Lithuanian Armed Forces
Lietuvos ginkluotosios pajėgos
Insignia of the Lithuanian Armed Forces
Flag of the Lithuanian Armed Forces
Founded23 November 1918
(first armed formations c. 12th century)
Current form25 April 1990
Service branches Land Force
Air Force
Naval Force
Special Operations Force
Volunteer Forces
War time only:
Riflemen's Union
Public Security Service
State Border Guard Service
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Commander-in-Chief President Gitanas Nausėda
Minister of National Defence Laurynas Kasčiūnas
Chief of Defence 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 personnel23,000 (2021)[1][a]
14,150 paramilitary (2021)[2][b]
Reserve personnelActive reserve 28,000, total reserve 104,000 (2021)[1]
Budget€2.3 billion
Percent of GDP3,03% (2024)[3]
Foreign suppliers Denmark
 United Kingdom
 United States
Related articles
History1918–20 Lithuanian Wars of Independence
1944–53 Lithuanian partisans
1994 Bosnian War
2001–2021 War in Afghanistan (2001–2021)
2003–2008 Invasion of Iraq
2004–Present Kosovo Force
2013–Present EUTM Mali
2013–Present Operation Atalanta
2014 Operation Sangaris
2015–present EU Navfor Med
2017–2023 MINUSMA
RanksLithuanian military ranks

The Lithuanian Armed Forces (Lithuanian: Lietuvos ginkluotosios pajėgos) are the military of Lithuania. The Lithuanian Armed Forces consist of the Lithuanian Land Forces, the Lithuanian Naval Force, the Lithuanian Air Force and the Lithuanian Special Operations Force. In wartime, the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (which is under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior in peacetime) becomes part of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.

The purpose of the Lithuanian Armed Forces are to be the principal deterrent against any security threat to the nation. 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 Ministry of National Defence is responsible for combat forces, search and rescue, and intelligence operations.[4]

Male conscription is in place since 2015, when it was reinstated after being ended in 2008, due to concerns about the geopolitical environment in light of the Russo-Ukrainian War.[5]

In early 2022, Lithuania's defence budget for 2022 was approximately 1.05 billion,[1][c] but it was increased to €1.5 billion on 17 March 2022.[6]



Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army

Seal of Grand Duke Kęstutis from 1379 depicting a grand ducal infantryman

The Lithuanian military originates in the Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army, active from the 13th century to 1795.[7] After the Union of Lublin in 1569, the Lithuanian Army remained equal to the Polish Crown army in the military of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Third Partition in 1795. The Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army fought in many major battles, such as the Battle of Blue Waters (1362/63), Battle of Grunwald (1410), Battle of Orsha (1514) and Battle of Kircholm (1605).

Similarly to other medieval European states, the army was raised by the nobility during the Late Middle Ages. By the 17th century, it was mostly outclassed by professional forces and a standing army was instituted.

13th century


From the 12th century's end and into the 13th century, Lithuania frequently went to war against the western and southwestern Rus' states, Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia and Duchy of Masovia, and also devastated the lands along the Daugava and elsewhere.[7] From the early 1200s, Lithuanians fought against the Swordbrothers, then from 1237 against the Livonian Order, and from the second half of the 13th century's against the State of the Teutonic Order.[7] Fighting on Lithuania's northern and western frontiers was unceasing, the Lithuanian state expanded southwards and eastwards in the Late Middle Ages.[7] The Lithuanian army was mobile, as it had to fight on many fronts: the State of the Teutonic Order to the west, the Livonian Order to the north, the Golden Horde and its vassal Muscovy to the east, and the Tatar khanates to the south.[7] According to 13th-century sources, Lithuanian soldiers rode horses on military expeditions but fought on foot, arranged in three rows during battles.[7] The best-armed and most experienced fought in the front, while the least experienced and lightly armed were in the last row.[7] Furthermore, the Lithuanians were skilled at fighting using spears, especially on horseback. The earliest written mention of such tactics, from 1208, says that Lithuanians on horses threw spears at their enemies.[8]

