Armed forces of the Netherlands

The Armed forces of the Netherlands consist of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The service branches consist of:

In addition, within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, there are small local conscript forces on the islands of Aruba (Arumil) and Curaçao (Antmil). These operate under the auspices of the Royal Netherlands Navy and Marines.

The military ranks of the Dutch armed forces have similarities with British and U.S. military ranks. The highest-ranking officer in the Dutch military is the Chief of Defence (Netherlands), who is a four-star officer (NATO OF-9).

Armed forces of the Netherlands
Nederlandse krijgsmacht
Logo ministerie van defensie
Service branches Royal Netherlands Army
 Royal Netherlands Navy
 Royal Netherlands Air Force
Embleem Koninklijke Marechaussee.svg Koninklijke Marechaussee
Commander-in-ChiefThe Government
Minister of DefenceAnk Bijleveld
Chief of DefenceRob Bauer
Military age17[1]
Available for
military service
7,728,129, age 20
Fit for
military service
6,324,217, age 20
Reaching military
age annually
Active personnel35,722 [2]
Reserve personnel5,046 [2]
Budget€ 10,447,100,000 (2019)[3]
Percent of GDP1.2% (2015)[3]
Related articles
RanksMilitary ranks of the Netherlands

Foundation in law and purpose

The Dutch armed forces exist by declaration in the constitution of the Netherlands. Article 97 of this constitution determines that the armed forces exist

  • to defend the Kingdom of the Netherlands and its interests in the world; and
  • to protect and advance the international rule of law.

This means that the role and responsibility of the Dutch military in international stability and peacekeeping is constitutionally determined.

The same article of the constitution determines that supreme command of the Dutch military resides with the Government of the Netherlands. This has been the case since the constitution was changed in 1983; before then, supreme command of the armed forces of the Netherlands was held by the King of the Netherlands.

In addition, a second major change in military affairs was made in 2003. Before then, all citizens of the Netherlands were tasked with the defense of the kingdom. In keeping with the move to a professional military, this article was dropped.

Central staff

Chief of Defence Appointed Branch
Rob Bauer Lieutenant admiral
Rob Bauer
(born 1962)
5 October 2017
(1 year, 197 days)
Naval Jack of the Netherlands
Royal Netherlands Navy
(Naval Squadron)
Vice Chief of Defence Appointed Branch
Army-personnel-icon Lieutenant general
Martin Wijnen
(born 1966)
13 July 2017
(1 year, 281 days)
Flag of the Royal Netherlands Army
Royal Netherlands Army
(Corps of Engineers)
Commander of the Army Appointed Branch
Leo Beulen Lieutenant general
Leo Beulen
(born 1960)
24 March 2016
(3 years, 27 days)
Flag of the Royal Netherlands Army
Royal Netherlands Army
Commander of the Navy Appointed Branch
Rob Kramer Vice admiral
Rob Kramer
(born 1962)
22 September 2017
(1 year, 210 days)
Naval Jack of the Netherlands
Royal Netherlands Navy
(Naval Squadron)
Commander of the Air Force Appointed Branch
Dennis Luyt Lieutenant general
Dennis Luyt
(born 1963)
10 June 2016
(3 years, 314 days)
Flag of the Royal Netherlands Air Force
Royal Netherlands Air Force

Military personnel

The Netherlands' military is currently a fully professional military. Conscription in the Netherlands was suspended in 1996 with the exception of Aruba and Curaçao.[4] All military branches and specialties are open to female recruits. In October 2018 the Dutch Ministry of Defence announced that the submarine service will also accept female recruits for positions as officer, NCO and sailor.

The Dutch Ministry of Defence employs almost 70,000 personnel, including both civilian and military personnel.

The Dutch military is part of the NATO militaries and therefore conforms to the structure of a NATO military. It also uses conforming rank structures. All Dutch military personnel, officers and enlisted personnel, are required to take an oath of allegiance. This oath is recorded in the law on General Military Personnel Regulations (Algemeen Militair Ambtenarenregelement) in Article 126a.

Unionized military

Unlike many military organizations, Dutch military members are allowed to form and join unions.

