, also known collectively as armed forces
, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare
. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state
, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform
. It may consist of one or more military branches
such as an army
, air force
, space force
, or coast guard
. The main task of the military is usually defined as defence of the state and its interests against external armed threats.
military ceremony, Pabrade
, Lithuania in November 2014
In broad usage, the terms armed forces
are often treated as synonymous, although in technical usage a distinction is sometimes made in which a country's armed forces may include both its military and other paramilitary
forces. There are various forms of irregular military
forces, not belonging to a recognized state; though they share many attributes with regular military forces, they are less often referred to as simply military
Countries by number of active soldiers (2009)
A nation's military may function as a discrete social subculture
, with dedicated infrastructure such as military housing, schools, utilities, logistics
, hospitals, legal services, food production, finance, and banking services. Beyond warfare, the military may be employed in additional sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within the state, including internal security threats, population control
, the promotion of a political agenda
, emergency services
and reconstruction, protecting corporate
economic interests, social ceremonies and national honour guards.
Etymology and definitions
The first recorded use of the word military in English, spelled militarie
, was in 1582.
It comes from the Latin militaris
(from Latin miles
, meaning "soldier") through French, but is of uncertain etymology, one suggestion being derived from *mil-it-
– going in a body or mass.
As a noun, the military usually refers generally to a country's armed forces, or sometimes, more specifically, to the senior officers who command them.
In general, it refers to the physicality of armed forces, their personnel
, and the physical area which they occupy.
Military history is often considered to be the history of all conflicts, not just the history of the state militaries. It differs somewhat from the history of war
, with military history focusing on the people and institutions of war-making, while the history of war focuses on the evolution of war itself in the face of changing technology, governments, and geography.
Military history has a number of facets. One main facet is to learn from past accomplishments and mistakes, so as to more effectively wage war in the future. Another is to create a sense of military tradition
, which is used to create cohesive military forces. Still, another may be to learn to prevent wars more effectively. Human knowledge about the military is largely based on both recorded and oral history
of military conflicts (war), their participating armies
and, more recently, air forces
An example of military command; a map of the United States' Unified Combatant Command's area of responsibility.
Personnel and units
Despite the growing importance of military technology
, military activity depends above all on people. For example, in 2000 the British Army declared: "Man is still the first weapon of war."
Rank and role
Personnel may be recruited
, depending on the system chosen by the state. Most military personnel are males; the minority proportion of female personnel varies internationally (approximately 3% in India,
10% in the UK,
13% in Sweden,
16% in the US,
and 27% in South Africa
). While two-thirds of states now recruit or conscript only adults, as of 2017 50 states still relied partly on children under the age of 18 (usually aged 16 or 17) to staff their armed forces.
Whereas recruits who join as officers
tend to be upwardly-mobile
most enlisted personnel have a childhood background of relative socio-economic deprivation
For example, after the US suspended conscription in 1973, "the military disproportionately attracted African American men, men from lower-status socioeconomic backgrounds, men who had been in nonacademic high school programs, and men whose high school grades tended to be low".
However, a study released in 2020 on the socio-economic backgrounds of U.S. Armed Forces personnel suggests that they are at parity or slightly higher than the civilian population with respect to socio-economic indicators such as parental income, parental wealth and cognitive abilities. The study found that technological, tactical, operational and doctrinal changes have led to a change in the demand for personnel. Furthermore, the study suggests that the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups are less likely to meet the requirements of the modern U.S. military.
The obligations of military employment are many. Full-time military employment normally requires a minimum period of service of several years; between two and six years is typical of armed forces in Australia, the UK and the US, for example, depending on role, branch, and rank.
Some armed forces allow a short discharge
window, normally during training, when recruits may leave the armed force as of right.
Alternatively, part-time military employment, known as reserve service
, allows a recruit to maintain a civilian job while training under military discipline at weekends; he or she may be called out to deploy on operations
to supplement the full-time personnel complement. After leaving the armed forces, recruits may remain liable for compulsory return to full-time military employment in order to train or deploy on operations
introduces offences not recognised by civilian courts, such as absence without leave (AWOL)
, desertion, political acts, malingering
, behaving disrespectfully, and disobedience (see, for example, offences against military law in the United Kingdom
Penalties range from a summary reprimand
to imprisonment for several years following a court martial
Certain fundamental rights are also restricted or suspended, including the freedom of association (e.g. union organizing) and freedom of speech (speaking to the media).
