Latvian National Armed Forces

The Latvian National Armed Forces (Latvian: Nacionālie Bruņotie Spēki) are the armed forces of the Republic of Latvia. Latvia's defense concept is based on a mobile professional rapid response force and reserve segment that can be called upon relatively fast for mobilization should the need arise. The National Armed Forces consists of Land Forces, Naval Forces, Air Force and National Guard. Its main tasks are to protect the territory of the State; participate in international military operations; and to prevent threats to national security.[3]

Latvian National Armed Forces
Nacionālie Bruņotie Spēki
Coat of Arms of Latvian National Armed Forces
Emblem of the Latvian National Armed Forces
FoundedJuly 10, 1919
Current formAugust 23, 1991
Service branchesLand Forces
Naval Forces
Air Force
National Guard
PresidentRaimonds Vējonis
Minister of DefenceRaimonds Bergmanis
Commander of the Joint HeadquartersLieutenant general Leonīds Kalniņš[1]
Military age18
Active personnel5,500 regular and 8,000 National Guard
Reserve personnel7,800
Deployed personnelSee current operations
Budget€636,65 million (2019)[2]
Percent of GDP2% (2019)[2]
Related articles
RanksMilitary ranks of Latvia


The mission of the National Armed Forces (NAF) is to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation and to defend its population against foreign or domestic armed aggression. In order to implement these tasks, the NAF provide for the defence of the nation, its air space and national territorial waters, participate in large scale crisis response operations, perform emergency rescue operations, and participate in international peacekeeping operations.

The main mission of the National Armed Forces is to:

  • Provide for the inviolability of all national territory, its waters and air space;
  • Participate in international operations;
  • Participate in national threat elimination;
  • Provide for the training of personnel and military reserves.
  • Ensure modernization and enhancement of professional combat training;


The Latvian armed forces were first formed soon after the new state was proclaimed in November 1918 after World War I. At the end of the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920), the Latvian Army consisted of 69,232 men.

In terms of equipment the Latvian military during its first independence period (1919-1940) was armed mostly with British weapons and gear. The average Latvian infantry soldier in 1930s is believed to have carried 31,4 kg of equipment in winter, and around 29,1 kg in summer time. The main service rifle was British Pattern 1914 Enfield and the amount of standard issue ammunition for an infantry soldier was 45 rounds of .303 (7,7mm) caliber. In addition troops had access to 3 different types of hand grenades (defense, attack and rifle grenades). The Latvian Army had acquired wide variety of machine guns in different calibers from various means: trophies acquired from hostile forces during the War of Independence, allied donations and subsequent official state purchases. For light machine guns these included the French Chauchat, Danish Madsen, and British Lewis gun (which became the main light machine gun for the Latvian Army). The main heavy machine gun was the British Vickers machine gun in the .303 (7,7mm) caliber, although the army also kept Russian PM M1910 machine guns in reserve. In general, the Latvian Army was lacking in automatic weapons of all calibers, and the ones it did have were becoming increasingly outdated towards the start of World War II (most of the weapons in service were from World War I). In terms of heavy weapons, the Latvian military had acquired a rather large number of different artillery systems in different calibers, around 400 artillery pieces in total (although most of these were outdated and worn out due to heavy use and age). The main artillery gun for infantry support was British Ordnance QF 18-pounder field gun and British QF 4.5-inch howitzer, although there were also several types of French and Russian artillery field guns in reserve. For anti-tank weapons, in 1938 the army received Austrian 47 mm Cannone da 47/32 anti-tank cannons, which were reasonably effective against early WWII tanks. Concerning infantry mortars, a number of 81mm mortars were acquired from Finland somewhere around late 1930s, but its unclear how many were delivered and in service at the start of WWII.

