Lithuanian Armed Forces

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Lithuanian Armed Forces
Lietuvos ginkluotosios pajėgos
Insignia of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.svg
Insignia of the Lithuanian Armed Forces
Flag of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.png
Flag of the Lithuanian Armed Forces
Founded23 November 1918 (first Armed Forces about XI-XII c.)
Current form25 April 1990
Service branchesInsignia of the Lithuanian Land Force.svg Land Force

Insignia of the Lithuanian Air Force.png Air Force
Insignia of the Lithuanian Naval Force.svg Naval Force
Insignia of the Lithuanian Special Operations Force.svg Special Operations Force

Insignia of the National Defence Volunteer Forces (Lithuania).png Volunteer Forces
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Commander-in-Chief President Gitanas Nausėda
Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas
Chief of Defence Lieutenant general Valdemaras Rupšys
Military age18–55
Conscription9 months
Available for
military service
890,074 males, age 16–49 (2016 est.),
875,780 females, age 16–49 (2016 est.)
Fit for
military service
669,111 males, age 16–49 (2016 est.),
724,803 females, age 16–49 (2016 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
20,425 males (2016 est.),
19,527 females (2016 est.)
Active personnel20,521 (2020)[1]
14,400 paramilitary (2018)[1]
Reserve personnel90,000 (2020)[1]
Budget€1.028 billion (2020)[2]
Percent of GDP2.13% (2020)
Foreign suppliers Denmark
 United Kingdom
 United States
Related articles
History1918–20 Lithuanian Wars of Independence
1944–45 World War II
1944–53 Lithuanian partisans
1994 Bosnian War
2001–Present 2001 war in Afghanistan
2003–Present Invasion of Iraq
2004–Present Kosovo Force
2013–Present EUTM Mali
2013–Present Operation Atalanta
2014 Operation Sangaris
2015–present EU Navfor Med
2017–present MINUSMA
RanksLithuanian military ranks

The Lithuanian Armed Forces (Lithuanian: Lietuvos ginkluotosios pajėgos) is the military of Lithuania, acting as the principal deterrent against any security threat to the nation. It currently consists of 20,565 active personnel.[3] Conscription was ended in September 2008[4] but reintroduced in 2015 because of concerns about the geopolitical environment in light of Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.[5]

Lithuania's defence system is based on the concept of "total and unconditional defence" mandated by Lithuania's National Security Strategy. The goal of Lithuania's defence policy is to prepare their society for general defence and to integrate Lithuania into Western security and defence structures. The defence ministry is responsible for combat forces, search and rescue, and intelligence operations.[6]

The 4,800 border guards fall under the Interior Ministry's supervision and are responsible for border protection, passport and customs duties, and share responsibility with the navy for smuggling / drug trafficking interdiction. The staff of border police is not officially part of the defence system but would assist the army in case of invasion.[7] A special security department handles VIP protection and communications security.


Military of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania[edit]

The victory of the Polish-Lithuanian forces over the Grand Duchy of Moscow at the Battle of Orsha in 1514

The medieval origins of the Lithuanian military are in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania armed forces which were active in 1253-1263 and 1275–1569.[8] After the Union of Lublin in 1569, these armed forces maintained autonomy within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Third Partition in 1795. The armed forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania participated in a number of major battles of medieval Europe, including Battle of Blue Waters (1362/63), Battle of Grunwald (1410), Battle of Orsha (1514) and Battle of Kircholm (1605). Similarly to other medieval states in Europe, the army was raised by the nobility during the Late Middle Ages. By the 17th century, it was mostly outclassed by professional forces and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth began to maintain a standing army.

Interwar and post-war periods[edit]

Lithuanian Renault FT-17 tanks in 1924

After the restoration of Lithuania on 16 February 1918, the country began the formation of the army immediately.[9] The first order by the Ministry of Defence was issued on 23 November 1918 and this date is considered the establishment day of the modern Lithuanian Armed Forces.[10] The newly formed army almost immediately fought three wars of independence. Having won the Lithuanian–Soviet War and the war against the Bermontians, it was defeated in the Polish–Lithuanian War. By the end of 1920, Lithuanian army had over 41 thousand troops.[9] In the interwar period, the armour equipment primarily consisted of light tanks and tankettes: British Carden Loyd tankette, French Renault FT-17, Swedish Landsverk-182, German Ehrhardt E-V/4.[9] In 1940, Lithuania had a considerable Air Force, consisting of 118 aircraft with about half of them designed and produced locally. During the World War II, Lithuania was invaded by both Nazis and Soviets, which eventually concluded in Soviet occupation. Despite Soviet repressions, there was a considerable armed Lithuanian resistance which lasted until 1950s.