Although the Germans initially had superior weaponry in the 13th century, the Lithuanians won the Battles of Saule (1236), Durbe (1260), Karuse (1270) and the Aizkraukle (1279).[7] However they were less successful against enemy fortifications, especially brick castles.[7] Eventually the front lines stabilised over time, and the one against the Livonian Order more or less followed the modern Latvia–Lithuania border, while the one against the Teutonic Order was close to the Nemunas.[7][9] A castle system fortified the Lithuanian side of the border along the river.[7]

14th century


Over the 14th century, the Teutonic and Livonian orders organised raids into Lithuania.[7] Lithuanians reciprocated by raiding their respective territories, but the Lithuanian raids were fewer in number.[7] The Lithuanians won the Battle of Medininkai (1320), but lost the Battle of Strėva (1348).[7] More and more, the Teutonic Order destroyed the Lithuanian castle system along the Nemunas and built their own castles near the Lithuanian ones.[7] As the German and Livonian orders were constantly reinforced by Christian European countries, it became increasingly difficult to defend Lithuania solely by military means.[7] A new generation of the Lithuanian Grand Dukes, Jogaila and Vytautas the Great, used not only military, but also diplomatic and political means, for example Lithuanian baptism in 1387, to protect Lithuania.[7]

Meanwhile on the other side of Lithuania, the Golden Horde's army was destroyed in the Battle of Blue Waters (1362-1363).[7] In 1368, 1370, and 1372, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas led the Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army on military expeditions against Muscovy.[7] However, the Battle of the Vorksla River (1399) was a decisive victory for the Golden Horde.[7]

15th century


Finally, the German Teutonic Order was crushed in the Battle of Grunwald (1410) (known as Battle of Žalgiris in Lithuanian historiography), which was the largest Middle Age battle in Central and Eastern Europe.[7] In this key battle, the Lithuanian Army was led by Vytautas the Great.[7] Under him, the Lithuanian Army attacked the lands of the Republics of Pskov, in 1426, and Novgorod, in 1428.[7] The Grand Duchy of Lithuania had internal civil wars in the first half of the 15th century.[7] The Lithuania Army engaged in biological warfare already in 1422, when it catapulted manure made from infected victims into an opposing Bohemian town as part of the Hussite Wars.[10] In 1435, Sigismund Kęstutaitis' army defeated the opposing army, which included troops of the Livonian Order, led by Švitrigaila in the Battle of Wiłkomierz.[7]

16th century


This century was marked by war of Lithuania against Muscovy and the Crimean Khanate, against whom they won the Battle of Kletsk in 1506.[7] The strengthening Grand Duchy of Moscow starting in the late 15th century waged unceasing wars over Lithuania's eastern territories.[7] In 1514, during the fourth war, the Lithuanians triumphed over the numerically larger Muscovite army in the famous Battle of Orsha.[7] However, Lithuania lost a part of its eastern lands, most notably the strategically important fortress of Smolensk.[7] The Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army fought against Muscovy in the Livonian War and won against the Muscovite army, twice its size in the Battle of Ula in 1564.[7] Three years into the Livonian War, the Treaty of Vilnius.[9] made Livonia part of Lithuania in 1561 with the Union of Lublin concluded in 1569.[9] In the late 1570s and early 1580s, the Lithuanian and Polish armies cooperated in Stephen Báthory's incursions into Russia.[7]

17th century


The 17th century was marked by wars against Sweden, the Tsardom of Muscovy and the Ottoman Empire.[7] The Lithuanian army and the Polish army fought against the Ottoman forces notably at both Battles of Khotyn in 1621 and 1673.[7] During the war with Sweden from 1600 to 1629, the Lithuanian army defeated Swedish forces three times their number at the Battle of Kircholm in 1605.[7] However, this war highlighted the Commonwealth's difficulty recruiting and retaining enough troops, better arming its soldiers with firearms and bettering their use.[7] Sweden seized a significant part of Livonia as part of Swedish Livonia.[7] In the first half of the 17th century, Smolensk returned to Lithuania following the Smolensk War.[7]

