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US Naval Academy midshipmen taunt US Military Academy cadets before the 2008 Army-Navy college football game

Interservice rivalry is the rivalry between different branches of a country's armed forces, in other words the competition for limited resources among a nation's land, naval, and air forces.[1] The term also applies to the rivalries between a country’s intelligence services (e.g. CIA and FBI in the United States), or between the police and fire services of a city, such as the NYPD and FDNY.[2]



Interservice rivalries occur at all levels of the military, from the vying for key posts such as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States, Chief of the Defence Staff in the United Kingdom, or Jefe del Estado Mayor de la Defensa in Spain.[citation needed]

Interservice rivalry can occur over such topics as the appropriation of the military budget, prestige or the possession of certain types of weapons.[1] The latter case can arise, for example, when the navy operates an aircraft carrier, which may be viewed by the air force as an infringement of its traditional responsibilities. Another case was the dispute between the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, which erupted when these two branches fought over the ownership of AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters in 2012.[3]

Such rivalries are often seen as negative influences on the effectiveness of a country's armed forces. However, they also serve as a balancing factor, introducing some of the desirable effects of competition to an otherwise traditionally very closed and centralized institution.[citation needed]



Many military analysts consider the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces, pioneers of "jointness" (integrierter Kriegführung, in German). They point out that Blitzkrieg, the war-fighting style that brought the Wehrmacht stunning victories between 1939 and 1941, depended upon the close integration of ground and air (and sometimes naval) forces and that even after the Blitzkrieg campaigns gave way to a drawn-out war of attrition, the Wehrmacht routinely conducted operations in a way that would today be called "joint". That is, elements of two or more services participated in close cooperation with mutually agreed goals, relatively little inter-service rivalry, and a command structure that, at least at the "sharp end" of operations, promoted, rather than inhibited, a spirit of jointness. Consequently, the analysts assert, the Wehrmacht enhanced its capabilities and improved its combat effectiveness.[4]

Hitler certainly understood the value of integrating his land, sea and air forces and placing them under a unified command, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (first under Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg's command; later his own). He also saw the benefit of placing them under operational commanders who possessed at least a rudimentary understanding of the tactics, techniques, needs, capabilities and limitations of each of the services functioning in their combat zone.[5] Hitler was thus innovative and several years ahead of his peers in the democracies, Italy and the Soviet Union. Yet, largely because of Hitler's unusual and autocratic command style and difficulties with delegation, the Wehrmacht lacked elements that today's theorists consider essential to the attainment of truly productive jointness (a single joint commander or Joint Chief of Staff, a proper joint staff, a joint planning process, and an absence of inter-service rivalry) and that, as a result, it often suffered needless difficulties in combat.[5]


The rivalries shaped between security organizations in Iran are as follows:


Infighting between the Indian Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) over armed helicopters has existed for a decade; this came to light during the Kargil War in 1999.[13][3]

In response to the request for Army-owned attack helicopters from General Bikram Singh, Chief of Army Staff, the Indian government made an agreement about the transfer of IAF AH-64D Apache Longbows to the Army in 2012. The IAF, however, offered stiff resistance against the decision, and insisted that all attack and medium-lift helicopters be under its control.[citation needed]

In 2013, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, who faced against the Army for the helicopter issue, said that the AH-64Ds would be kept in the Air Force.[14]


The long-term discord between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy was one of the most notorious examples of inter-service rivalry. The situation, with its origin traced back to the Meiji period, came with both geo-political and military consequences leading to Japan's involvement in World War II. The IJA/IJN rivalry expressed itself in the early 1930s as the "strike north" (Hokushin-ron) and "strike south" (Nanshin-ron) factions. The goal of both factions was to seize territories which possessed the raw materials, especially petroleum, which Japan needed to sustain its growth and economy, but which it did not possess itself. The strike north faction advocated the taking of the natural resources of Siberia, by way of Manchuria, a scenario in which the prime role would be taken by the Army, the strike south faction advocated the taking of the oil-rich Dutch East Indies, a scenario in which the Navy would predominate.

In order to further their own faction, relatively junior officers resorted to the assassinations of members of the rival faction and their supporters in government. With both factions being opposed to the peace faction, this period has become known as the era of government by assassination. Insubordination by the Kwantung Army led first to the occupation of Manchuria, and later the Second Sino-Japanese War following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. However, at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol, any farther expansion northwards into Siberia was shown to be impossible given the Soviet superiority in numbers and armour.

With the loss of Army prestige that followed the failure of the Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, the Navy faction gained the ascendency, supported by a number of the powerful industrial zaibatsus, that were convinced that their interests would be best served fulfilling the needs of the Navy, and this paved the way to the Pacific War.

The IJA and IJN rivalry also saw both services developing air arms, the Army creating its own amphibious infantry units and running ships and submarines, including submarine chasers and aircraft carriers, the Navy meanwhile would create its own infantry and marine paratroopers.

Other examples of this rivalry include the Japanese Navy taking several weeks to inform the Army of the disastrous results of the Battle of Midway.