Restoration and NATO[edit]

Following the restoration of independence, the modern armed forces were formally restored on 25 April 1990 with the establishment of the Department of National Defence. After the January Events, the Voluntary National Defence Service was formed from lightly armed volunteers. The Lithuanian Armed Forces were officially restored on 19 November 1992.[10] Western European countries, especially Sweden, helped to form the initial force by selling or donating excess equipment. However, soon Lithuania began modernisation of its military, becoming the first European country to acquire US-made FGM-148 Javelin systems in 2001, followed by the FIM-92 Stinger purchase in 2002.[11]

Lithuania applied for NATO membership in 1994 and eventually joined the alliance in 2004. It has since modernised its Armed Forces and has participated in a number of international missions, including the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and others.


Structure of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, 2020 (click to enlarge)

The Lithuanian Armed Forces consist of the Lithuanian Land Force, Lithuanian Air Force, Lithuanian Naval Force, Lithuanian Special Operations Force and other units: Logistics Command, Training and Doctrine Command, Headquarters Battalion, Military Police. Directly subordinated to the Chief of Defence are the Special Operations Forces and Military Police. The Reserve Forces are under command of the Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces.

Lithuanian Riflemen's Union is a paramilitary organization which cooperates with the Armed Forces, but it is not part of them. However, during the state of war, its armed formations fall under the command of the Armed Forces.

Lithuanian Land Force[edit]

The core of the Lithuanian Land Force structure is the Iron Wolf Mechanised Infantry Brigade (MIB "Iron Wolf") consisting of four mechanized infantry battalions and an artillery battalion. It is supported by Žemaitija Motorized infantry Brigade which has three battalions and one artillery battalion as well. The third, Aukštaitija Light Infantry Brigade, is a reserve formation with active training. Its command, signal and logistic units are manned by professional soldiers. Volunteer Forces form another brigade-size force, consisting of six territorial units. Other auxiliary units include Juozas Vitkus Engineer Battalion and Juozas Lukša Land Force Training Center.

The Lithuanian Land forces use equipment compatible with the NATO standards. Since 2007, the standard assault rifle is German Heckler & Koch G36. Units are supplied with modern variants of anti-tank weapons (M72 LAW, Carl Gustaf, AT4, FGM-148 Javelin) as well as man-portable air-defense systems (PZR Grom, RBS-70, FIM-92 Stinger). Modern armoured equipment includes: Oshkosh L-ATV armoured cars, Boxer infantry fighting vehicles (local designation IVF "Vilkas") armed with Spike-LR anti-tank missiles and PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers. The Lithuanian Land forces have been carrying out major modernization with more new weapons and heavier armour being acquired.

Lithuania has been restructuring the armed forces so that one tenth of the Land Forces could at any given time be deployed for international operations, while half of the Land Forces would be prepared to be deployed outside Lithuania's borders. The volunteers have already successfully participated in international operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lithuanian Air Force[edit]

Lithuanian Air Force helicopter

The Lithuanian Air Force (LAF) is an integral part of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The LAF is formed from professional military servicemen and non-military personnel. Units are located at various bases across Lithuania:

The initial formation of the LAF was the 2nd transport squadron with the transfer of 20 An-2 aircraft from civilian to military use, with initial basing at the Barysiai Airport on 27 April 1992. These were joined by four L-39C Albatros aircraft to be used by the 1st fighter (training) squadron. These were in addition to Mil Mi-8 helicopters and a short-range transport aircraft L-410, all of which went through capital overhaul, upgrade and modernisation in 2000s.

Following the initial acquisitions, the LAF began modernisation of its aircraft by ordering three C-27J Spartan transporters in 2006. In 2013, three Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin helicopters were acquired from France and, in 2020, Lithuania announced an order or four Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from USA. At the same time, new medium-range and long-range radars were acquired for the Airspace Surveillance and Control Command.

Air space is patrolled by jet fighters from other NATO members, which are based out of the city Šiauliai (Zokniai Airport, known as the Aviation base) (see Baltic Air Policing). The European Union's External border (with Kaliningrad and Belarus) is patrolled by Aviation Unit of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service which acquired new helicopters EC-120, EC-135 and EC-145 in 2000s.

Lithuanian Navy[edit]

Lithuanian Naval Force Flyvefisken class ship P12 Dzukas

The Navy has over 600 personnel. The Navy consists of the Warship Flotilla, the Sea Coastal Surveillance System, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Divers Team, the Naval Logistic Service, Training Center and Maritime Rescue Coordination Center. The flotilla is the core component of the Navy, and consists of the Mine Countermeasures Squadron, the Patrol Ships Squadron, and the Harbour Boats Group.[13] The current Commander in Chief of the Lithuanian Navy is Rear Admiral Kęstutis Macijauskas. The Naval base and Headquarters are located in the city of Klaipėda.[14] The Navy uses patrol ships for coastal surveillance.