In terms of vehicles, the Latvian military was seriously lacking in motorized transport, and thus had to rely mostly on railroads and horse drawn carriages for most of its logistic needs. The military leadership did make some efforts to solve this problem at the end of 1930's (by purchasing a small number of cars, trucks, artillery tractors and motorbikes), but at the start of WWII only a small portion of the Latvian military had access to motorized vehicles. In terms of armored vehicles, the Latvian military had 6 armored trains, 18 units of Carden Loyd tankettes, 6 armored cars and 27 tanks (of various designs and combat abilities). In terms of air power, at the start of WWII the Latvian Air Force had around 52 fighter planes and 48 scout planes, of which only 25 were the relatively modern Gloster Gladiator fighters. Thus the Latvian military during the interwar era was more or less comparable both in equipment and size to its other Baltic neighbors, such as Estonia, Lithuania and Finland.[4]

However, the most crucial problem and flaw for both the Latvian military and other militaries of the Baltic states at the eve of WWII had to do with the failure to organize effective military cooperation between all the Baltic states in case of a new war in the region. The Latvian command in the interwar period had given very little attention towards any possible coordination of forces with either the Estonian or Lithuanian armies against a possible enemy, and so the Latvian military planned its actions and doctrine in almost complete isolation and oblivious towards whatever its neighbors to the north (Estonia) or south (Lithuania) did. This ultimately led to flawed and questionable choices in creating defense plans against both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (there were separate plans towards both of these possible aggressors), since the Latvian higher command was unsure on how Latvia's neighbors would react in case of this possible conflict. [5]

After the Soviet occupation of Latvia in June 1940, the annihilation of the Latvian Army began. The army was first renamed the People’s Army of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Tautas armija) and in September–November 1940 the Red Army’s 24th Territorial Rifle Corps. The corps comprised the 181st and 183rd Rifle Divisions. In September the corps contained 24,416 men but in autumn more than 800 officers and about 10,000 instructors and soldiers were discharged. The arrests of soldiers continued in the following months. In June 1940, the entire Territorial Corps was sent to Litene camp. Before leaving the camp, Latvians drafted in 1939 were demobilised, and replaced by about 4,000 Russian soldiers from the area around Moscow. On June 10, the corps' senior officers were sent to Russia where they were arrested and most of them shot. On June 14 at least 430 officers were arrested and sent to Gulag camps. After the German attack against the Soviet Union, from June 29 to July 1 more than 2080 Latvian soldiers were demobilised, fearing that they might turn their weapons against the Russian commissars and officers. Simultaneously, many soldiers and officers deserted and when the corps crossed the Latvian border into the Russian SFSR, only about 3,000 Latvian soldiers remained.[6]

The origin of the current Latvian armed forces can be traced to the establishment of the Latvian National Guard or Zemessardze on August 23, 1991, which served as the first organized defence force after the restoration of the independence of Latvia. A notable moment in the history of the armed forces is the accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004.


Latvia Armed Forces 2019
Structure of the Latvian Armed Forces 2019

National Armed Forces consist of:

The Security Service of Parliament and State President was a part of the National Armed Forces until its merger with the Military Police in 2009.


Latvian National Armed Forces consist of the Regular Force, National Guard and Reserve. On January 1, 2007, conscription was abolished and since then the Regular Force consists of only professional soldiers. Recruits must be 18 years of age or older. As of June 2018, there were 5500 active duty soldiers, 8000 national guards.[3] By the end of 2017, there were 7800 registered reserve soldiers, of whom about 5000 were retired professional soldiers. According to the National Defence Concept, the National Armed Forces are to maintain 17500 militarily trained personnel, including 6500 professional soldiers, 8000 National Guards and 3000 (trained) reserve soldiers. Reserve training began in 2015.[7][8]


International cooperation

Along with providing for national defence, the NAF will also react immediately to threats to other allies and to international crises.

Latvia cooperates with Estonia and Lithuania in the joint infantry battalion BALTBAT and naval squadron BALTRON which are available for peacekeeping operations.

Currently, NATO is involved in the patrolling and protection of the Latvian air space as the Latvian military does not have the means to do so. For this goal a rotating force of four NATO fighters, which comes from different nations and switches at two or three month intervals, is based in Lithuania to cover all three Baltic states (see Baltic Air Policing).

