The Danish Defence (Danish: Forsvaret; Faroese: Danska verjan; Greenlandic: Illersuisut; lit.'the Defence') is the unified armed forces of the Kingdom of Denmark charged with the defence of Denmark and its self-governing territories Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The military also promote Denmark's wider interests, support international peacekeeping efforts and provide humanitarian aid.[7]

Danish Defence
MottoFordi noget er værd at kæmpe for
(transl. Because something is worth fighting for)
Founded1949; 75 years ago (1949)
Current formDefence Agreement 2018–23
Service branches Royal Danish Army
Emblem of the Danish Navy Royal Danish Navy
Royal Danish Air Force
Coat of Arms of the Home Guard Home Guard
HeadquartersHolmen Naval Base, Copenhagen, Denmark
WebsiteOfficial Website
Monarch[a]Danish Realm Frederik X
Prime MinisterDanish Realm Mette Frederiksen
Minister of Defence Troels Lund Poulsen
Chief of Defence General Michael Hyldgaard [da] act.
Military age18 for voluntary service
ConscriptionYes, for males
Available for
military service
2,605,137, age 18–49 (2023)
Fit for
military service
2,107,794, age 18–49 (2023)
Reaching military
age annually
76,970[2] (2023)
Active personnel20,439 military & 4,638 civilian (2019)[3]
Reserve personnel12,000 + 51,000 volunteers in the Home Guard
Deployed personnel806 (30 May 2018)[4]
BudgetDKK 60 billion
(€8 billion) (2024)[5]
Percent of GDP2 % (2024)[6]
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of Denmark
RanksArmy ranks
Navy ranks
Air force ranks

Since the creation of a standing military in 1510, the armed forces have seen action in many wars, most involving Sweden, but also involving the world's great powers, including the Thirty Years' War, the Great Northern War, and the Napoleonic Wars.

Today, the armed forces consists of: the Royal Danish Army, Denmark's principal land warfare branch; the Royal Danish Navy, a blue-water navy with a fleet of 20 commissioned ships; and the Royal Danish Air Force, an air force with an operational fleet consisting of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. The Defence also includes the Home Guard. Under the Danish Defence Law[8] the Minister of Defence serves as the commander of Danish Defence (through the Chief of Defence and the Defence Command) and the Danish Home Guard (through the Home Guard Command). De facto the Danish Cabinet is the commanding authority of the Defence, though it cannot mobilize the armed forces, for purposes that are not strictly defence oriented, without the consent of parliament.




Christian IV of Denmark on the warship Trefoldigheden during the Battle of Colberger Heide in 1644

The modern Danish military can be traced back to 1510, with the creation of the permanent Royal Danish Navy. During this time, the Danish Kingdom held considerable territories, including Schleswig-Holstein, Norway, and colonies in Africa and the Americas.[9]

Following the defeat in the Second Schleswig War, the military became a political hot-button issue. Denmark managed to maintain its neutrality during the First World War, with a relative strong military force. However, following the Interwar period, a more pacifistic government came to power, decreasing the size of the military. This resulted in Denmark having a limited military, when Denmark was invaded in 1940.[9]

Since the establishment of the Danish military, the two branches operated independently, without much cooperation. They both had their own ministry, and their own air force.[10] The first proposal for a unified command came in 1928, when Hjalmar Rechnitzer [da] suggested an independent air force, with all three branches collected under a central Rigsværn (transl. Realm Defence).[11] It was however only after the lessons of joint operations in World War II, the branches were reorganized and collected under the newly created Danish Defence.[9]

Cold War and international engagements


Denmark tried to remain neutral after World War II, with the proposed Scandinavian defence union. However, Norway resigned from the talks, and with Cold War tensions on the rise and the 1948 Easter Crisis, Denmark was forced to join the North Atlantic Treaty.[9] During the Cold War, Denmark began to rebuild its military and to prepare for possible attacks by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. During this time Denmark participated in a number of UN peacekeeping missions including UNEF and UNFICYP.

