The Spanish Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Españolas
) are the military forces of Spain. The King of Spain is the Commander in Chief and ultimate leader of the armed forces, holding the rank of Captain-General. The three branches of the Spanish Armed Forces are the Army (Ejército de Tierra
), The Navy (Armada Real Española
, the Trope Namer
) and the Air Force (Ejército del Aire
) with 80,000, 25,000 and 27,000 personnel respectively. After Franco's death Spain joined NATO and now participates in the Eurocorps.
The earliest origins of the Spanish Army can be traced back to the late 15th century. The Catholic Monarchs of Castile-Leon and Aragon (Isabella and Ferdinand) developed a royal 'milicia' system of, well, militia to provide troops under direct Royal command to fight their war against the Moorish Duchy of Granada. The existence of these forces lessened and eventually removed
the monarchy's need to rely on the nobility and clergy to provide troops for their wars. This reduced the sway both had over society in general and the monarchy in particular.
This system was to prove inadequate when faced with the wars that came along with Castile & Aragon's later Imperial Entanglements under the 'Spanish' Habsburgs. Having inherited The Arch-Duchy of Austria, The Duchy of Burgundy (the modern day Low/BENELUX countries), the Duchy of Milan, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily+Naples) the Spanish Habsburgs found themselves almost continually at war for about two hundred years. The Spanish Habsburgs' chief enemies (even after Austria passed to the 'Austrian' branch of the family, making the struggle against the German Protestants no longer a direct problem) were France and the French Protestants (during the latter C16th French Wars of Religion), Dutch Protestants and Nationalist Rebels, African Muslim pirates, The Muslim Ottoman Empire (particularly under Suleiman the Magnificent), and English smugglers-turned-pirates
. The milicia
system was completely unable to cope with the manpower and bureaucratic demands placed upon it, leaving great hordes of mercenaries to fill the gap - as in the contemporary 
or 'New World' of The Americas basically fell into Castile-Leon's lap because of the actions of just a few hundred enterprising and utterly ruthless bastards who managed to place themselves at the heads of powerful coalitions to defeat the universally-loathed Aztec Empire (a small state surrounded by others which it raided for human sacrifices) and the perenially factious Incan Confederation (a collection of several dozen kingdoms bound together in only the very loosest of senses). That just a few hundred men were able to make a difference to societies where maybe 40 million people had been living just a few decades beforehand is thanks largely to the way they accidentally brought Old World plagues (like the Black Death) with them. These killed about 90% of the entire population of The Americas, effectively reducing the pool of available manpower for fighting down to about 400,000 men - still enough to absolutely slaughter the Castilian 'Conquistadors' if they so chose, but small enough that a force of vicious bastards could make a credible claim to be worthy figureheads. What the locals didn't
count on, however, was the Conquistadors turning on them and butchering their own leaders in turn - declaring that they
were now the new rulers of The Americas (on the behalf of the Spanish Habsburgs). After a few decades the last of the Conquistadors died (often at each other's hands) and the monarchy began a centuries-long struggle to try and administer The Americas directly, something the Conquistadors' (often half-European, half-Amerindian) descendents tried to oppose.
Interestingly, the Castilians seem to have been the first to formalise the idea of 'Naval Infantry' what with their 'marine' forces being officially founded by King Carlos I Habsburg of Castile-Leon (aka King Carlos II Habsburg of the Crown of Aragon and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V Habsburg) in 1537. The basic military formation during the imaginary 'Golden Age' of 1560-1600 (during which the Spanish Habsburgs were more-or-less the only major Christian power in Europe given France's descent into a Religious Civil War) were the Tercios
, 1000-man formations of musketeers and pikemen in a ratio of about 3:1. The Tercio would be reformed after poor performance in the Thirty Years' War, with a new musketeer:pikemen ratio of 6:1 or more.