There are four of these unions:

  • Algemene Federatie van Militair Personeel (AFMP, General Federation of Military Personnel), which was recognized by the Dutch government in 1966. The AFMP is a member of the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV).
  • Algemeen Christelijke Organisatie van Militairen (ACOM, General Christian Organisation for Military Personnel). The ACOM is a member of the Dutch Christian National Trade Union (CNV).
  • Gezamenlijke Officieren Verenigingen en Middelbaar en Hoger Burgerpersoneel bij Defensie (GOV/MHB, United Officers Associations and Middle- and Seniorlevel Civilian Personnel), which was recognized by the Dutch government in 2004. The GOV/MHB is a member of the Dutch confederation of groups of middle and senior staffmembers.
  • Vakbond voor Defensiepersoneel VBM (VBM, Union for Defence Personnel).

All unions represent both current and retired military personnel and/or civilian personnel.

Contemporary campaigns

Since the 1990s, the Dutch military has been involved in four major military campaigns:


As part of Operation Enduring Freedom as a response to those attacks, the Netherlands deployed aircraft as part of the European Participating Air Force (EPAF) in support of ground operations in Afghanistan as well as Dutch naval frigates to police the waters of the Middle East/Indian Ocean. The Netherlands deployed further troops and helicopters to Afghanistan in 2006 as part of a new security operation in the south of the country.[5] Dutch ground and air forces totalled almost 2,000 personnel during 2006, taking part in combat operations alongside British and Canadian forces as part of NATO's ISAF force in the south.

The Netherlands announced in December 2007 that it would begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, which were mainly in Uruzgan Province, in July 2010. "I do not have assurances that other countries will be ready to replace Netherlands troops, but I am certain that Dutch troops will leave in 2010," Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said. "I indicated that in writing ... to the NATO secretary general, who has confirmed it."[6] In January 2009, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende reiterated that the 1,600 Dutch troops in Afghanistan would end their mission in 2010, saying "We will stop in Uruzgan in 2010." He ruled out the possibility of the Netherlands keeping its troops in Afghanistan past 2010 with any force comparable to its former deployment.[7]

In December 2009, reacting to three requests received from the side of the U.S. by Vice President Biden, the special American representative to Afghanistan Holbrooke and Secretary of State Clinton and a request by Secretary General of NATO Rasmussen as well, the Dutch government announced that the final decision on the continuation of the mission in Uruzgan would be on its agenda in March 2010. Two ministers from the Labour Party (PvdA), Koenders (Development Aid) and Bos (Finance and Vice PM) in the meantime pleaded termination, which was also the opinion of the majority of the Dutch parliament.[8][9][10][11]

On 10 December 2009, the Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf reported that the government was exploring areas elsewhere in Afghanistan to set up a new mission. The northern province of Kunduz was mentioned, where at the moment German and Belgian troops were deployed. On 9 December, allegedly PM Balkenende (CDA), the vice-PM's Bos (PvdA) and Rouvoet (ChristenUnie) and the three involved ministers Verhagen (CDA, Foreign Affairs), Van Middelkoop (ChristenUnie, Defense) and Koenders (PvdA, (Development Aid) secretly discussed the future Dutch engagement in Afghanistan, together with Commander of the Forces general Van Uhm.[12][13]

In early February 2010, the disagreement between the PvdA on the one hand and CDA and ChristenUnie on the other about a request from NATO, by improper channels, for a renewed Dutch commitment in Afghanistan, came to a head. CDA and ChristenUnie wanted the freedom to consider this request—in spite of the decisions by the Minister of Defence and the votes in Parliament—whereas PvdA and a majority of the parties in the Dutch parliament stood by the earlier decision and refused any consideration of further Dutch involvement in Afghanistan. Thus, on 20 February, the PvdA had no choice but to resign their ministers from the Cabinet, leading to a collapse of the Dutch government. As a result, the NATO request could not be considered and Dutch troops withdrew later in 2010 according to the schedule agreed in 2007.[14]

On 1 August 2010 the Dutch military formally declared its withdrawal from its four-year mission in Afghanistan; most soldiers are expected to be back in the Netherlands by September, excepting those working on the reset, redistribution and repatriation of materiel and supplies. The AH-64 Apache and F-16 squadron will remain longer in Afghanistan to support the withdrawal process and transports.[15] The Dutch contingent has been replaced by soldiers from the U.S., Australia, Slovakia, and Singapore.


