House of Commons Library

UK Defence Personnel Statistics

Published Tuesday, November 21, 2017

This note provides details on how UK military service personnel statistics are measured and discusses current and historic strength levels. The Army, Naval and RAF Services are examined, as well as the reserve elements of these services. Statistics on the diversity of the military, inflow and outflow rates, and surplus/deficits of strength against targets are discussed.

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Understanding personnel statistics

There are three main ways to measure the number (strength) of military service personnel. This can be either through the total full time UK Armed Forces, total full time UK Regular Forces, or total trained full time UK Armed Forces. Total full time UK Armed Forces is the most comprehensive: it includes the UK Regular Forces, Gurkhas, and Full Time Reserve personnel.

Chart 1: UK Armed Forces - full time trained and untrained at 1 October 2017. At 1 October 2017 the total strength of the full time trained and untrained UK Armed Forces was 155,474.

Over the years there have been changes to how military personnel are measured. The most recent is the change to how trained strength is measured and reported against targets. Trained strength across all three branches of the UK Armed Forces used to be those people who had completed both phase one and two of training (they had completed basic military training and completed specilist training). From the 1 October 2016 the MOD changed this for the Army: people who had completed phase one training were considered trained.

Chart 2: UK Regular Forces - full time trained and untrained, thousands. At 1 April 2017 the size of the UK Regular Forces was around 50% smaller than in 1980.

The MOD still publishes data on those who have completed phase 2 training (now called Trade Trained) and it is these individuals which are measured against targets. Navy and RAF personnel were not affected by these changes. This breifing takes those people who have completed phase one and two training when considering trained strength.

Chart 3: Gender and Ethnicity - UK Regular Forces full time trained and untrained. At 1 April 2017 there were 15,270 women (10.2%) and 10,680 (7.2%) BAME personnel within the UK Regular Forces.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7930

Author: Noel Dempsey

Topics: Armed forces, Veterans

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