Current operations

Deployment Organization Operation Personnel[9]
Somalia Somalia EU Operation Atalanta 1
Mali Mali EU EUTM Mali 3
Afghanistan Afghanistan NATO Operation Resolute Support 40
Libya Libya EU EU Navfor Med 1
Mali Mali UN MINUSMA 10
Iraq Iraq CJTF Operation Inherent Resolve 6


Latvian National Armed forces soldiers during the exercise “Silver Arrow 2017”

After joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Latvia has undertaken obligations to strengthen common defence within the scope of its capabilities. For this purpose, every NATO member state delegates its military formations — fast response, well-armed and well-equipped units capable to operate beyond the NATO’s borders.

After joining NATO, the foundation of the Latvian defence system has shifted from total territorial defence to collective defence. Latvia has acquired small but highly professional troop units that have been fully integrated into NATO structures. NAF soldiers have participated in international operations since 1996. Specialized units (e.g. units of military medics, military police, unexploded ordnance neutralizers, military divers and special forces) have been established in order to facilitate and enhance NAF participation in international operations. Special attention has been paid to establishing a unit to deal with the identification and clearance of nuclear pollution. The successful participation of Latvian soldiers in international exercises, operations and missions demonstrates that their professional skills already comply with the performance requirements set by the Alliance.


  1. ^ "NBS Vadība". Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b "Fact sheet "Latvian National Armed Forces" (2018)". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  4. ^ Andersons, Edgars (2006). Armed Forces of Latvia and their historical background . Riga: Daugavas Vanagi. p. 520. ISBN 9984794555.
  5. ^ Andersons, Edgars (2006). Armed Forces of Latvia and their historical background . Riga: Daugavas Vanagi. p. 520. ISBN 9984794555.
  6. ^ Bleiere, Daina; Ilgvars Butulis; Antonijs Zunda; Aivars Stranga; Inesis Feldmanis (2006). History of Latvia : the 20th century. Riga: Jumava. p. 327. ISBN 9984-38-038-6. OCLC 70240317.
  7. ^ Īvāns, Ansis (20 December 2017). "'2% no IKP: Kā mūs aizsargās?' No 8 tūkstošiem rezerves karavīru trīs gados iemaņas atjaunojuši 357". (in Latvian). Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  8. ^ "The National Defence Concept". Riga. 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Pašreizējās operācijas".

External links

Central Military Band of the Latvian National Armed Forces

The Central Military Band of the Latvian National Armed Forces also known as the NAF Staff Band is the central military band of the Latvian National Armed Forces Staff Battalion. It is the largest military band in Latvia.

Coat of arms of Latvia

Coat of arms of Republic of Latvia was officially adopted by the Constitutional Assembly of Latvia on July 15, 1921 and was in official use from August 19, 1921. It was created using new national symbols and older heraldic elements from Polish Livonia and Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. Thus the coat of arms combines symbols of Latvian national statehood, as well as symbols of its ancient historical districts. The Latvian national coat of arms was designed by the Latvian artist Rihards Zariņš.

Commander of the Joint Headquarters (Latvia)

The Commander of the Joint Headquarters is Chief of the Latvian National Armed Forces and the national defence organisations.

Dainis Turlais

Dainis Turlais (born 24 November 1950 in Madona, Latvian SSR) is a Latvian politician. He is a member of the Honor to serve Riga party, following the 2011 dissolution of the LPP/LC party, to which he belonged when he served as a deputy of the 9th Saeima (Latvian Parliament) from 7 November 2006 to 5 March 2009. Turlais was Latvia's Minister of the Interior from 21 December 1995 to 10 July 1997. In 2013, he was elected to Riga City Council.

Before he started his political career, he was commander of the Latvian National Armed Forces (1992 - 1994).

Guard Battalion (Estonia)

The Guard Battalion (Estonian: Vahipataljon) is specialized battalion directly of the Estonian Defense Forces for ceremonial duties and military police tasks. It is based in Tallinn and specialized in urban warfare. This unit was previously known as the Infantry Training Centre Independent Guard Battalion and was part of the Estonian Ground Forces.