  1. ^ Werken bij de landmacht – required age, Dutch army
  2. ^ a b [1], Ministry of Defence, Facts & Data
  3. ^ a b Defensie, Ministerie van. "Feiten en cijfers (infographics)".
  4. ^ "Suspended" in this case means that no conscripts are called up in The Netherlands; the legal mechanism for the draft is still in place.
  5. ^ "More Dutch troops for Afghanistan". BBC News. 3 February 2006. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Netherlands confirms 2010 Afghanistan pullout" (in Chinese). 19 December 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Dutch troops to exit Afghanistan in 2010". Brisbane Times. 24 January 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  8. ^ Door onze redacteur Mark Kranenburg. "Druk op Nederland om te blijven in Afghanistan". Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  9. ^ Door onze correspondent Petra de Koning. "Holbrooke 'hoopt dat Nederland in Afghanistan blijft'". Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  10. ^ Door een onzer redacteuren. "Verzoek Clinton blijf in Uruzgan". Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  11. ^ Door een onzer redacteuren. "Spanning stijgt in coalitie om inzet in Uruzgan". Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  12. ^ "Noord-Afghanistan in beeld". 10 December 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  13. ^ "Geheim kabinetsberaad over nieuwe missie Afghanistan". 10 December 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  14. ^ Marquand, Robert (22 February 2010). "Dutch government collapse: Will other European troops now leave Afghanistan?". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 28 March 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  15. ^ UPI (1 August 2010). "Netherlands begins Afghan troop withdrawal". Retrieved 1 August 2010.

External links

Chief of Defence (Netherlands)

The Chief of Defence (Dutch: Commandant der Strijdkrachten, CHOD) is the highest-ranking military officer in the Armed forces of the Netherlands and is the principal military advisor to the Minister of Defence. On behalf of the Minister of Defence, he is responsible for operational policy, strategic planning and for preparing and executing military operations carried out by the Armed forces. The Chief of Defence is in charge of the central staff and is the direct commanding officer of all the commanders of the branches of the Armed forces. In this capacity the Chief of Defence directs all the activities of the Royal Netherlands Army, the Royal Netherlands Navy and Royal Netherlands Air Force. He is also in charge of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, when it is operating under the responsibility of the Minister of Defence.

Christ Klep

Christ P. M. Klep (born 1959) is a Dutch military historian. He is a lecturer at Utrecht University and freelance historian and publicist. He has appeared amongst others on Pauw & Witteman, NPO Radio 1 and Knevel & Van de Brink, and has written for de Volkskrant, Trouw and De Groene Amsterdammer - commenting on topics as the Joint Strike Fighter program, the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the recruiting practices of the Armed forces of the Netherlands.

Fanfare orchestra

A Fanfare Orchestra (Dutch Fanfareorkest, French Harmonie-fanfare) is a type of brass band consisting of the entire saxhorn family, trumpets, trombones, euphoniums, flugelhorns and alto- and F-horns, as well as percussion. They are seldom seen outside of Europe, with a high concentration of these bands in Belgium and the Netherlands, many of them civil bands with a few Dutch bands also serving the Armed forces of the Netherlands and its veterans.

Bands sporting similar instruments are also active in France, Luxembourg and in Germany, many of these German bands sporting fanfare band titles as several of them started up as these. Switzerland, Portugal, Lithuania and Norway have few such civil bands.

Geweer M. 95

The Geweer M. 95, also known to collectors as the Dutch Mannlicher, was the service rifle of the Armed forces of the Netherlands between 1895 and 1940 which replaced the obsolete Beaumont-Vitali M1871/88. At first it was produced by Steyr for the Dutch, but after 1904, production took place under license at Hembrug Zaandam in the Netherlands. Although often regarded as being based on the earlier Mannlicher 1893 Model, the rifle is in fact a modification of the Mannlicher rifle by August Schriever and the Dutch rifle commission. Both Dutch and Romanian rifles fired the same rimmed 6.5×53 mmR cartridge often referred to as "Romanian" or "Dutch 6.5".

The Dutch issued about 470,000 M.95s. Its cartridge also saw limited success as a sporting round, including use by the elephant hunter W. D. M. Bell.

Han ten Broeke

Johannes Hermanus "Han" ten Broeke (born 2 March 1969) is a Dutch politician who served as a member of the House of Representatives from 30 November 2006 until 4 September 2018. A member of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD), he focused his parliamentary work on matters of foreign policy and the Armed forces of the Netherlands.

Born in Haaksbergen, Ten Broeke studied political science with a specialization in international relations at Leiden University.

After winning a parliamentary seat in the general election of 2006 he was reelected in 2010, 2012 and 2017. He stepped down in 2018 as a member of the House of Representatives after an article in HP/De Tijd revealed that in 2013 Ten Broeke, then 44, had engaged in an affair with a 25-year old junior staffer that worked for his parliamentary group.