Following the end of the Cold War, Denmark began a more active foreign policy, deciding to participate in international operations. This began with the participation in the Bosnian War, where the Royal Danish Army served as part of the United Nations Protection Force and were in two skirmishes. This was the first time the Danish Army was a part of a combat operation since World War 2.[12][13] On April 29, 1994, the Royal Danish Army, while on an operation to relieve an observation post as part of the United Nations Protection Force, the Jutland Dragoon Regiment came under artillery fire from the town of Kalesija. The United Nations Protection Force quickly returned fire and eliminated the artillery positions. On October 24, 1994, the Royal Danish Army, while on an operation to reinforce an observation post in the town of Gradačac, were fired upon by a T-55 Bosnian Serb tank. One of the three Danish Leopard 1 tanks experienced slight damage, but all returned fired and put the T-55 tank out of action.

With the September 11 attacks, Denmark joined US forces in the War on terror, participating in both the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War. In Afghanistan, 37 soldiers have been killed in various hostile engagements or as a result of friendly fire, and 6 have been killed in non-combat related incidents, bringing the number of Danish fatalities to 43,[14][15] being the highest loss per capita within the coalition forces.[16] Denmark has since participated in Operation Ocean Shield, the 2011 military intervention in Libya and the American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War.

Purpose and task

A Danish soldier at Combined Resolve III, 2014

The purpose of the Danish Defence is to prevent conflicts and war, preserve the sovereignty of Denmark, secure the continuing existence and integrity of the independent Kingdom of Denmark and further a peaceful development in the world with respect to human rights. This is defined in Law no. 122 of 27 February 2001 which took effect 1 March 2001.[17]

Its primary tasks are: NATO participation in accordance with the strategy of the alliance, detect and repel any sovereignty violation of Danish territory (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), defence cooperation with non-NATO members, especially Central and East European countries, international missions in the area of conflict prevention, crisis-control, humanitarian, peacemaking, peacekeeping, participation in Total Defence in cooperation with civilian resources and finally maintenance of a sizable force to execute these tasks at all times.

Total defence


Total Defence (Danish: Totalforsvaret) is "the use of all resources in order to maintain an organized and functional society, and to protect the population and values of society".[18] This is achieved by combining the military, Home Guard, Danish Emergency Management Agency and elements of the police.[19] The concept of total defence was created following World War II, where it was clear that the defence of the country could not only rely on the military, but there also need to be other measures to ensure a continuation of society.[18] As a part of the Total Defence, all former conscripts can be recalled to duty, in order to serve in cases of emergency.[20]

Defence budget


Since 1988, Danish defence budgets and security policy have been set by multi-year white paper agreements supported by a wide parliamentary majority including government and opposition parties.[21] However, public opposition to increases in defence spending—during periods of economic constraints require reduced spending for social welfare — has created differences among the political parties regarding a broadly acceptable level of new defence expenditure.[22]

The latest Defence agreement ("Defence Agreement 2018–23") was signed 28 January 2018, and calls for an increase in spending, cyber security and capabilities to act in international operations and international stabilization efforts.[23] The reaction speed is increased, with an entire brigade on standby readiness; the military retains the capability to continually deploy 2,000 soldiers in international service or 5,000 over a short time span. The standard mandatory conscription is expanded to include 500 more, with some of these having a longer service time, with more focus on national challenges.[23]



In 2006 the Danish military budget was the fifth largest single portion of the Danish Government's total budget, significantly less than that of the Ministry of Social Affairs (≈110 billion DKK), Ministry of Employment (≈67 billion DKK), Ministry of the Interior and Health (≈66 billion DKK) and Ministry of Education (≈30 billion DKK) and only slightly larger than that of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (≈14 billion DKK). This list lists the complete expenditures for the Danish Ministry of Defence.

The Danish Defence Force, counting all branches and all departments, itself has an income equal to about 1–5% of its expenditures, depending on the year. They are not deducted in this listing.

Approximately 95% of the budget goes directly to running the Danish military including the Home guard. Depending on year, 50–53% accounts for payment to personnel, roughly 14–21% on acquiring new material, 2–8% for larger ships, building projects or infrastructure and about 24–27% on other items, including purchasing of goods, renting, maintenance, services and taxes.