Spanish Military were deeply reformed with the arrival of the House of Bourbon to the Spanish Throne in 1700 and served in the American Revolution, where the King of Spain supported the newborn United States against the British Empire. Spanish Marines were able to defeat the British Redcoats on a battle during the American Revolution and its commander rode next to George Washington in the parade after the war was won. Indeed, Spain invented the concept of Marines. This was copied by the British, who were in turn copied by the Americans. During the invasion by Napoleon in 1808, the Army was mostly smashed by the Napoleonic forces (with the exception of Bailén, which was the first defeat of Napoleon's army ever, or the First Siege of Zaragoza), and most of the military actions were done by the guerrilla fighters spread out over all of Spain. It would take some time until Spain recovered an army.
All along the 19th century, the military became a big part of society. It faced thrice against the Carlist insurrectionists and several times they launched a coup d'état against the government. From this time came Ramón María Narváez
, nicknamed "El Espadón de Loja" (Loja's Greatsword
), who said while he was dying that he wouldn't pardon his enemies: "I have none. I have had them all shot"
. The Spanish military suffered a big defeat in the Spanish-American War
of 1898 (el desastre del 98
), losing the last colonies outside of Africa in the effort. This would spark the need for a "regeneration" amongst Spanish people, realising that Spain wasn't the great empire of the Austrias anymore.
An invasion of the Rif (in Northern Morocco) required that many reservists were sent there. Most of them were married and would have to leave behind their families, which they wouldn't be able to support on a soldier's salary. This, and several other factors, sparked the Semana Trágica
of Barcelona, which ended with around 150 deaths, many injured, five people condemned to death and Antonio Maura's politic career. In 1923, Miguel Primo de Rivera led a coup d'état in the spirit of Benito Mussolini
's one the year before, with Alfonso XIII
's support (there are many indications that one of the reasons for this was that the Picasso commission, which was investigating the Disaster of Annual
, was finding proofs of the King's involvement in the disaster). In 1930, Primo de Rivera was forced to resign due to the fact that most of the country was fast losing their confidence in both him and the monarchy. A direct result of this was that, in 1931, the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed.
In July 1936, part of the army rose against the Republican leftist government. The partial failure of the coup meant 3 years of civil war
, which ended with the victory of the rebels, led by Francisco Franco
The coup d'état of 23 February 1981 came because the army was getting angry at the democratic government's supposed incompetence at trying to restore the economy and stopping the ETA terrorist group, which had been trying to spark this by killing soldiers and officers. It started with Antonio Tejero, a Guardia Civil colonel, invading the Congreso de los Diputados with 200 guardias civiles.note
Jaime Milans del Bosch, the commander of the 3rd military district (HQ in Valencia) declared the state of emergency. King Juan Carlos I
would, in the end, send a message while wearing the Capitán General de los Ejércitos
uniform, condemning the coup, putting an end to it by the next day. Since then, the Spanish Army, Navy and Air Force have mostly played a part in NATO and UNO missions, playing important roles in peacekeeping both at the Balkans, Afghanistan and Lebanon, amongst others.
One controversial move was José María Aznar's decision to send troops to Iraq to support the invasion in 2003 despite almost complete opposition to it from the Spanish population. This would become one of the main points of contention during the 2004 elections, when socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero promised to bring the troops from there as soon as possible if he got elected, which he did.
Ejército de Tierra
Ejército del Aire
Armada Real Española
The Spanish Military in Fiction:
- Appears several times in Horatio Hornblower, usually with rather a contempt for their skills. Note that in real life they were extraordinarily bad in pitched battles whether by land and by sea-but they were absolutely terrifying in guerrilla warfare and Urban Warfare at the time. So Captain Hornblower's prejudices would have been only partially true.
- Washington Irving describes several Badass Spanish warriors in his books.
- Arturo Pérez-Reverte has written about the Tercios (in the Alatriste series), the Conquistadores and the Napoleonic wars (in assorted short fiction). He devoted a whole novel to the battle of Trafalgar, too.