Heije Schaper

Heije Schaper (8 September 1906 – 26 May 1996) was a Dutch naval and air force officer and lieutenant general of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Schaper a highly decorated World War II officer was awarded the Military Order of William, the highest honour of the Netherlands on 15 November 1940. Schaper served in the Royal Netherlands Navy and later the Royal Netherlands Air Force. He was the Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force from 1 May 1956 until 1 September 1961 and the Chairman of the United Defence Staff of th Armed Forces of the Netherlands (highest-ranking military officer) from 1 November 1957 until 10 May 1959. He retired from active service in 1961 and served as State Secretary for Defence, tasked with Air Force affairs from 22 June 1966 until 5 April 1967.

Henri Winkelman

Henri Gerard Winkelman (17 August 1876 – 27 December 1952) was a Dutch military officer who served as Commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of the Netherlands during the German invasion of the Netherlands.

Humanist Counseling in the Dutch Armed Forces

Humanist Counseling in the Dutch Armed Forces is a task in the Armed forces of the Netherlands. Humanist counsellors, sometimes called humanist chaplain, contribute to the (mental) well-being of military personnel, those related to them, and veterans. They do this through visible presence at the workplace, personal contact and guidance. They hold conversations, give advice and offer support. Issues concerning meaning and ethics are central to their work.

Izaak Reijnders

Izaak Herman Reijnders (27 March 1879 – 31 December 1966) was in charge of the Dutch military high command just prior to World War II. He was replaced by Henri Winkelman after Reijnders had had an argument with Defense Minister Adriaan Dijxhoorn.

Lynx reconnaissance vehicle

The Lynx reconnaissance vehicle (manufacturer's name: M113½ Command and Reconnaissance Vehicle, abbr. M113 C&R) is a United States-built tracked reconnaissance armoured fighting vehicle, which was employed by the armed forces of the Netherlands and Canada. Dutch vehicles were exported in the 1990s to Bahrain and Chile, according to SIPRI 35 and 8 vehicles respectively.

The M113½ was developed in 1963 as a private venture by FMC Corp., the manufacturer of the M113. It competed with the M114 but the US Army chose the M114 for production. The design was then offered to foreign buyers and gained the name Lynx when purchased by Canada.

The Lynx was based on the M113, including its aluminum armor and many details of its construction. However, it is shorter in both length and height, and has four road wheels instead of five. This reduction in size led to a significant reduction in weight as well, dropping to about 8 tonne compared to over 12 for the original M113. The engine was moved to the rear and offered in gas and Diesel versions.

The Lynx is amphibious, propelled in the water by its tracks. Before swimming, a trim vane is erected at front, bilge pumps started, and covers mounted on the air intake and exhaust. In practice, crews would close hatches and ford shallow streams at high speed.

Military ranks of the Dutch armed forces

The Military ranks of the Dutch armed forces are the military insignia used by the Armed forces of the Netherlands.

Ministry of Defence (Netherlands)

The Ministry of Defence (Dutch: Ministerie van Defensie; MinDef) is the Dutch Ministry responsible for the armed forces of the Netherlands and Veterans Affairs. The Ministry was created in 1813 as the "Ministry of War" and in 1928 was combined with the "Ministry of the Navy". After World War II in the ministries were separated again, in this period the Minister of War and Minister of the Navy were often the same person and the State secretary for the Navy was responsible for daily affairs of the Royal Dutch Navy. In 1959 the ministries were merged. The Ministry is headed by the Minister of Defence, currently Ank Bijleveld, assisted by a State secretary (Barbara Visser) and the Chief of the Defence of the Netherlands, Rob Bauer since 2017.

Peter van Uhm

Petrus Johannes Mathias "Peter" van Uhm (born 15 June 1955) is a retired Royal Netherlands Army general. He served as Chief of Defence of the Armed forces of the Netherlands from 17 April 2008 until 28 June 2012. He previously served as the Commander of the Royal Netherlands Army from 5 September 2005 until 13 March 2008.

Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld

Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld (later Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands; German: Bernhard Friedrich Eberhard Leopold Julius Kurt Carl Gottfried Peter Graf von Biesterfeld; 29 June 1911 – 1 December 2004) was a German-born prince who was the consort of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands; they were the parents of four children, including Princess Beatrix, who later served as Queen of the Netherlands from 1980 to 2013.

He belonged to the princely House of Lippe and was a nephew of the Principality of Lippe's last sovereign Leopold IV. From birth he held the title Count of Biesterfeld; his uncle raised him to princely rank with the style of Serene Highness in 1916. He studied law and worked as an executive secretary at the Paris office of IG Farben. In 1937 he married Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, and was immediately given the title Prince of the Netherlands with the style of Royal Highness. Upon his wife's accession to the throne, in 1948 he became the prince consort of the Netherlands.

