British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces, officially Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes known as the Armed Forces of the Crown, are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Armed Forces encompass three professional uniformed services: the Naval Service (including the Royal Navy and Royal Marines), the British Army and the Royal Air Force.
The Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Armed Forces is the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, to whom members of the forces swear allegiance. Under British constitutional law, the armed forces are subordinate to the Crown, however this power is qualified by the requirement for parliamentary consent to the maintaining of a standing army and Parliament's approval of taxation and supply of funds for the armed forces. Under the 1689 Bill of Rights no standing army may be maintained during time of peace without the consent of Parliament and in modern times Parliament gives this consent every five years by passing an Armed Forces Act. Consistent with longstanding constitutional convention, the Prime Minister holds de facto authority over the use of the armed forces. The armed forces are managed by the Defence Council of the Ministry of Defence, headed by the Secretary of State for Defence.
The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom, its overseas territories and Crown Dependencies, as well as promoting Britain's wider security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO and other coalition operations. Britain is also party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Recent operations have included wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2000 intervention in Sierra Leone, ongoing peacekeeping responsibilities in the Balkans and Cyprus, and participation in the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. 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).
In 1952 Great Britain tested its first nuclear weapon under Operation Hurricane, it was the third nation in the world to achieve the status of a nuclear power. As of 2012 Britain remains one of five recognized nuclear powers, with a total of 225 nuclear warheads. Of those, no more than 160 are deployed and active. Its nuclear deterrence system is based on Trident missiles onboard nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
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- Active Duty Personnel: 357,500 (British Army: 125,000; Royal Air Force: 105,250; Royal Marines: 21,500; Royal Navy: 105,750)
- Reserve Personnel: 266,000
- Budget (2013-2014): $72,776,600,000 USD (2.6% of GDP)
- Commander in Chief: Queen Elizabeth II
- Minister of Defence Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond MP
- Chief of Staff of the British Armed Forces: General Sir David Richards
- Commander of the British Army: General Sir Peter Wall
- Commander of the Royal Air Force: Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton
- Commander of the Royal Navy: Admiral Mark Stanhope
- Commander of the Fleet Air Arm: HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York
- Commander of the Royal Marines: Major General Ed Davis