The remaining 5% is special expenditures to NATO, branch shared expenditures, special services and civil structures, here in including running the Danish Maritime Safety Administration, Danish Emergency Management Agency and the Administration of Conscientious Objectors (Militærnægteradministrationen Archived 2009-03-23 at the Wayback Machine).

Because Denmark has a small and highly specialized military industry, the vast majority of Danish Defence's equipment is imported from NATO and the Nordic countries.[24]

Danish Defence expenditures (1949–1989)[25][26]

1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s
49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89
Total Budget (Billions) Kr. 0.36 0.36 0.48 0.68 0.89 0.89 0.92 0.94 1.01 0.99 0.99 1.11 1.18 1.55 1.65 1.76 1.97 2.08 2.25 2.60 2.64 2.97 3.20 3.39 3.52 4.46 5.36 5.71 6.38 7.29 8.05 9.12 10.30 11.67 12.57 13.05 13.34 13.33 14.65 15.62 15.96
Percentage of GNP 2.0 1.7 2.1 2.7 3.4 3.2 3.2 3.0 3.1 2.9 2.6 2.7 1.6 3.0 3.0 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.6 2.7 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.2 2.0 2.2 2.4 2.2 2.2 2.3 2.3 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.2 2.1 1.9 2.0 2.1 2.0
Defense Spending % Change -0.3 +0.4 +0.6 +0.7 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 +0.1 -0.2 -0.3 +0.1 -0.9 +1.4 0.0 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 0.0 +0.1 -0.3 0.0 0.0 -0.2 -0.2 +0.2 +0.2 -0.2 0.0 +0.1 0.0 +0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 -0.2 -0.1 -0.2 +0.1 +0.1 -0.1

Danish Defence expenditures (1990–)[25][26][27]

1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Total Budget (Billions) Kr. 16.4 17.09 17.13 17.39 17.29 17.47 17.90 18.52 19.07 19.43 19.34 21.02 21.27 21.08 21.44 20.80 23.17 22.73 24.41 23.25 25.33 24.26 25.62 23.72 25.02 22.633 24.190 25.165 20.938 23.516 25.325 26.383 27.1 27.1
Percentage of GNP 2.0 2.0 1.9 1.9 1.8 1.7 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.3 1.1 1.16 1.17 0.93 1.01 1.14 1.07 1.06 1.05
Defense Spending % Change 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.0. 0.0 -0.1 +0.1 -0.1 0.0. 0.0 -0.2 +0.1 -0.1 +0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0 -0.2 +0.06 +0.01 -0.24 +0.08 +0.13 -0.07 -0.01 -0.01



Royal Danish Army

Leopard 2A5DK main battle tank

The Danish Royal Army (Danish: Hæren) consists of 2 brigades, organised into 3 regiments, and a number of support centres, all commanded through the Army Staff. The army is a mixture of Mechanized infantry and Armoured cavalry with a limited capabilities in Armoured warfare.

The army also provides protection for the Danish royal family, in the form of the Royal Guard Company and the Guard Hussar Regiment Mounted Squadron.

Royal Danish Navy

Vædderen, a Thetis-class patrol vessel

The Royal Danish Navy (Danish: Søværnet) consists of frigates, patrol vessels, mine-countermeasure vessels, and other miscellaneous vessels, many of which are issued with the modular mission payload system StanFlex. The navy's chief responsibility is maritime defence and maintaining the sovereignty of Danish, Greenlandic and Faroese territorial waters.

A submarine service existed within the Royal Danish Navy for 95 years.

Royal Danish Air Force


The Royal Danish Air Force (Danish: Flyvevåbnet) consists of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.

Danish Home Guard


The Home Guard is voluntary service responsible for defence of the country, but has since 2008 also supported the army, in Afghanistan and Kosovo.



Special forces



Red: national, light blue: UN, dark blue: NATO, green: coalitions
Memorial to Danish overseas military deployments in Kastellet, Copenhagen

Current deployment of Danish forces, per 10-03-2016:[29]


  • 20 people in Bamako and Gao, as part of MINUSMA.
  • 13 people in Juba, as part of UNMISS.
  • 11 people in Israel, as part of UNTSO.
  • 2 people in South Korea, as part of UNCMAC.