The four newly acquired Flyvefisken class patrol vessels replaced the older Storm class patrol boats and Grisha class corvettes.

Special Operations Force[edit]

Lithuanian Special Forces during BALTOPS in 2012.

The Lithuanian Special Operations Force of Lithuanian Armed Forces has been in operation de facto since 2002 and it was established de jure on 3 April 2008, when amendments of National Defence System organisation and military service law came into force.[15] The Special Operations Force is formed from the Special Operations Unit.[16]

The Special Operations Force is responsible for special reconnaissance, direct actions, and military support. It is also in charge of other tasks, e.g., protection of VIPs in peacetime. Its core is based on the Special Purpose Service, Vytautas the Great Jaeger Battalion and Combat Divers Service. Lithuanian Air Force Special Operations Element is subordinate to the Unit at the level of operations management. Its structure is flexible which makes it easy to form squadrons intended for concrete operations and missions from its elements. The Special Operations Force can be called upon inside the territory of Lithuania when law enforcement agencies lack or do not have necessary capabilities to react to terrorist attacks. Capabilities of special forces makes them the main national response force responsible for counter-terrorism operations and operations to prevent violations of sovereignty.[16]

The Special Operations Force Squadron "Aitvaras" was deployed to Afghanistan on the operation "Enduring Freedom". From 2005 to 2006 its squadrons were on standby in NATO Response Force.[16]

International cooperation[edit]

Lithuanian soldier in Afghanistan, 2012

Lithuania is a member of NATO military alliance since 2004. In the European Union, Lithuanian Armed Forces are taking part in Nordic Battle Group since 2008. Lithuanian Armed Forces also participate in the UK Joint Expeditionary Force formed in 2014.

In 2009, to encourage regional cooperation, Lithuania joined the initiative to form the Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade.

NATO membership[edit]

Soon after restoration of independence, Lithuania applied for NATO membership in January 1994. Together with another six Central and Eastern European countries, Lithuania was invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the 2002 Prague summit and became a member of the Alliance in March 2004. Lithuania entered NATO on full-fledged rights immediately after the procedures of joining the North Atlantic Treaty were completed and acquired rights to participate in the political decision-making process of the Alliance. Integration into the military structures of NATO became a long-term task of Lithuanian Armed Forces. Mechanised Infantry Brigade "Iron Wolf" was affiliated to the Danish Division on the basis of agreements signed by Denmark and Lithuania in August 2006. Lithuanian Armed Forces started to boost ability of the Brigade to cooperate with the forces of other NATO members.

Baltic Air Policing was established by NATO allies since Lithuania and the other Baltic states do not have capabilities to secure their airspace. Fighter jets of NATO members are permanently deployed in Zokniai airport near the city Šiauliai to provide cover for the Baltic states airspace.[17] In 2013, NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence was established in Vilnius.

Following the 2016 Warsaw summit, NATO Enhanced Forward Presence was deployed in the Baltic States with the multinational battalion battle group in Lithuania being led by Germany.

Cooperation between the Baltic States[edit]

Lithuanian soldiers with their NATO allies during Iron Sword 2014.

Lithuania also cooperates with the two other Baltic states – Latvia and Estonia in several trilateral Baltic defence co-operation initiatives:

  • Baltic Battalion (BALTBAT) – infantry battalion for participation in international peace support operations, headquartered near Riga, Latvia;
  • Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) – naval force with mine countermeasures capabilities, headquartered near Tallinn, Estonia;
  • Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET) – air surveillance information system, headquartered near Kaunas, Lithuania;
  • Joint military educational institutions: Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) in Tartu, Estonia, Baltic Diving Training Centre in Liepāja, Latvia and Baltic Naval Communications Training Centre in Tallinn, Estonia.[18]

In January 2011, the Baltic states were invited to join NORDEFCO, the defence framework of the Nordic countries.[19] In November 2012, the three countries agreed to create a joint military staff in 2013.[20] Future co-operation will include sharing of national infrastructures for training purposes and specialisation of training areas (BALTTRAIN) and collective formation of battalion-sized contingents for use in the NATO rapid-response force.[21]

Foreign missions and operations[edit]

Lithuanian soldiers have taken part in international operations since 1993. Since the summer of 2005 Lithuania has been part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), leading a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the town of Chaghcharan in the province of Ghor. The PRT includes personnel from Denmark, Iceland and US. There have also been special operation forces units in Afghanistan. They were placed in Kandahar province.

