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Spain Military - 2024


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Military and security forces

Spanish Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas de España): Army (Ejército de Tierra), Spanish Navy (Armada Espanola; includes Marine Corps), Air and Space Force (Ejército del Aire y del Espacio), Emergency Response Unit (Unidad Militar de Emergencias); Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) (2024)

note 1: the Civil Guard is a military force with police duties (including coast guard) under both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior; it also responds to the needs of the Ministry of Finance

note 2: the Emergency Response Unit was established in 2006 as a separate branch of service for responding to natural disasters and providing disaster relief both domestically and abroad; it has personnel from all the other military services

note 3: the Spanish National Police (Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, CNP) and the Civil Guard maintain internal security as well as migration and border enforcement under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior; the regional police under the authority of the Catalan and the Basque Country regional governments and municipal police throughout the country also support domestic security 

note 4: the military has a Common Corps of four specialized corps that provide professional services to all the branches of the Armed Forces and the Civil Guard, including comptroller, legal, medical, and music services

note 5: the Royal Guard is an independent regiment of the military dedicated to the protection of the King and members of the royal family; it is made up of members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Common Corps

Military expenditures

1.2% of GDP (2023 est.)
1.2% of GDP (2022)
1% of GDP (2021)
1% of GDP (2020)
0.9% of GDP (2019)

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 120,000 active-duty troops (72,000 Army; 25,000 Navy, including about 5,500 marines; 23,000 Air and Space Force); 80,000 Guardia Civil (2023)

note: military figures include about 3,500 Emergency Response Unit and 1,500-2,000 Royal Guard personnel

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the military's inventory is comprised of domestically produced and imported Western weapons systems; in recent years, leading suppliers have included France, Germany, and the US; Spain's defense industry manufactures land, air, and sea weapons systems and is integrated within the European defense-industrial sector (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service for men and women; 24-36 month initial obligation; women allowed to serve in all branches, including combat units; no conscription (abolished 2001), but the Spanish Government retains the right to mobilize citizens 19-25 years of age in a national emergency; 18-58 for the voluntary reserves (2024)

note 1: as of 2023, women comprised about 13% of the military's full-time personnel

note 2: the military recruits foreign nationals with residency in Spain from countries of its former empire, including Argentina, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela

Military deployments

approximately 200 Iraq (NATO/EU training assistance); up to 600 Latvia (NATO); 650 Lebanon (UNIFIL); approximately 200 Romania (NATO); approximately 500 Mali (EUTM); 150 Turkey (NATO) (2023)

note 1: as of 2023, up to 3,000 Spanish soldiers and civil guards were deployed on 17 missions on four continents 

note 2:
in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some NATO countries, including Spain, have sent additional troops and equipment to the battlegroups deployed in NATO territory in eastern Europe

Military - note

the Spanish Armed Forces have a wide variety of responsibilities, including protecting the country’s national interests, sovereignty, and territory, providing support during natural disasters, and fulfilling Spain’s responsibilities to European and international security; the military conducts operations worldwide, and its air, ground, and naval forces participate in a variety of EU-, NATO-, and UN-led missions; Spain joined NATO in 1982 and is fully integrated into the NATO structure; it routinely conducts exercises with EU and NATO partners, and hosts one of NATO’s two combined air operations centers 

the military is organized into commands for air, cyberspace, joint, land, maritime, and space operations; it also has a separate Emergency Response Unit, a permanent joint service force designed to respond to catastrophes and emergencies in both domestic and overseas environments; the Army is the largest service and has two divisional headquarters with several subordinate brigades of mechanized infantry and one of paratroopers; there are also separate commands for air defense, artillery, aviation, mountain troops, and special operations forces, as well as for the garrison units in the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, and Melilla

the basic structure of the Navy’s operational units includes surface and action forces, aviation and submarine flotillas, and a marine corps; the Surface Combat Force includes amphibious, mine warfare, surface warship, and escort squadrons and groups, while the Maritime Action Force is generally made up of units and assets whose main task is to conduct maritime security and surveillance operations in geographically based areas such as the Balearic and Canary islands, Cadiz, and Cartagena; the Navy’s principal warships include 11 frigates, four attack submarines, and three large helicopter-capable amphibious assault ships; it also has squadrons of multirole fighters and anti-submarine warfare aircraft; the 5,500-strong Marine Corps (aka Marine Infantry or Infantería de Armada) has amphibious, garrison, and special operations forces

the Air Force is organized into an Air Combat Command, home to the air combat squadrons, a General Air Command, and a Canary Islands Air Command; it has approximately 400 aircraft, including about 170 modern European- and US-made fighters and multirole fighter aircraft; in addition to traditional military operations, the Air Force supports such missions as medical operations, delivering humanitarian aid, evacuations, search and rescue, firefighting, and surveillance

the Spanish military has a rich history that goes back to the 13th century; the Army has an infantry regiment, formed in the 13th century, that is considered the oldest still active military unit in the Western world; the Marine Corps, which traces its roots back to 1537, is the oldest naval infantry force in the World; Spain created a Spanish Legion for foreigners in 1920, but early on the Legion was primarily filled by native Spaniards due to difficulties in recruiting foreigners, and most of its foreign members were from the Republic of Cuba; it was modeled after the French Foreign Legion and its purpose was to provide a corps of professional troops to fight in Spain's colonial campaigns in North Africa; in more recent years, it has been used in NATO peacekeeping deployments; today’s Legion includes a mix of native Spaniards and foreigners with Spanish residency (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding Spain on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Spain 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Spain 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.