Armed forces

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Ramses II at Kadesh.jpgGustavus Adolphus at the Battle at Breitenfeld.jpgM1A1 abrams front.jpg Military history

The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nation's armed forces. Armed force is the use of armed forces to achieve political objectives.

The study of the use of armed forces is called military science. Broadly speaking, this involves considering offense and defense at three "levels": strategy, operational art, and tactics. All three levels study the application of the use of force in order to achieve a desired objective.


In most countries the armed forces are divided into three or four Armed Services: an army, a navy, an air force, and often a gendarmerie or a paramilitary police force. Gendarmeries (including equivalents such as Internal Troops, Paramilitary Forces, etc.) are common in most of the world but are uncommon in Anglo-Saxon countries. A number of countries have no navy, for geographical reasons.

Many countries have a variation on the standard model of three or four basic Armed Services. Variations include China (army, navy, air force, strategic missile force), South Africa (army, navy, air force, military health service), India (army, navy, air force, coast guard), Egypt (army, navy, air force, air defense) or the Netherlands (army, navy, air force, military police). The United States has five (army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard), like Italy (army, navy, air force, military police and financial police). In Germany, the defense part of the Bundeswehr consists of the Army (Heer), Navy (Marine), Air Force (Luftwaffe), Joint Support Service (Streitkräftebasis), and Central Medical Services (Zentraler Sanitätsdienst).

In larger armed forces the culture between the different Armed Services of a country's armed forces can be quite different.

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