Royal Bahamas Defence Force
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The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) is the military of The Bahamas. Since The Bahamas does not have an army or an air force, its navy composes the entirety of its armed forces. Under The Defence Act, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force has been mandated to defend The Bahamas, protect its territorial integrity, patrol its waters, provide assistance in times of disaster, maintain order in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies of The Bahamas, and carry out any such duties as determined by the National Security Council. The Defence Force is also a member of CARICOM's Regional Security Task Force. The task force has seen action in the United Nations mandate in Haiti 1994.
|Royal Bahamas Defence Force|
Royal Bahamas Defence Force emblem
|Service branches||Squadron, Commando Squadron, Military Police & Force Protection, Harbour Patrol, Port Security,|
|Headquarters||New Providence Island|
|Commander-in-Chief||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Minister of National Security||Marvin Dames|
|Military age||18 years of age for selection process, 18 years of age is actual serving age (As of 2007)|
|84,903, age 16–49 (2010 est.)|
|62,779  males, age 16–49 (2010 est.),|
63,954 females, age 16–49 (2010 est.)
|2,840 males (2010 est.),|
2,758 females (2010 est.)
|Percent of GDP||0.5% (2018) |
|Ranks||Military ranks of Bahamas|
By an Act of Parliament, the RBDF became an official entity on 31 March 1980, falling under the Ministry of National Security. The Queen of The Bahamas, Queen Elizabeth II, is Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Force with her ceremonial role exercised by the Governor General of the Bahamas. The Defence Force also has adopted its own system of medals and awards.
William Swinley (RN) 1976-81
Christopher Belton (RN) 1981-83
Leon Smith 1983-1997
Davy Rolle 1997-2010
The only combat action the RBDF has ever been involved in has been against Cuba. On 10 May 1980, the HMBS Flamingo attempted to arrest two Cuban fishing vessels, the Ferrocem 165 and the Ferrocem 54, for poaching in Bahamian waters. In retaliation, two Cuban MiG-21s invaded Bahamas airspace and fired on the patrol boat. The Cubans sank the ship with their 23 mm cannons, and fired upon Marines in distress in the water. Fenrick Sturrup, Austin Smith, David Tucker and Edward Williams, all Bahamian Defence Force Marines, were killed in the attack. Fifteen crewmen and the Commander made it safely to Duncan Town, on Ragged Island, after being picked up by the fishing vessels they had boarded. The poachers were convicted in July 1980, and Cuba eventually admitted responsibility, paying the Bahamas $10 million in compensation for the incident.
The RBDF is a strictly naval force, differing from the rest of its Caribbean and British Commonwealth counterparts in there being no regular land-based military formations. With about 1,600 members however, it is the largest of the Commonwealth Caribbean navies.
Serving members of the RBDF are assigned to one of six major sub-sections: Headquarters, Administration, Engineering, Supply, Operations and The Commando Squadron. The Operations Department contains the mobile arms of the RBDF and comprises the main operational units:
- The (Patrol) Squadron - The maritime unit tasked with operating all RBDF ships and small craft of the Harbour Patrol Unit (a security sub-unit)
- The Commando Squadron - An amphibious light-infantry unit, also tasked with additional national security/anti-crime duties
- The Air Wing - Which operates a fleet of fixed-wing aircraft for airborne surveillance and support tasks
The Commando Squadron is a sizable force of 500 Special Marine Commandos. Training is conducted with U.S. Special Operations Forces and British equivalents (such as the Royal Marines) in special operations and maritime warfare. A common training practice is to have a marine recruit conduct a two-mile swim carrying a forty-pound rucksack.
Several changes in equipment have been seen in the recent history of the RBDF. Originally British-style uniforms were worn by RBDF personnel; now U.S. Marine Corps-style digital woodland camouflage is worn (as opposed to the U.S. Army universal camouflage worn by The Royal Bahamas Police Force Drug Enforcement Unit). Similarly, the first weapons employed by the RBDF were the British Sterling submachine gun and the L1A1 SLR; now the U.S.-manufactured M4 carbine and the Heckler & Koch UMP sub machine gun are employed for front-line duties.
The M101 105mm Howitzer towed artillery piece is also employed, with fifteen guns in RBDF service.
There are two career tracks in the RBDF: Marine (rating) & Officer (ranks). The enlisted personnel ranks range from Marine Seaman to Force Chief Petty Officer. The Officer ranks range from Midshipman to Commodore. The force is organized and trained along the lines of the British Royal Navy and many of the officers attend British service academies.
The Headquarters of the Defence Force are at RBDF Base HMBS Coral Harbour, on New Providence Island. The commander officer, known as "The Commander of the Defence Force" is Commodore Tellis Bethel. Additional bases are located in Matthew Town, Inagua and Freeport, Grand Bahama.
The RBDF uses the British Royal Navy style of rank insignia, and all ships carry the title HMBS (Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ship).
