Defence procurement policy has tended to shift with changes in government. Contemporary Conservative Governments tend to buy American or French. This tendency was especially strong with the Powell, Thatcher, and Marshall, while Labour governments have preferred to develop British equipment. Current policy emphasises Military Off The Shelf technology.