Military personnel in some countries have a right of conscientious objection
if they believe an order is immoral or unlawful, or cannot in good conscience carry it out.
Personnel may be posted to bases in their home country or overseas, according to operational need, and may be deployed from those bases on exercises
anywhere in the world. During peacetime, when military personnel are generally stationed in garrisons
or other permanent military facilities, they mostly conduct administrative tasks, training
activities, technology maintenance
, and recruitment
Finnish and American soldiers train together in arctic conditions in Lapland, Finland
, as part of Cold Weather Basic Operation Course, January 6–16, 2015
conditions recruits for the demands of military life, including preparedness to injure and kill other people, and to face mortal danger without fleeing. It is a physically and psychologically intensive process which resocializes
recruits for the unique nature of military demands. For example:
- Individuality is suppressed (e.g. by shaving the head of new recruits, issuing uniforms, denying privacy, and prohibiting the use of first names);
- Daily routine is tightly controlled (e.g. recruits must make their beds, polish boots, and stack their clothes in a certain way, and mistakes are punished);
- Continuous stressors deplete psychological resistance to the demands of their instructors (e.g. depriving recruits of sleep, food, or shelter, shouting insults and giving orders intended to humiliate)
- Frequent punishments serve to condition group conformity and discourage poor performance;
- The disciplined drill instructor is presented as a role model of the ideal soldier.
The next requirement comes as a fairly basic need for the military to identify possible threats
it may be called upon to face. For this purpose, some of the commanding forces and other military, as well as often civilian personnel participate in identification of these threats. This is at once an organization, a system and a process collectively called military intelligence
An important part of the military intelligence role is the military analysis performed to assess military capability
of potential future aggressors, and provide combat modelling that helps to understand factors on which comparison of forces can be made. This helps to quantify and qualify such statements as: "China
maintain the largest armed forces in the World" or that "the U.S. Military
is considered to be the world's strongest".
Although some groups engaged in combat, such as militants or resistance movements
, refer to themselves using military terminology, notably 'Army' or 'Front', none have had the structure of a national military to justify the reference, and usually have had to rely on support of outside national militaries. They also use these terms to conceal from the MI their true capabilities, and to impress potential ideological recruits.
Having military intelligence representatives participate in the execution of the national defence policy is important, because it becomes the first respondent and commentator on the policy expected strategic goal
, compared to the realities of identified threats
. When the intelligence reporting is compared to the policy, it becomes possible for the national leadership to consider allocating resources over and above the officers and their subordinates military pay, and the expense of maintaining military facilities and military support services for them.
A pie chart showing global military expenditures by country for 2018, in US$ billions, according to SIPRI
Military expenditure of 2014 in USD
The process of allocating resources is conducted by determining a military budget
, which is administered by a military finance organization within the military. Military procurement is then authorized to purchase or contract provision of goods and services to the military, whether in peacetime at a permanent base, or in a combat zone from local population.
Capability development, which is often referred to as the military 'strength', is arguably one of the most complex activities known to humanity; because it requires determining: strategic, operational, and tactical capability requirements to counter the identified threats; strategic, operational
, and tactical doctrines by which the acquired capabilities will be used; identifying concepts, methods, and systems involved in executing the doctrines; creating design specifications for the manufacturers who would produce these in adequate quantity and quality for their use in combat; purchase the concepts, methods, and systems; create a forces structure that would use the concepts, methods, and systems most effectively and efficiently; integrate these concepts, methods, and systems into the force structure by providing military education
, and practice
that preferably resembles combat environment of intended use; create military logistics
systems to allow continued and uninterrupted performance of military organizations
under combat conditions, including provision of health services to the personnel, and maintenance for the equipment; the services to assist recovery of wounded personnel, and repair of damaged equipment; and finally, post-conflict demobilization
, and disposal of war stocks surplus to peacetime requirements.
Development of military doctrine
is perhaps the more important of all capability development activities, because it determines how military forces are used in conflicts, the concepts and methods used by the command to employ appropriately military skilled, armed
personnel in achievement of the tangible goals and objectives of the war
, engagement, and action.