National Missions






Women in the military

Lt. Line Bonde, the first female fighter pilot in the Royal Danish Air Force

Women in the military can be traced back to 1946, with the creation of Lottekorpset. This corps allowed women to serve, however, without entering with the normal armed forces, and they were not allowed to carry weapons. In 1962, women were allowed in the military.[32]

Currently 1,122 or 7.3% of all personnel in the armed forces are women.[33] Women do not have to serve conscription in Denmark, since 1998, it is however possible to serve under conscription-like circumstances; 17% of those serving conscription or conscription-like are women.[34] Between 1991 and 31 December 2017, 1,965 women have been deployed to different international missions.[35] Of those 3 women have lost their lives.[36] In 1998, Police Constable Gitte Larsen was killed in Hebron on the West Bank. In 2003, Overkonstabel Susanne Lauritzen was killed in a traffic accident in Kosovo. In 2010, the first woman was killed in a combat situation, when Konstabel Sophia Bruun was killed by an IED in Afghanistan.[37]

In 2005, Line Bonde became the first female fighter pilot in Denmark.[38] In 2016, Lone Træholt became the first female general.[39] She was the only female general in the Danish armed forces until the army promoted Jette Albinus to the rank of brigadier general on 11 September 2017.[40] In May 2018, the Royal Life Guards was forced to lower the height requirements for women, as the Danish Institute of Human Rights decided it was discrimination.[41]


A conscript from the Royal Life Guards standing guard at Rosenborg Castle

Technically all Danish 18-year-old males are conscripts (37,897 in 2010, of whom 53% were considered suitable for duty).[42] Due to the large number of volunteers, 96-99% of the number required in the past three years,[43] the number of men actually called up is relatively low (4,200 in 2012). There were additionally 567 female volunteers in 2010, who pass training on "conscript-like" conditions.[44]

Conscripts to Danish Defence (army, navy and air force) generally serve four months,[45][46] except:

There has been a right of conscientious objection since 1917.[50]

