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United Kingdom Military


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. With a reported personnel strength of 429,500 in 2006 (195,900 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 second highest expenditure (only behind the US) of any military 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.

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.

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 and the Sovereign Base Areas (Cyprus).


Military branches:
Army, Royal Navy (includes Royal Marines), Royal Air Force

Military service age and obligation:
6-33 years of age (officers 17-28) for voluntary military service (with parental consent under 18); women serve in military services, but are excluded from ground combat positions and some naval postings; must be citizen of the UK, Commonwealth, or Republic of Ireland; reservists serve a minimum of 3 years, to age 45 or 55 (2007)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 14,607,724
females age 16-49: 14,028,738 (2005 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 12,046,268
females age 16-49: 11,555,893 (2005 est.)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.4% (2005 est.)





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