Spain Military

Spain is a country located in the southwestern part of Europe and is known for its strong military and defense. The Spanish Armed Forces (Ejército de Tierra, Armada Española, Ejército del Aire) is the military branch of the country and consists of three branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force. The total active personnel stands at around 76,000 with an additional reserve force of around 52,000 personnel. Spain has a higher defense budget compared to its GDP as it spends about 1.2% of its GDP on defense. The country also imports weapons from countries such as France, Germany, and Italy. Spain also has strong ties with other countries in the region such as Portugal and Morocco which allows them to cooperate militarily when needed. As a result of this strong military presence in the region Spain has become an important regional hub for security and stability in Southern Europe. See naturegnosis to learn more about the country of Spain.


Spanish security and defense policy rests on membership of the UN, NATO and the EU. Terrorism, conflicts in the Middle East, northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, and migrant flows dominate the country’s security policy. Spain is active in the development of the EU Common Border and Coast Guard and in the operational cooperation of the European Union Border Control Authority for the External Borders: European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex.

Spain regularly contributes to crisis management efforts led by NATO, the EU and the UN. The defense is integrated with NATO’s joint defense. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that ESP stands for Spain.

Spain Army

Like most Western defense forces, the Spanish defense force has been reduced over the past 20 years to develop smaller, interdependent, professional forces. The military duty was abolished in 2001 and replaced by a staff supply on a voluntary basis.

In 2015, the Armed Forces comprised approximately 130,000 people and 16,000 reservists. Since the end of the 1980s, women in the armed forces have been allowed and in 2012 women accounted for 12.1 percent of the total workforce.

In 2016, defense costs accounted for around 0.9 percent of GDP, which is equivalent to about $ 11 billion. Spain thus has the eighth largest defense budget of NATO member states. The army is organized into four regional staffs and two divisions of division size. The mechanized division consists of an armored brigade and two mechanized brigades. The Rapid Response Force consists of five light brigades including one brigade from the Spanish Alien Legion. Spain is also responsible for one of NATO’s nine corps headquarters.

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Local infantry include three infantry brigades and bandits on the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean. The army comprises a total of about 75,000 soldiers. The army disposes of more than 300 tanks, 80 heavy armored vehicles, 350 tanks, more than 100 band artillery pieces and a dozen attack helicopters. Combat vehicles and artillery are manufactured in Spain. The Navy includes a small aircraft carrier, four submarines, 11 frigates and seven mine clearance vessels, a number of support vessels and a naval infantry brigade supported by three ascent ships. A large part of the navy’s vessels are manufactured at Spanish shipyards. See for Spain politics system.

The Air Force comprises 145 fighter aircraft Eurofighter and Hornet. There are also 16 Harrier II attack planes in the Navy. The Air Force also has a number of tankers and transport planes, including Hercules and A400M.

Guardia Civil is a militarily organized police force, the so-called gendarmerie, which comprises about 80,000 people and is governed by both the Interior and Defense Ministries. Guardia Civil together with the civilian national, regional and municipal police forces constitute Spain’s police department. Guardia Civil is the oldest law enforcement organization in Spain and is mainly responsible for police duties in rural and border areas. They also have some traffic police information.

The US has two bases in Spain. Rota is the main base in Europe for US Navy vessels capable of firing down ballistic robots. At the Morón base near Seville, a base is established for US air forces and the US Navy. The Morón base is an important base for US operations in Africa.

Spain has one of Europe’s oldest defenses. The army and navy were founded in the 15th century. Following the abolition of military service in Spain in 2001, the country received a professional defense in 2002. Spain has been a member of NATO since 1982, although membership was formally ratified following a referendum in 1986. In addition, Spain’s defense participates in the Euro Corps and in the European Union. Combat Groups.

US A has had both Navy and Air Force forces deployed in Spain since the 1950s, and also a military base in Rota (Cadiz) since 1953. Spain participates in the upgrading of NATO’s missile shield over Europe through the military base in Rota. In addition, the military base in Zaragoza was used by the United States in the period 1958–1994, and Torrejón (Madrid) was used until 1996. Spain and the United States also share the military base in Morón (Seville).

In total, Spain’s armed forces have 120,350 active personnel, with a reserve of 15,150 personnel (2018, IISS). The Civil Guard Guardia Civil has 75,800 personnel, and cooperates with the defense, but is not formally part of it. Guardia Civil is subject to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, not the Ministry of Defense.


Spain’s army is one of Europe’s oldest, and was founded in the 15th century. The army has 69,250 active personnel. Several special units fall under the Army:

  • Spanish Foreign Legion(La Legión)
  • Parachute Brigade(BRIPAC)
  • Special Operations Group (GOE)
  • The Mountain Company (Esquiadores Escaladores)
  • Special forces Regularesin Ceuta and Melilla on the African continent

Army material comprises 327 tanks of a Leopard 2, 227 armored vehicles, 895 armored personnel carriers, 96 self-propelled artillery central M109, 105 helicopters, 21 of combat helicopters of the type EC665 Tiger, and six intermediate heavy drones. In addition, the army has heavy artillery, long-range anti-aircraft missiles and anti-aircraft artillery.

Navy (Armada)

The Spanish Navy has 20,100 active personnel, including 5350 Marines and 850 personnel associated with the Navy’s Air Force. The fleet includes three tactical submarines, one amphibious assault ship (Juan Carlos 1), two Rotterdam-class dock landings (13,800 tonnes), five fighters, six frigates, 23 patrol vessels, six minesweepers, 12 landings, and 29 logistics and auxiliary vessels.

The Navy’s aircraft have a total of 13 V/STOL fighters of the type Harrier II, 21 helicopters, and seven light aircraft.

The navy’s main bases are in Rota and San Fernando (Cadiz), and in Ferrol (Galicia). The Navy’s submarine base is located in Cartagena (Murcia)

During the colonial period, the Spanish navy played an important role (1500s to 1800s), including with the voyages to Cristóbal Colón (also Kristoffer Columbus), the world’s first land voyage led by Portuguese Fernando Magallanes and the discovery of the sea route between Asia and America.

The naval school ship is Juan Sebastian de Elcano, based in San Fernando.

Air Force

The Air Force has 19 350 active personnel. Material comprising 83 fighters (64 Eurofighter Typhoon and 19 F-5 FreedomFighter), 84 fighter aircraft of type F/A-18 Hornet, 11 maritime patrol five EK aircraft, two reconnaissance aircraft, five tanker, 77 transport, 98 trainers, and 40 transport helicopters.

The Royal Life Guard (Guardia Real)

The Royal Guard is a traditional special force composed of troops from the Army, Navy and Air Force. It aims to protect the royal family, foreign heads of state and royal palaces. The Livestock was founded in 1504, under Ferdinand and Isabella, the royal couple who brought Spain into one kingdom.

Emergency emergency unit

The Emergency Emergency Unit (Unidad Militar de Emergencias) is a newer special force, established in 2005, whose main purpose is to deal with disasters. The unit consists of around 3500 people.

International operations

In 2018, Spain participated in NATO operations in Afghanistan (Operation Resolute Support) with 40 personnel, in the Mediterranean with a fighter (SNMG2), and had deployed 300 personnel in Latvia (Enhanced Forward Presence).

Spain also participated in the UN operation in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 630 personnel.

In addition, Spain had among other things deployed 350 personnel in Iraq (Operation Inherent Resolve).