Since joining international operations in 1993 Lithuania has lost two soldiers. 1st Lt. Normundas Valteris fell in Bosnia (17 April 1996), Sgt. Arūnas Jarmalavičius in Afghanistan (22 May 2008).[22]

Current operations[edit]

Deployment Organization Operation Personnel[23]
Somalia EU Operation Atalanta 15
Mali EU EUTM Mali 2
Afghanistan NATO Operation Resolute Support 29
Libya EU EU Navfor Med 3
Iraq CJTF Operation Inherent Resolve 6
Central African Republic EU EUFOR RCA 1
Kosovo NATO KFOR 1
Ukraine Training mission 40

List of military equipment[edit]


The President of Lithuania is the commander-in-chief of the Lithuanian Armed Forces according the Constitution of Lithuania. Ministry of National Defence is directly responsible for the organisation of the defence system.[24] Chief of Defence (Lithuanian: Kariuomenės vadas) is subordinate to the Minister of National Defence. Defence Staff (Lithuanian: Gynybos štabas) of the Armed Forces is responsible for the preparation of defence and mobilisation plans.


In May 2015 the Lithuanian parliament voted to return the conscription and the conscripts started their training in August 2015.[25] This was after the Crimean Crisis, which heightened international tensions and thus ended the brief respite of seven years when Lithuania abolished its conscription in 2008.[26]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c IISS 2019, p. 125.
  2. ^ "Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2013-2020)" (PDF). NATO. 16 March 2021. Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  3. ^ Personnel size in 1998–2011 Ministry of National Defence
  4. ^ "Compulsory basic military service discontinued". Ministry of National Defence. Archived from the original on 26 June 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2009.
  5. ^ "Conscription notices to be sent to 37,000 men in Lithuania".
  6. ^ "Lietuvos Respublikos krašto apsaugos ministerija :: Titulinis" (PDF). Retrieved 24 December 2014.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Dvorak, J., Pernica, B. (2021). To free or not to free (ride): a comparative analysis of the NATO burden-sharing in the Czech Republic and Lithuania – another insight into the issues of military performance in the Central and Eastern Europe, Defense & Security Analysis, DOI: 10.1080/14751798.2021.1919345
  8. ^ "Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės kariuomenė" (in Lithuanian). Visuotinė lietuvių enciklopedija. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  9. ^ a b c "Lietuvos ginkluotosios pajėgos 1918–1940" (in Lithuanian). Visuotinė lietuvių enciklopedija. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  10. ^ a b "The fight for Lithuanian statehood. From ancient times to NATO".
  11. ^ "Lietuvos ginkluotosios pajėgos po nepriklausomybės atkūrimo" (in Lithuanian). Visuotinė lietuvių enciklopedija. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  12. ^ "Lithuanian Armed Forces :: Structure " Air Force". Ministry of National Defence, Republic of Lithuania. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  13. ^ "Lithuanian Armed Forces :: Structure " Navy". Ministry of National Defence, Republic of Lithuania. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Lithuanian Armed Forces :: Structure " Navy " Command". Ministry of National Defence, Republic of Lithuania. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania". Archived from the original on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  16. ^ a b c "Lithuanian Armed Forces :: Structure " Special Forces". Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania :: News " News archives " News archive 2009 " News archive (2009–03)". Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Baltic Defence Co-operation". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. January 2002. Archived from the original on 5 August 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Nordic Countries Invite Baltics to Join Defence Co-operation Framework". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 21 January 2011. Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  20. ^ "Joint Baltic Military Staff to Be Established". Estonian Public Broadcasting. 9 November 2012. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  21. ^ "Baltic Defence Ministers announced new defence cooperation initiatives". Ministry of National Defence, Republic of Lithuania. 12 December 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  22. ^ "Lithuanian Armed Forces :: Multinational operations " In remembrance". Ministry of National Defence, Republic of Lithuania. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  23. ^ "LK Gynybos štabas » Vykdomos TO".[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "Lietuvos Respublikos krašto apsaugos sistemos organizavimo ir karo tarnybos įstatymas" (in Lithuanian). Office of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  25. ^ "Värnplikten är tillbaka i Litauen - hård konkurrens om platserna | Utrikes" (in Swedish). 25 August 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  26. ^ "Litauen återinför allmän värnplikt | Utrikes" (in Swedish). 24 February 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2017.


As of this edit, this article uses content from "Lithuanian Armed Forces", authored by Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania, which is licensed in a way that permits reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, but not under the GFDL. All relevant terms must be followed.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]