The line between strategy and tactics is not easily blurred, although deciding which is being discussed had sometimes been a matter of personal judgement by some commentators, and military historians. The use of forces at the level of organization between strategic and tactical is called operational mobility
Because most of the concepts and methods used by the military, and many of its systems are not found in commercial branches, much of the material is researched, designed, developed, and offered for inclusion in arsenals
by military science
organizations within the overall structure of the military. Military scientists are therefore found to interact with all Arms and Services of the armed forces, and at all levels of the military hierarchy of command.
These supply points are also used to provide military engineering
services, such as the recovery of defective and derelict vehicles and weapons, maintenance of weapons in the field, the repair and field modification of weapons and equipment; and in peacetime, the life-extension programmes undertaken to allow continued use of equipment. One of the most important role of logistics is the supply of munitions
as a primary type of consumable, their storage, and disposal
The primary reason for the existence of the military is to engage in combat
, should it be required to do so by the national defence policy, and to win. This represents an organisational goal of any military, and the primary focus for military thought through military history
. How victory
is achieved, and what shape it assumes, is studied by most, if not all, military groups on three levels.
The Maratha Navy
, which is considered to be the foundation of the modern Indian Navy
, often employed land and sea coordination tactics when attacking, which won them many battles against the Mughals
is the management of forces in wars
and military campaigns
by a commander-in-chief
, employing large military forces, either national and allied as a whole, or the component elements of armies
and air forces
; such as army groups
, naval fleets
, and large numbers of aircraft
. Military strategy is a long-term projection of belligerents' policy, with a broad view of outcome implications, including outside the concerns of military command. Military strategy is more concerned with the supply of war
and planning, than management of field forces and combat between them. The scope of strategic military planning can span weeks, but is more often months or even years.
The operational level is at a scale bigger than one where line of sight and the time of day are important, and smaller than the strategic level, where production and politics are considerations. Formations are of the operational level if they are able to conduct operations on their own, and are of sufficient size to be directly handled or have a significant impact at the strategic level. This concept was pioneered by the German
army prior to and during the Second World War
. At this level, planning and duration of activities takes from one week to a month, and are executed by Field Armies
and Army Corps
and their naval and air equivalents.
One of the oldest military publications is The Art of War
, by the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu
Written in the 6th century BCE, the 13-chapter book is intended as military instruction, and not as military theory
, but has had a huge influence on Asian military doctrine, and from the late 19th century, on European and United States military planning
. It has even been used to formulate business tactics, and can even be applied in social and political areas.[where?]
Due to the changing nature of combat with the introduction of artillery
in the European Middle Ages
, and infantry firearms in the Renaissance
, attempts were made to define and identify those strategies, grand tactics
, and tactics that would produce a victory more often than that achieved by the Romans in praying to the gods before the battle.
strategy forms the plan of the War, and to this end it links together the series of acts which are to lead to the final decision, that is to say, it makes the plans for the separate campaigns and regulates the combats to be fought in each.
The meaning of military tactics has changed over time; from the deployment and manoeuvring of entire land armies on the fields of ancient battles, and galley fleets; to modern use of small unit ambushes
attacks, frontal assaults
, air assaults
, hit-and-run tactics
used mainly by guerrilla
forces, and, in some cases, suicide attacks
on land and at sea. Evolution of aerial warfare
introduced its own air combat tactics
. Often, military deception
, in the form of military camouflage
or misdirection using decoys
, is used to confuse the enemy as a tactic.
A major development in infantry tactics
came with the increased use of trench warfare
in the 19th and 20th centuries. This was mainly employed in World War I
in the Gallipoli campaign
, and the Western Front
. Trench warfare often turned to a stalemate, only broken by a large loss of life, because, in order to attack an enemy entrenchment, soldiers had to run through an exposed 'no man's land
' under heavy fire from their opposing entrenched enemy.
As with any occupation, since the ancient times, the military has been distinguished from other members of the society by their tools, the military weapons, and military equipment
used in combat. When Stone Age
humans first took a sliver of flint to tip the spear
, it was the first example of applying technology
to improve the weapon.
Since then, the advances made by human societies, and that of weapons, has been irretrievably linked. Stone weapons gave way to Bronze Age
weapons, and later, the Iron Age
weapons. With each technological change, was realized some tangible increase in military capability, such as through greater effectiveness of a sharper edge in defeating leather armour
, or improved density of materials
used in manufacture of weapons.
