Latvian National Armed Forces

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Latvian National Armed Forces
Nacionālie Bruņotie Spēki
Coat of Arms of Latvian National Armed Forces.svg
Emblem of the Latvian National Armed Forces
Founded July 10, 1919; 99 years ago (1919-07-10)
Current form August 23, 1991; 26 years ago (1991-08-23)
Service branches Land Forces
Naval Forces
Air Force
National Guard
Headquarters Riga
President Raimonds Vējonis
Minister of Defence Raimonds Bergmanis
Commander of the Joint Headquarters Lieutenant general Leonīds Kalniņš[1]
Military age 18
Active personnel 5,500 regular and 8,000 National Guard
Reserve personnel 7,800
Deployed personnel See current operations
Budget €576.34 million (2018)[2]
Percent of GDP 2% (2018)[2]
Related articles
Ranks Military ranks of Latvia

The Latvian National Armed Forces (Latvian: Nacionālie Bruņotie Spēki) are the armed forces of the Republic of Latvia. Latvia's defense concept is based on a mobile professional rapid response force and reserve segment that can be called upon relatively fast for mobilization should the need arise. The National Armed Forces consists of Land Forces, Naval Forces, Air Force and National Guard. Its main tasks are to protect the territory of the State; participate in international military operations; and to prevent threats to national security.[3]


The mission of the National Armed Forces (NAF) is to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation and to defend its population against foreign or domestic armed aggression. In order to implement these tasks, the NAF provide for the defence of the nation, its air space and national territorial waters, participate in large scale crisis response operations, perform emergency rescue operations, and participate in international peacekeeping operations.

The main mission of the National Armed Forces is to:

  • Provide for the inviolability of all national territory, its waters and air space;
  • Participate in international operations;
  • Participate in national threat elimination;
  • Provide for the training of personnel and military reserves.
  • Ensure modernization and enhancement of professional combat training;


The Latvian armed forces were first formed after the new state was created after World War I. At the end of the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920), the Latvian Army consisted of 69,232 men.

In terms of equipment, Latvian military during its first independence period (1919-1940) period was armed mostly with British weapons and gear. The average Latvian infantry soldier in 1930's is believed to have carried 31,4 kg of equipment in winter, and around 29,1 kg in summer time. The main service rifle was British Pattern 1914 Enfield , and standard issue ammunition for 1 infantry soldier was 45 rounds of .303 (7,7mm) caliber. Latvian infantry had access to 3 different types of hand grenades (defense, attack and rifle grenades). In terms of machine guns, Latvian army had acquired wide variety of machine guns in different calibers from various means : trophies from the enemy during the war of independence, allied donations and later official state purchases. For light machine guns these included French Chauchat , Danish Madsen , and British Lewis gun (which became the main light machine gun for Latvian army). The main Heavy machine gun was British Vickers machine gun in .303 (7,7mm) caliber, although army also kept Russian PM M1910 machine guns in reserve. In general, Latvian army was lacking in automatic weapons of all calibers, and the ones it did have had were becoming increasingly outdated towards the start of World war 2 (most of the weapons in service were from World war 1 era). In terms of heavy weapons, Latvian military had acquired a rather large number of different artillery systems in different calibers. In terms of numbers, Latvian army had around 400 artillery pieces in total (although most of these were outdated and worn out due to heavy use and age). The main artillery gun for infantry support was British Ordnance QF 18-pounder field gun and British QF 4.5-inch howitzer , although there were also several types of French and Russian artillery field guns in reserve. For anti-tank weapons, in 1938 Latvian army received Austrian 47 mm Cannone da 47/32 anti-tank cannons , which were reasonably effective against early World war 2 tanks. For infantry mortars, Latvian army purchased a number of 81mm mortars from Finland somewhere around late 1930's, but its unclear how many were delivered and in service at the start of World war 2. In terms of vehicles, Latvian military was seriously lacking in motorized transport , and thus had to rely mostly on railroads and horse drawn carriages for most of its logistic needs. Military leadership did make some efforts to solve this problem at the end of 1930's (purchasing a small number of cars, trucks , artillery tractors and motorbikes), but at the start of World war 2 Latvian military still only had a small portion of its forces that had access to motorized vehicles. In terms of armored vehicles, Latvian military had 6 armored trains, 18 examples of Carden Loyd tankette, 6 armored cars, and 27 tanks (of varies designs). In terms of air power, Latvian air force before had around 52 fighters planes, 48 scout planes, of these only 25 were relatively modern Gloster Gladiator fighters.[4]

