The British Armed Forces, also known as Her Majesty’s Armed Forces or the Armed Forces of the Crown, are military services tasked with the defence of the United Kingdom, its overseas territories, and the Crown dependencies. They also promote Britain’s wider interests, support international peacekeeping efforts, and provide humanitarian aid.
Since the formation of a Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 (later succeeded by the United Kingdom), the armed forces have seen action in a number of major wars involving the world’s great powers, including the Seven Years’ War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the First World War, and the Second World War. Repeatedly emerging victorious from conflicts has allowed Britain to establish itself as one of the world’s leading military and economic powers.
Today, the British Armed Forces consist of: the Royal Navy, a blue-water navy with a fleet of 77 commissioned ships; the Royal Marines, a highly specialised amphibious light infantry force; the British Army, the UK’s principal land warfare branch; and the Royal Air Force, a technologically sophisticated air force with a diverse operational fleet consisting of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. The Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces is the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, to whom members of the forces swear allegiance. The UK Parliament approves the continued existence of the armed forces by passing an Armed Forces Act at least once every five years, as required by the Bill of Rights 1689. The armed forces are managed by the Defence Council of the Ministry of Defence, headed by the Secretary of State for Defence.
The United Kingdom is one of five recognised nuclear powers, is a permanent member on the United Nations Security Council, is a founding and leading member of the NATO military alliance, and is party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Bahrain, Belize, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, Montserrat, Nepal, Qatar, Singapore and the United States