The Pakistani Armed Forces used to fight over a number of issues. One in particular was predominantly between the Navy and the Army over budget distribution. A key point of friction was the induction of the cruiser PNS Babur. This was resolved, however, when Pakistani think tanks realized the need for interservice harmony and established the Joint Services Headquarters. This unified headquarters has almost eliminated the friction between the services.[citation needed]

United KingdomEdit

A case in point is the rivalry between the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines, which are part of the Army and the Royal Navy, respectively, in the UK. Since some of their capabilities overlap, pressure can be put on the political or civilian decision makers to choose one or the other.[citation needed]

Another form of rivalry within the United Kingdom is between certain forces of the Cadets: the Sea Cadet Corps, the Army Cadet Force, and the Air Training Corps; and between the Coldstream Guards and the Grenadier Guards, over the issue of seniority.[citation needed]

United StatesEdit

The U.S. Department of Defense was originally created to provide overall coordination for the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, whose infighting, particularly between the Army and Navy, was seen as detrimental to military effectiveness during World War II.[citation needed]

The rivalries are also based on services' individual philosophies for rules and behavior. An author wrote in 2012 about the differing cultures of the United States Navy and United States Air Force's pilots:[15]

There was some truth in the old saying that the Air Force had a book for all the things you were allowed to do in the air, and anything not specifically written down was prohibited; whereas the Navy's rule book contained all the things you were not allowed to do, and anything not written down was perfectly legal.[15]

Marines and sailors compete in a Strong-Man Competition.

Various mechanisms are used to manage or curb interservice rivalries. In the United States Armed Forces, for example, an officer must complete at least one joint tour in another service to reach the level of Flag or General Officer.[citation needed] Such officers may be described as "wearing purple," a reference to the Army's green, the Marines' navy blue, the Air Force's blue, the Navy's white, and the Coast Guard's blue uniforms.[citation needed]

One well-known encounter, the Revolt of the Admirals, took place after the end of World War II. The newly-created United States Air Force sought to create a doctrine which relied heavily on strategic long-range bombing and the Army a large number of reservist troops. Both the Air Force and the Army claimed that the future of warfare depended on the issue of nuclear deterrent, and as such the use of naval gunfire support, as well as the amphibious assault doctrine of the U.S. Marine Corps, was outdated and would never be used again. The Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson succeeded to strip the Navy of funds on its first supercarrier, the United States. This cancellation caused multiple high ranking Navy personnel to resign. The aftermath backfired against the Navy, and caused Congress to review, and after investigation enabled the implementation of the creation of a Strategic Air Force supporting a nuclear mission.

Special ForcesEdit

Interservice rivalries are often played out at divisional or regimental level or between special forces that are part of different services. The rivalry between special-forces units led to the creation of United Kingdom Special Forces in the United Kingdom, and SOCOM in the United States to put them all under a unified command, putting an end to the "rice-bowl" doctrine which created absurd situations in Iran, Grenada and Panama in the 1980s. In the United Kingdom it has put an end to members of the Special Boat Service being recruited solely from the Royal Marines and it is now a tri-service branch.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Interservice rivalry". The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military. Oxford Reference Online. Berkley Books. 2001. Retrieved December 7, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2006). 9/11 Commission Report. Barnes & Noble Publishing. p. 310. ISBN 0-7607-8174-5. During the descent, they reported seeing many firefighters who were resting and did not seem to be in the process of evacuating. They further reported advising these firefighters to evacuate, but said that at times they were not acknowledged. In the opinion of one of the ESU officers, some of these firefighters essentially refused to take orders from cops. At least one firefighter who was in the North Tower has supported that assessment, stating that he was not going to take an evacuation instruction from a cop that morning.
  3. ^ a b IAF, not Army, will get Apache attack helicopters: Govt - Times Of India
  4. ^ Hayward, Joel (December 1999), A Case Study in Early Joint Warfare: An Analysis of the Wehrmacht's Crimean Campaign of 1942, The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 103–130
  5. ^ a b Hayward, Joel (2000), Adolf Hitler and Joint Warfare, Military Studies Institute, pp. 4–13, ISBN 9780478114515
  6. ^ Cronin, Stephanie (1997). The Army and Creation of the Pahlavi State in Iran, 1921-1926. I.B.Tauris. pp. 62–64. ISBN 978-1860641053.
  7. ^ Milani, Abbas (2008). Eminent Persians: The Men and Women who Made Modern Iran, 1941-1979. 1. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. p. 290. ISBN 978-0815609070.
  8. ^ John Simpson (1988), Behind Iranian Lines, Robson Books, p. 81, ISBN 9780860514787
  9. ^ Robin B. Wright, ed. (2010), The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy, US Institute of Peace Press, pp. 62–65, ISBN 978-1601270849
  10. ^ Ali Alfoneh (November 15, 2011), "Eternal Rivals? The Artesh and the IRGC", Middle East Institute, retrieved September 5, 2017
  11. ^ Alex Vatanka (February 27, 2017), "Iran's Intelligence Services Compete For Glory", Middle East Institute, retrieved September 5, 2017
  12. ^ Nima Gerami (November 25, 2015), "Iran's Widening Crackdown Pressures Rouhani", The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Policy Watch) (2527), retrieved September 5, 2017
  13. ^ Peri, Dinakar. "Army set to get 11 Apache helicopters". The Hindu. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  14. ^ Army Chief contests IAF’s claims over Apache helicopters Inter Services Rivalry
  15. ^ a b Davies, Steve (2012). Red Eagles: America's Secret Migs. Osprey Publishing. p. 205. ISBN 978-1846039706.