See also



  1. ^ "My Constitution Act with Explanations 2013". Folketing. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Statistik - maj 2016".
  3. ^ "Number of employees". (in Danish). Danish Defence. Archived from the original on 2 June 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  4. ^ Danish Defence (30 May 2018). "Forsvaret i verden lige nu". (in Danish). Archived from the original on 19 June 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Danish Defence expenditure 2022".
  6. ^ "Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2012-2019)" (PDF). NATO Public Diplomacy Division. 25 June 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-07-08. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  7. ^ Defence Command Denmark (23 May 2016). "Mission and Objectives". Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  8. ^ "LOV nr 122 af 27/02/2001 om forsvarets formål, opgaver og organisation m.v." (in Danish). Retrieved 2012-07-30.
  9. ^ a b c d Danish Defence (3 February 2014). "Danish Defence's History". (in Danish). Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  10. ^ Olsen 1985, p. 1-2.
  11. ^ Kongstad, Jan O. (2008). Den militære flyvnings udvikling i Danmark 1910-1932 [The development of military aviation in Denmark 1910-1932] (in Danish). p. 73. ISBN 978-87-7674-175-4.
  12. ^ Hansen, Ole Kjeld (1997). "Operation Hooligan-bashing – Danish Tanks at War". Archived from the original on May 23, 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  13. ^ "Yugoslav events chronology". University of Texas at Arlington. 17 March 2000. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  14. ^ "Operation Iraqi Freedom | Iraq | Fatalities By Nationality". iCasualties. 2010-05-28. Archived from the original on 2018-10-22. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
  15. ^ "Dansk soldat er dræbt i Afghanistan". DR. 2011-07-10.
  16. ^ Staff (15 February 2009). "Denmark Lost the Most Troops in Afghanistan". (in Danish). Politiken. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Lov om forsvarets formål, opgaver og organisation m.v." (in Danish). 27 February 2001. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  18. ^ a b Chief of the Army (1972). Grundbog for hærens meninge (in Danish). Copenhagen: S. L. Møllers Bogtrykkeri. p. 19. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  19. ^ Friis, Niels (1 March 2007). "Forsvarsforligets betydning for totalforsvaret" [The Defence Agreement's Effect on the Total Defence]. (in Danish). Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  20. ^ Jydske Dragonregiment. "Hærens Basis Uddnnelse". (in Danish). Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  21. ^ Ministry of Defence (31 January 2018). "Forsvarsforlig". (in Danish). Archived from the original on 9 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  22. ^ Nielsen, Holger K. (19 December 2011). "Nødvendigt at spare på forsvar". (in Danish). Dagbladet Information. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  23. ^ a b Ministry of Defence (14 October 2018). "Agreement for Danish Defence 2018 - 2023". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 9 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  24. ^ Jens Ringsmose (November 2007). "Danmarks NATO omdømme" (PDF). Dansk Institut for Militære Studier. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-10-23.
  25. ^ a b ("Økonomi-styrelsen") (Finance law 1996 to 2006, Danish Agency for Governmental Management)
  26. ^ a b 1976–1989, Danmarks Statistik
  27. ^ Danish Ministry of Defence (8 May 2018). "Defence Economy". (in Danish). Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  28. ^ "Organisation of the Danish Armed Forces". Forsvaret. Danish Defence. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  29. ^ "Danish Defence around the world right now". (in Danish). Forsvaret. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  30. ^ Ussing, Jakob (11 February 2016). "Absalon to be part of NATO fight against human trafficking". (in Danish). Berlinske. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  31. ^ Lindhardt, Søren. "Special Forces training Nigerian special forces". (in Danish). Defence Command. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  32. ^ "Historisk tidslinje for ligebehandlings- og mangfoldighedstiltag i forsvaret" (PDF) (in Danish). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-10-01. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  33. ^ Forsvarsministeriets Personalestyrelse (9 March 2018). "Kvinder i Forsvaret og Beredskabsstyrelsen". (in Danish). Danish Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 1 October 2018. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  34. ^ Forsvarsministeriets Personalestyrelse (25 January 2018). "Værnepligtige i Forsvaret og Beredskabsstyrelsen". (in Danish). Danish Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 23 November 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  35. ^ Forsvarsministeriets Personalestyrelse (22 August 2018). "Udsendte". (in Danish). Danish Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 1 October 2018. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  36. ^ "Danske militære tab i international tjeneste". (in Danish). 31 May 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  37. ^ ""Sophia var en rigtig husar"". (in Danish). JP/Politikens Hus A/S. 2 June 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  38. ^ Brøndum, Christian (6 July 2006). "First Female Fighter Pilot". Berlingske. Berlingske Media. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  39. ^ Johansen, Michelle Birch. "Denmark Gets its First Female General". (in Danish). TV2. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  40. ^ "Hæren har fået sin første kvindelige general" (in Danish). TV2. 11 September 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  41. ^ /ritzau/ (18 May 2018). "Livgarden sænker højdekrav for kvindelige gardere". (in Danish). Berlingske Media. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  42. ^ Statistical information from the draft board (in Danish)
  43. ^ Thomas Klose Jensen. "Frivillig værnepligtig: Det er min drengedrøm". DR.
  44. ^ Ordinary conscript Archived 2012-03-30 at the Wayback Machine (in Danish)
  45. ^ Army's basic training Archived 2017-12-14 at the Wayback Machine (in Danish)
  46. ^ Air force's basic training Archived 2017-12-14 at the Wayback Machine (in Danish)
  47. ^ Forsvarsministeriets Personalestyrelse (29 November 2019). "Nu indfører Forsvaret cyberværnepligt". (in Danish). Archived from the original on 8 December 2019. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  48. ^ Navy's basic training Archived 2017-12-14 at the Wayback Machine (in Danish)
  49. ^ Conscription in the Danish Emergency Management Agency Archived 2014-05-17 at the Wayback Machine (in Danish)
  50. ^ Alternative service law, 13 December 1917, Article 1
  1. ^ Under the current Constitution of Denmark, the role of the Danish monarch as commander-in-chief is implicit; the constitution does not explicitly state that the monarch is the commander-in-chief. It is also of important note that in modern Danish legal parlance, most jurists interpret references to the King in the constitution as to be interpreted as references to the government (consisting of the Prime Minister and other ministers).[1] For more, see Commander-in-chief § Denmark.