After the Soviet occupation of Latvia in June 1940 the annihilation of the Latvian army began. The army was renamed the People’s Army and in September–November 1940- the Red Army’s 24th Territorial Rifle Corps. The corps comprised the 181st and 183rd Rifle Divisions. In September the corps contained 24,416 men but in autumn more than 800 officers and about 10,000 instructors and soldiers were discharged. The arrests of soldiers continued in the following months. In June 1940, the entire Territorial Corps was sent to Litene camp. Before leaving the camp, Latvians drafted in 1939 were demobilised, and replaced by about 4,000 Russian soldiers from the area around Moscow. On June 10, the corps' senior officers were sent to Russia where they were arrested and most of them shot. On June 14 at least 430 officers were arrested and sent to Gulag camps. After the German attack against the Soviet Union, from June 29 to July 1 more than 2080 Latvian soldiers were demobilised, fearing that they might turn their weapons against the Russian commissars and officers. Simultaneously, many soldiers and officers deserted and when the corps crossed the Latvian border only about 3,000 Latvian soldiers remained.[5]


Structure of the Latvian Armed Forces 2017

National Armed Forces consist of:

The Security Service of Parliament and State President was a part of the National Armed Forces until its merger with the Military Police in 2009.


Latvian National Armed Forces consist of the Regular Force, National Guard and Reserve. On January 1, 2007, conscription was abolished and since then the Regular Force consists of only professional soldiers. Recruits must be 18 years of age or older. As of June 2018, there were 5500 active duty soldiers, 8000 national guards.[3] By the end of 2017, there were 7800 registered reserve soldiers, of whom about 5000 were retired professional soldiers. According to the National Defence Concept, the National Armed Forces are to maintain 17500 militarily trained personnel, including 6500 professional soldiers, 8000 National Guards and 3000 (trained) reserve soldiers. Reserve training began in 2015.[6][7]


International cooperation[edit]

Along with providing for national defence, the NAF will also react immediately to threats to other allies and to international crises.

Latvia cooperates with Estonia and Lithuania in the joint infantry battalion BALTBAT and naval squadron BALTRON which are available for peacekeeping operations.

Currently, NATO is involved in the patrolling and protection of the Latvian air space as the Latvian military does not have the means to do so. For this goal a rotating force of four NATO fighters, which comes from different nations and switches at two or three month intervals, is based in Lithuania to cover all three Baltic states (see Baltic Air Policing).

Current operations[edit]

Deployment Organization Operation Personnel[8]
Somalia Somalia EU Operation Atalanta 1
Mali Mali EU EUTM Mali 3
Afghanistan Afghanistan NATO Operation Resolute Support 36
Libya Libya EU EU Navfor Med 1
Mali Mali UN MINUSMA 9
Iraq Iraq CJTF Operation Inherent Resolve 6


Latvian National Armed forces soldiers during the exercise “Silver Arrow 2017”

After joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Latvia has undertaken obligations to strengthen common defence within the scope of its capabilities. For this purpose, every NATO member state delegates its military formations — fast response, well-armed and well-equipped units capable to operate beyond the NATO’s borders.

After joining NATO, the foundation of the Latvian defence system has shifted from total territorial defence to collective defence. Latvia has acquired small but highly professional troop units that have been fully integrated into NATO structures. NAF soldiers have participated in international operations since 1996. Specialized units (e.g. units of military medics, military police, unexploded ordnance neutralizers, military divers and special forces) have been established in order to facilitate and enhance NAF participation in international operations. Special attention has been paid to establishing a unit to deal with the identification and clearance of nuclear pollution. The successful participation of Latvian soldiers in international exercises, operations and missions demonstrates that their professional skills already comply with the performance requirements set by the Alliance.


  1. ^ "NBS Vadība". Retrieved 23 February 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Latvia's defence spending to reach 2% of GDP in 2018". Retrieved 20 January 2018. 
  3. ^ a b "Fact sheet "Latvian National Armed Forces" (2018)". Retrieved 6 August 2018. 
  4. ^ Andersons, Edgars (2006). Armed Forces of Latvia and their historical background . Riga: Daugavas Vanagi. p. 520. ISBN 9984794555. 
  5. ^ Bleiere, Daina; Ilgvars Butulis; Antonijs Zunda; Aivars Stranga; Inesis Feldmanis (2006). History of Latvia : the 20th century. Riga: Jumava. p. 327. ISBN 9984-38-038-6. OCLC 70240317. 
  6. ^ Īvāns, Ansis (20 December 2017). "'2% no IKP: Kā mūs aizsargās?' No 8 tūkstošiem rezerves karavīru trīs gados iemaņas atjaunojuši 357". (in Latvian). Retrieved 6 August 2018. 
  7. ^ "The National Defence Concept". Riga. 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2018. 
  8. ^ "Nacionālie bruņotie spēki". 

External links[edit]