The Guard Battalion is also the place for training of the Paramedic Course (applicants get the rank of Junior Sergeant and position of platoon or company paramedic upon completion) and the NAK (Junior Non-Commissioned Officers' Course – rank of Corporal or Junior Sergeant and position of squad leader or platoon sergeant aid upon completion). With NAK completed, it is possible to continue to the Platoon Commander Aid Course, after completion of which the applicants get the corresponding position and the title of aspirant. In case the platoon commander becomes MIA or receives an injury not compatible with his duties, it is the aspirant who takes over the unit.

Being the capital's largest military formation, the Guard Battalion also has the duty of carrying the watch over the presidential palace and welcoming foreign diplomats and political guests.


Latvia ( or (listen); Latvian: Latvija [ˈlatvija]), officially the Republic of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas Republika), is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.After centuries of Swedish, Polish and Russian rule, a rule mainly executed by the Baltic German aristocracy, the Republic of Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 when it broke away and declared independence in the aftermath of World War I. However, by the 1930s the country became increasingly autocratic after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime under Kārlis Ulmanis. The country's de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II, beginning with Latvia's forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, followed by the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941, and the re-occupation by the Soviets in 1944 (Courland Pocket in 1945) to form the Latvian SSR for the next 45 years.

The peaceful Singing Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation from Soviet rule and condemning the Communist regime's illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990, and restoring de facto independence on 21 August 1991. Latvia is a democratic sovereign state, parliamentary republic and a very highly developed country according to the United Nations Human Development Index. Its capital Riga served as the European Capital of Culture in 2014. Latvian is the official language. Latvia is a unitary state, divided into 119 administrative divisions, of which 110 are municipalities and nine are cities. Latvians and Livonians are the indigenous people of Latvia. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages.

Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. However, as a consequence of centuries of Russian rule (1710–1918) and later Soviet occupation, Latvia is home to a large number of ethnic Russians (26.9% in Latvia), some of whom (14.1% of Latvian residents) have not gained citizenship, leaving them with no citizenship at all. Until World War II, Latvia also had significant minorities of ethnic Germans and Jews. Latvia is historically predominantly Lutheran Protestant, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic. The Russian population are largely Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Latvia is a member of the European Union, Eurozone, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, CBSS, the IMF, NB8, NIB, OECD, OSCE, and WTO. For 2014, the country was listed 46th on the Human Development Index and as a high income country on 1 July 2014. A full member of the Eurozone, it began using the euro as its currency on 1 January 2014, replacing the Latvian lats.

Latvian Land Forces

The Latvian Land Forces (Latvian: Sauszemes Spēki, SzS) together with the Latvian National Guard form the land warfare branch of the Latvian National Armed Forces. Since 2007, land forces are organized as a fully professional standing army.

Latvian National Armed Forces Staff Battalion

National Armed Forces Staff Battalion (Latvian: Nacionālo Bruņoto Spēku Štāba bataljons) is a specialized battalion of Latvian National Armed Forces. Its main tasks are to ensure the security of the NAF Joint Headquarters, providing secure and uninterrupted communications to NAF units and participating in military ceremonies. The Battalion is directly subordinate to the Commander of the Joint Headquarters.

Latvian National Guard

The Latvian National Guard or NG (Latvian: Latvijas Republikas Zemessardze or ZS) is a part of the Latvian National Armed Forces. The National Guard is a basic land component, consisting of volunteers who perform traditional national guard duties such as crisis response and support for military operations. It consists of the Staff Headquarters and 4 brigades (formally - regions or novadi), which are divided into 18 battalions. The National Guard continued its development also after Latvia joined NATO.