Although his private life was rather controversial, Prince Bernhard was still generally regarded as a popular figure by the majority of the Dutch for his performance as a combat pilot and his activities as a liaison officer and personal aide to the Queen during World War II, and for his work during post-war reconstruction. During World War II, he was part of the London-based Allied war planning councils. He saw active service as a Wing Commander (RAF), flying both fighter and bomber planes into combat. He was a Dutch general and Supreme Commander of the Dutch Armed forces, involved in negotiating the terms of surrender of the German Army in the Netherlands. For proven bravery, leadership and loyalty during his wartime efforts, he was appointed a Commander of the Military William Order, the Netherlands' oldest and highest honour. After the war he was made Honorary Air Marshal of the Royal Air Force by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. In 1969, Bernhard was awarded the Grand Cross (Special Class) of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Bernhard helped found the World Wildlife Fund (later renamed World Wide Fund for Nature), becoming its first president in 1961. In 1970 he established the WWF's financial endowment "The 1001: A Nature Trust". In 1954, he was a co-founder of the international Bilderberg Group, which has met annually since then to discuss corporate globalisation and other issues concerning Europe and North America. He was forced to step down from both groups after being involved in the Lockheed Bribery Scandal in 1976.

REM Island

REM Island is a platform built in the Republic of Ireland and towed off the Dutch coast in 1964 as the pirate broadcasting home of Radio and TV Noordzee. Both stations were dismantled by armed forces of the Netherlands. It was six miles off Noordwijk.

Rob Bauer

Robert Peter "Rob" Bauer (born 11 November 1962) is a lieutenant admiral in the Royal Netherlands Navy serving as Chief of Defence (Dutch: Commandant der Strijdkrachten) since 5 October 2017. He was Vice Chief of Defence of the Armed forces of the Netherlands from 1 September 2015 until 13 July 2017. After the resignation of Tom Middendorp, he became Chief of Defence.

Royal Marechaussee

The Koninklijke Marechaussee, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, abbreviated to KMar, is one of the four Services of the armed forces of the Netherlands. It is a gendarmerie force performing military police and civil police duties.

Tom Middendorp

Thomas Antonius "Tom" Middendorp (born 6 September 1960) is a retired general of the Royal Netherlands Army. He served as Chief of Defence of the Armed forces of the Netherlands from 28 June 2012 until 3 October 2017. He previously served as the Commander of Task Force Uruzgan part of the International Security Assistance Force from 2 February 2009 until 3 August 2009.

Wim Kortenoeven

Robert Frank Willem "Wim" Kortenoeven (born 29 May 1955) is a Dutch author, journalist and former politician.

Kortenoeven engages in political developments in the Middle East, focusing on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also writes about Jewish history. On these subjects he gives lectures and guest lectures and contributes to Israël-Aktueel, the monthly magazine of the Dutch foundation Christians for Israel (Dutch: 'Christenen voor Israël').He is a supporter of the State of Israel as well as Judaism and strongly opposes Islam and Arab and other adversaries of Israel, like for instance Iran. He is director of the pro-Israel lobby organisation Netherlands-Israel Public Affairs Committee (NIPAC), a Dutch equivalent of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Kortenoeven studied political science at Leiden University and history (unfinished) at the Dutch Open University.

He worked twice in an Israeli kibbutz: in 1976 in kibbutz Nahshon and in 1981 in kibbutz Matzuva. In the meantime he worked at Holland International, a Dutch travel agency. In the 1980s he was active in the Dutch care sector. From 1988 to 1991 he was director of Dutchlink Sales Representation.

From 1991 to 2000 Kortenoeven was involved in journalism activities and project advisory, both in the Netherlands, the United States and Israel. From 2000 to 2010 he was an employee of CIDI, a Dutch centre providing (positive) information about Israel.

On 17 June 2010 he became a member of the House of Representatives for the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid). As an MP he focused on matters of foreign policy (Middle East, Russia and Asia) and the armed forces of the Netherlands.

Kortenoeven announced on 3 July 2012, in the wake of a press conference by Geert Wilders, that he had just left the PVV due to internal struggles. He did so together with fellow MP Marcial Hernandez. They formed the Kortenoeven/Hernandez Group, that was in Parliament until 19 September 2012 (after the general elections, in which they didn't take part).

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