The armed forces of the United Kingdom, commonly known as the British Armed Forces or His/Her Majesty's Armed Forces, and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, encompasses a navy, an army, and an air force. The British Armed Forces are a purely professional and volunteer force with a reported personnel strength of 425,500 in 2006 (191,900 regular force, 191,300 regular reserve, and 42,300 volunteer reserve), the British 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 have the fourth highest declared expenditure of any military in the world, behind the United States, China, and France, according to the Ministry of Defence, and their ability to project power globally is considered second only to the United States Armed Forces.
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 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 (2001 and 2003 respectively), intervention in Sierra Leone (2000), 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, the Sovereign Base Areas (Cyprus).
Sign up for our free British Forces email address and webspace now!