Arguably, the greatest invention that affected not just the military, but all society, after adoption of fire, was the wheel
, and its use in the construction of the chariot
. There were no advances in military technology, until, from the mechanical arm action of a slinger, the Greeks
, etc., developed the siege engines
. The bow
was manufactured in increasingly larger and more powerful versions, to increase both the weapon range, and armour penetration performance. These developed into the powerful composite and recurve bows, and crossbows of Ancient China
. These proved particularly useful during the rise of cavalry, as horsemen encased in ever-more sophisticated armour
came to dominate the battlefield.
Somewhat earlier, in medieval China, gunpowder
had been invented, and was increasingly used by the military in combat. The use of gunpowder in the early vase-like mortars
in Europe, and advanced versions of the long bow
and cross bow
, which all had armour-piercing arrowheads
, that put an end to the dominance of the armoured knight. After the long bow, which required great skill and strength to use, the next most significant technological advance was the musket
, which could be used effectively, with little training. In time, the successors to muskets and cannon
, in the form of rifles
, would become core battlefield technology.
As the speed of technological advances accelerated in civilian applications, so too warfare became more industrialized
. The newly invented machine gun
and repeating rifle
on the battlefield, and, in part, explains the high casualty rates of the American Civil War
. The next breakthrough was the conversion of artillery parks from the muzzle loading guns
, to the quicker loading breech loading guns
with recoiling barrel that allowed quicker aimed fire and use of a shield. The widespread introduction of low smoke (smokeless) propellant powders since the 1880s also allowed for a great improvement of artillery ranges.
The development of breech loading had the greatest effect on naval warfare
, for the first time since the Middle Ages, altering the way weapons are mounted on warships
, and therefore naval tactics
, now divorced from the reliance on sails
with the invention of the internal combustion
. A further advance in military naval technology was the design of the submarine
, and its weapon, the torpedo
During World War I
, the need to break the deadlock of trench warfare saw the rapid development of many new technologies, particularly tanks
. Military aviation
was extensively used, and bombers
became decisive in many battles of World War II
, which marked the most frantic period of weapons development in history. Many new designs, and concepts were used in combat, and all existing technologies of warfare were improved between 1939 and 1945.
After World War II, with the onset of the Cold War
, the constant technological development of new weapons was institutionalized, as participants engaged in a constant 'arms race
' in capability development. This constant state of weapons development continues into the present, and remains a constant drain on national resources, which some[who?]
blame on the military–industrial complex
The most significant technological developments that influenced combat have been the guided missiles, which can be used by all branches of the armed services. More recently, information technology
, and its use in surveillance
, including space-based reconnaissance systems, have played an increasing role in military operations.
The impact of information warfare
that focuses on attacking command communication systems, and military databases, has been coupled with the new development in military technology, has been the use of robotic systems in intelligence combat, both in hardware and software applications.
Recently, there has also been a particular focus towards the use of renewable fuels
for running military vehicles on. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable fuels can be produced in any country, creating a strategic advantage. The US military
has committed itself to have 50% of its energy consumption come from alternative sources.
As part of society
, member of the Japanese warrior caste
For much of military history
, the armed forces were considered to be for use by the heads of their societies, until recently, the crowned heads of states. In a democracy or other political system run in the public interest, it is a public force
The relationship between the military and the society
it serves is a complicated and ever-evolving one. Much depends on the nature of the society itself, and whether it sees the military as important, as for example in time of threat or war, or a burdensome expense typified by defence cuts in time of peace.
Militaries often function as societies
within societies, by having their own military communities, economies
, and other aspects of a functioning civilian society
. Although a 'military' is not limited to nations in of itself as many private military companies
(or PMC's) can be used or 'hired' by organizations and figures as security, escort, or other means of protection; where police, agencies, or militaries are absent or not trusted.
Ideology and ethics
Militarist ideology is the society
's social attitude
of being best served, or being a beneficiary of a government
, or guided by concepts embodied in the military culture, doctrine, system
, or leaders
Ethics of warfare have developed since 1945, to create constraints on the military treatment of prisoners and civilians, primarily by the Geneva Conventions
; but rarely apply to use of the military forces as internal security troops during times of political conflict that results in popular protests and incitement to popular uprising
Military actions are sometimes argued to be justified by furthering a humanitarian cause, such as disaster relief
operations, or in defence of refugees. The term military humanism
is used to refer to such actions.
Armed forces of the world
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