Due to a lack of ships, most RBDF members do not spend time at sea, and are used for other military or non-military roles. The Defence Force is primarily an armed service, whose roles also encompass some aspects of a coast guard as well as a disaster relief agency. These roles require Defence Force personnel to assume the duties of: Naval and infantry personnel, Police Officers (Peace Officer), Customs Officers, Immigration Officers, Fisheries Inspectors, Emergency Rescue Personnel, Search & Rescue, Sentry, Detention Center security and Maintenance of Navigational Aids.
The RBDF offers a high school course called the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Rangers.
- Browning Hi-Power
- M1911 pistol
- Sig Sauer P226 pistol
- Beretta 92FS Pistol
- 9mm IMI Uzi submachine gun
- 9mm IMI Mini-Uzi submachine gun
- 9mm Sterling MK-IV\L-2A3 submachine gun
- 18.5in 12 gauge SPAS-12 shotgun
- 18.5in 12 gauge Remington Model 870P shotgun
- 7.62mm FN FAL 50-00\ L-1A1 SLR
- 7.62mm Remington 700P
- 5.56mm IMI Galil assault rifle
- 5.56mm M4 carbine
- 5.56mm Colt M16A2 and M16A4 assault rifles
- 5.56mm AR-15R-600 rifle
- 7.62mm FN MAG 60-20 general purpose machine gun
- 15 M101 105mm Towed Howitzer
- Land-Rover 4
The main ships in the force are two Bahamas-class and four Legend-class offshore patrol vessels. The latter are the first part of the nine-vessel acquisition contract signed with the Damen Shipyards Group in April 2013. Most of the missions consist of anti-poaching patrols, anti-drug patrols, immigration enforcement, search and rescue, or general National Defence missions.
Four of the new vessels will be Stan 4207 design, four of the new vessels will be Stan 3007 design, and the final vessel will be 55 metres (180 ft) landing craft style transport craft, Damen Stan Lander 5612.
|HMBS Bahamas||United States||patrol boat||1||Bahamas class|
|HMBS Nassau||United States||patrol boat||1||Bahamas class|
|HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Legend class|
|HMBS Durward Knowles||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Legend class|
|HMBS Leon Livingstone Smith||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Legend class|
|HMBS Rolly Gray||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Legend class|
|HMBS Lignum Vitae||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Damen Stan 3007|
|HMBS Cascarilla||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Damen Stan 3007|
|HMBS Kamalame||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Damen Stan 3007|
|HMBS Madeira||The Netherlands||patrol boat||1||Damen Stan 3007|
|HMBS Lawrence Major||United States||landing craft / auxiliary||1||Damen Stan Lander|
The Air Wing was formed on November 26, 1981, two years after the creation of the defence force. Initially three Aero Commanders were purchased from Bahamasair and operated, but these were sold off in 1990. In 1992, a Cessna 402 was added with a Cessna 421 soon after. By late 2005, the delivery of a Super king Air 350 took place. In May 2009, a Cessna 208 Turbine Caravan with floats and a Partenavia P.68 were delivered and significantly improved the RBDF's surveillance and transport capabilities.
|Super King Air||United States||patrol||350||1|
|Cessna 208B||United States||transport / utility||1|
- Bahamas, The. "CIA – The World Factbook". CIA.gov. Archived from the original on 12 August 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
- In 2010 the total estimated capital and recurrent expenditure on the RBDF was $48,901,806 of a total Budgetary Expenditure of $1,819,306,320. This represents about 0.7% of GDP. (http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/finance)
- Webbe, Stephen (May 19, 1980). "Bahamas seethes over patrol-boat sinking". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston, Mass. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- Maura, Matt (May 13, 2011). "Prime Minister says country remains 'indebted' to marines of HMBS Flamingo". The Freeport News. Freeport, Bahamas. Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
Jon Rosamond (2014-07-24). "Bahamas inducts first vessels in fleet renewal effort". London: IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on 2014-07-27. Retrieved 2017-03-26.
The first of four 42 m Legend-class (Stan Patrol 4207) offshore patrol craft, HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna (P421), was commissioned into service on 20 June, having completed its transatlantic delivery voyage in May, and commenced its maiden operational deployment on 27 June.
"Royal Bahamas Defence Force contracts Damen for fleet of long range patrol craft 19 Apr 2013". Damen Group. 2013-04-19. Archived from the original on 2014-07-18.
In addition, eight patrol vessels, four of the Damen Stan Patrol 4207 type and another four type SPa 3007, will join the Bahamas’ fleet.
- "Lock, Stock and a Sandy Bottom". Think Defence. 2013-05-13. Archived from the original on 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
- Trade Registers Archived 2011-01-31 at WebCite. Armstrade.sipri.org. Retrieved on 14 September 2017
- "World Air Forces 2017". Flightglobal Insight. 2017. Archived from the original on 29 July 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Military of the Bahamas.|
- Royal Bahamas Defence Force Official Website
- Sandy Bottom Project
- The Bahama Journal: Commodore Admits “Rotten Apples”
- The Bahama Journal: Defence Force Gets New Chief
- Bahamas Government Website: Royal Bahamas Defence Force
- The Bahama Journal: Bottom Line: Defense Force Re-Organization
- The Nassau Guardian: Commodore to retire
- The Nassau Guardian: Sunk HMBS Flamingo 24th anniversary observed today