Leonīds Kalniņš

Lieutenant General Leonīds Kalniņš (born February 13, 1957 in Tomsk Oblast, RSFSR, Soviet Union) is a Latvian politician and general. He currently serves as the Commander of the Joint Headquarters. He was born in 1957 in the Russian Pervomaysky District and attended the Dobele R. Eihes Secondary School (now the Dobele State Gymnasium) in his youth. Afyer graduating in 1975, he began his service in the Soviet Armed Forces, attending the Vilnius Higher Airborne Defense School. In 1990 he graduated from the Kharkov Military Academy in Ukraine. In 1997, he began his service in an infantry battalion in the Latvian National Armed Forces. His first official position he took was as the Chief of the Operational Planning Board of the Latvian National Guard Headquarters. In 2006, Kalniņš was appointed as deputy commander of the Latvian Contingent in Iraq. Between 2010 and 2013, he studied at the Baltic Defence College in Estonia and the United States Army Command and General Staff College in Kansas. In November 2016, he was promoted to the post of Commander of the Joint Headquarters of the NAF and was confirmed by the Saeima at the end of the year. He began his duties as NAF Commander on January 27, 2017. He is a recipient of the Order of Viesturs.

List of Ministers of Defence of Latvia

The Defence Minister of the Republic of Latvia is the head of the Ministry of Defence, who is charged with the political leadership of the Latvian National Armed Forces. The position was re-established in November 1991 following the declaration of the country's independence from the USSR. Since July 2015, the position has been held by Raimonds Bergmanis.

Lithuanian Armed Forces Headquarters Band

The Lithuanian Armed Forces Headquarters Band (Lithuanian: Lietuvos kariuomenės orkestras), also known as the LKO HQ Band is a Lithuanian musical unit stationed in Vilnius, being attached to the Grand Duke Gediminas Staff Battalion and one of 5 that are based in the country. It is the largest professional military band in Lithuania as well as in the military bands in the other Baltic States, being larger than the Kaitseväe Orkester and the Central Military Band of the Latvian National Armed Forces. The orchestra is currently led by Egidijus Ališauskas, with assistance from the deputy commander, Lieutenant Dainius Pavilionis.

May 4 Military Parade

The May 4 Military Parade also known as the Freedom Celebration or the May 4 Freedom Celebration is an annual military parade in Latvia which has been held since 2012. It commemorates the date when Latvia (then the Latvian SSR) gained its independence from the Soviet Union. On May 4, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted a declaration "On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia". The parade is usually the first of two full military parades held per year in the country, with the other being held on November 11, Latvia's independence day. The parade usually starts at 11:00 am and typically involves around 700 troops of the Latvian National Armed Forces, including personnel representing the Land Forces, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, State Border Guard, Special Tasks Unit, Military Police and military academies.

Being a NATO member, the also commonly includes military servicemen from NATO allies such as the United States, Canada and Germany.

Every year, the parade is held in various Latvian cities outside of the capital of Riga. The following is a list of parades by year:

2012 - Rēzekne

2013 - Kuldīga

2014 - Valmiera

2015 - Jelgava

2016 - Krāslava

2017 - Liepāja

2018 - Madona

Michigan National Guard

The Michigan National Guard consists of the Michigan Army National Guard and the Michigan Air National Guard.

PGM Hécate II

The Hécate II is the standard heavy sniper rifle of the French Army, sometimes known as the FR-12.7 (French: Fusil à Répétition de calibre 12,7 mm or "12.7 mm calibre repeating rifle"). It is manufactured by PGM Précision of France. This is the largest weapon manufactured by PGM, chambered for the .50 BMG (12.7×99mm NATO) cartridge.

Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia

Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia is celebrated annually on 18 November. It marks the anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence of Latvia by the People's Council of Latvia in 1918.

Raimonds Bergmanis

Raimonds Bergmanis (born 25 July 1966) is a Latvian politician and former Minister of Defence. He is a former Olympic weightlifter and retired strongman competitor.

Ranks and insignia of NATO

Ranks and insignia of NATO are combined military insignia used by the member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The rank scale is used for specifying posts within NATO.

Ranks and insignia of the Latvian National Armed Forces

The Ranks and insignia of the Latvian National Armed Forces are the military insignia used by the Latvian National Armed Forces. Historically the Land Forces wore collar insignia. Today shoulder boards are worn by almost all personnel, save for the Staff Battalion, which uses a modified form of the old collar insignia.

Latvia articles
Multilateral relations
Other arrangements
Militaries of Europe
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States with limited
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