Danish Defence

Danish Defence
Motto Fordi noget er værd at kæmpe for (Because some things are worth fighting for)
Founded 1949 (1949)
Current form Defence Agreement 2018-23
Service branches Royal Danish Army
Royal Danish Navy
Royal Danish Air Force
Danish Home Guard
Headquarters Holmen Naval Base, Copenhagen, Denmark
Website Official Website
Commander-in-chief Margrethe II
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen
Minister of Defence Claus Hjort Frederiksen
Chief of Defence General Bjørn Bisserup
Military age 18 for voluntary service
Conscription Yes, for males
Available for
military service
1,620,678 males, age 18-60 (2016),
1,584,495 females, age 18-60 (2016)
Fit for
military service
1,088,751, age 18-60 (2016)
Reaching military
age annually
39.465[1] (2016)
Active personnel 15,420 military and 5,274 civilian (2017)[2]
Reserve personnel 12,000 + 51,000 volunteers in the Home Guard
Deployed personnel 806 (30 May 2018)[3]
Budget 20.9 billion DKK (USD ~3.0 billion) (2015)[4]
Percent of GDP 1.3% (2014)
Foreign suppliers  Canada
 United States
Related articles
History Military history of Denmark
Ranks Army ranks
Navy ranks
Air force ranks

The Danish Defence (Danish: Forsvaret, Faroese: Danska verjan, Greenlandic: Illersuisut) is the unified armed forces of the Kingdom of Denmark, charged with the defence of Denmark and its constituent, self-governing nations Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The Defence also promote Denmark's wider interests, support international peacekeeping efforts and provide humanitarian aid.[5]

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 Danish Defence consist 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 include the Home Guard. The Queen is the Commander-in-chief in accordance with the Danish constitution, and under the Danish Defence Law[6] the Minister of Defence serves as the commander of the 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.



The modern Danish military can be traced back to 1510, with the creation of the Royal Danish Navy. During this time, the Danish Kingdom held considerable territories, including Schleswig-Holstein, Norway, and colonies in Africa and the Americans.[7]

Following the defeat in the Second Schleswig War, the military became a political hot-button issue, with many wanting the disarm the military. 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.[7] After World War II, the different branches were reorganized, and collected under Danish Defence. This was to ensure a unified command when conducting joint operations, as learned from the War.[7]

Cold War and international engagements

With the defeat in 1864, Denmark had adopted a policy of neutrality. This was however abandoned after World War Two, when Denmark decided to support the UN peacekeeping forces and become a member of NATO.[7] 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.[8][9] 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.

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". This is achieved by combining the military, Home Guard, Danish Emergency Management Agency and elements of the police.[10]

Purpose and task

The purpose and task of the armed forces of Denmark is defined in Law no. 122 of February 27, 2001 and in force since March 1, 2001. It defines three purposes and six tasks.

Its primary purpose 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.

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, crises-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.

Defence budget

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

The latest Defence agreement ("Defence agreement 2005–2009") was signed June 10, 2004, and calls for a significant re-construction of the entire military. From now about 60% support structure and 40% combat operational capability, it is to be 40% support structure and 60% combat operational capability, i.e. more combat soldiers and fewer "paper"-soldiers. 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 modified. Generally this means fewer conscripts, less service time for them and only those who choose so, will continue into the reaction force system.


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 15% 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, 5053% accounts for payment to personnel, roughly 1421% on acquiring new material, 28% for larger ships, building projects or infrastructure and about 2427% 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 national rescue preparedness and the Administration of Conscientious Objectors (Militærnægteradministrationen).

Danish Defence expenditures (1949–1989)[11][12]

1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s
Total Budget (Billions) Kr. 0.360.360.480.680.890.890.920.941.010.990.991.111.181.551.651.761.972.082.252.602.642.973.203.393.524.465.365.716.387.298.059.1210.3011.6712.5713.0513.3413.3314.6515.6215.96
Percentage of GNP
Defense Spending % Change -0.3+0.4+0.6+0.7-0.20.0-0.2+0.1-0.2-0.3+0.1-0.9+1.40.0-0.20.0-0.20.0+0.1-

Danish Defence expenditures (1990–)[11][12][13]

1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
Total Budget (Billions) Kr. 16.417.0917.1317.3917.2917.4717.9018.5219.0719.4319.3421.0221.2721.0821.4420.8023.1722.7324.4123.2525.3324.2625.6223.7225.0222.63324.19025.165
Percentage of GNP
Defense Spending % Change 0.00.0-0.10.0-0.1-0.10.0-

Because Denmark has a small and highly specialized military industry, the vast majority of the Danish Defence's equipment is imported from NATO and the Nordic countries.[14]



Special forces


Current deployment of Danish forces, since 10-03-2016:[15]



  • 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



Technically all Danish 18-year-old males are conscripts (37,897 in 2010, of whom 53% were considered suitable for duty).[18] Due to the large number of volunteers, 96-99% of the number required in the past three years,[19] the number of men actually called up is relatively low (4200 in 2012). There were additionally 567 female volunteers in 2010, who pass training on "conscript-like" conditions.[20]

Conscripts in the Danish Defence (army, navy and air force) generally serve four months,[21][22] except:

There has been a right of conscientious objection since 1917.[25]

See also


  1. "Statistik - maj 2016". Statistik - maj 2016.
  2. "Number of employees". forpers.dk (in Danish). Danish Defence. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  3. Danish Defence (30 May 2018). "Forsvaret i verden lige nu". Forsvaret.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  4. "Defence expenditure". Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  5. Defence Command Denmark (23 May 2016). "Mission and Objectives". Forsvaret.dk. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  6. "LOV nr 122 af 27/02/2001 om forsvarets formål, opgaver og organisation m.v." (in Danish). Retrieved 2012-07-30.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Danish Defence (3 February 2014). "Danish Defence's History". forsvaret.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  8. Hansen, Ole Kjeld (1997). "Operation Hooligan-bashing – Danish Tanks at War". Archived from the original on May 23, 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  9. "Yugoslav events chronology". University of Texas at Arlington. 17 March 2000. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  10. Friis, Niels (1 March 2007). "Forsvarsforligets betydning for totalforsvaret" [The Defence Agreement's Effect on the Total Defence]. krigsvidenskab.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  11. 1 2 ("Økonomi-styrelsen") ( Finance law 1996 to 2006])
  12. 1 2 (19761989)
  13. Danish Ministry of Defence (8 May 2018). "Defence Economy". fmn.dk (in Danish). Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  14. Jens Ringsmose (November 2007). "Danmarks NATO omdømme" (PDF). cms.polsci.ku.dk. Dansk Institut for Militære Studier.
  15. "Danish Defence around the world right now". forsvaret.dk (in Danish). Forsvaret. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  16. Ussing, Jakob. "Absalon to be part of NATO fight against human trafficking". b.dk (in Danish). Berlinske. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  17. Lindhardt, Søren. "Special Forces training Nigerian special forces". forsvaret.dk (in Danish). Defence Command. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  18. Statistical information from the draft board (in Danish)
  19. Thomas Klose Jensen. "Frivillig værnepligtig: Det er min drengedrøm". DR.
  20. Ordinary conscript Archived 2012-03-30 at the Wayback Machine. (in Danish)
  21. Army's basic training (in Danish)
  22. Air force's basic training (in Danish)
  23. Navy's basic training (in Danish)
  24. Conscription in the Danish Emergency Management Agency (in Danish)
  25. Alternative service law, 13 December 1917, Article 1
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