The Commonwealth's military weakness in the middle and late 17th century was evidenced in the Deluge.[7] In 1655, the much-smaller Lithuanian army could not defend the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius against Muscovite attack.[7] This was the first time that Vilnius was occupied by a foreign state.[9] The Swedish and Muscovite armies occupied large parts of Lithuania.[7] Nevertheless, Lithuania succeeded in holding out and liberated Vilnius, Kaunas, Samogitia and the eastern Voivodeships, except for Smolensk Voivodeship and other parts.[7] Militarily speaking, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was weakening however.[7]

18th century

A soldier and officer of the Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army's 63rd Life Dragoons Regiment, which formed part of the army's Royal Guards (1775)

During the Great Northern War the Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army no longer defended the country and the Lithuanian magnates' private armies supported different sides.[7] Throughout the 18th century, many confederations in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth sought different political goals.[7] The Bar Confederation (1768–1772), which happened partly in Lithuania, attempted but failed to stem the increasing influence of Imperial Russia and the First partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth followed.[7] In the face of the possible loss of independence, military reforms in the Four Years' Sejm (1788–1792) significantly expanded the Lithuanian army, which reached a strength of 17,500.[7][9] Attempts to make the Commonwealth's armies equal those of neighbouring absolute monarchies were unsuccessful and the unsuccessful War of 1792 resulted in the Second Partition.[7]

The Polish and Lithuanian armies put up a spirited fight against the Imperial Russian Army and the Prussian Army in the Kościuszko Uprising.[7] In addition to regular forces, many ad hoc units such as the Vilnian National Guard also fought, as well as many irregular units.[7] In the end, the Uprising was defeated and much of the remainder of the Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army was lost in the Battle of Praga on 4 November 1794.[7] With the uprising defeated, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland ended with the Third Partition, and their respective armies being disbanded.[7]

Interwar and post-war periods

Size of active Lithuanian Army during the interwar
Date Total number
5 March 1919
24 January 1920
8 September 1920
1 January 1921
1 November 1924
1 May 1926
1 January 1928
1 December 1934
1 March 1938
5 September 1939
30 September 1939
1 March 1940

After Lithuania's restoration on 16 February 1918, the country immediately began creating an army.[19] The Ministry of Defence's first order, issued on 23 November 1918, is considered to mark the establishment of the modern Lithuanian Armed Forces.[20] The newly-formed army almost immediately fought three wars of independence. Having won the Lithuanian–Soviet War and the war against the Bermontians, Lithuania lost large chunks of territory, including its capital Vilnius in the Polish–Lithuanian War. Armoured equipment in the interwar period,primarily consisted of light tanks and armored cars: French Renault FT-17s, British Vickers Carden-Loyd M1934s and M1936s, Swedish Landsverk-181, and German Ehrhardt E-V/4.[19] In 1935, the country opened an advanced military research laboratory, specialising in chemical materials for ammunition as well as defence against chemical warfare.[21] The construction of the laboratory was supervised by Juozas Vėbra. 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. The Lithuanian Armed Forces transformed into the Lithuanian People's Army in 1940 under the People's Government of Lithuania.[22] Despite Soviet deportations from Lithuania, armed Lithuanian resistance lasted until the 1950s.

Restoration and NATO

Lithuanian soldiers shaking hands with the American soldiers during the Operation Atlantic Resolve in 2014

Following the restoration of independence, the defence forces were formally reestablished on 25 April 1990 with the creation of the Department of National Defence. After the January Events, the Voluntary National Defence Service was formed of lightly armed volunteers. The Lithuanian Armed Forces were officially restored on 19 November 1992.[20] Western European countries, especially Sweden, helped to arm the initial force by selling or donating excess equipment. Lithuania began the modernisation of its military, becoming the first European country to acquire the US-made FGM-148 Javelin systems in 2001 and the FIM-92 Stinger systems in 2002.[23]

Lithuania applied for NATO membership in 1994 and eventually joined the alliance in 2004. It has modernised its armed forces and participated in various international missions including the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. Conscription ended in September 2008, but was reintroduced in 2015 due to deteriorating geopolitical environment after the Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.[24][25] NATO also responded by establishing the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence in 2017 with a battlegroup in Lithuania which was led by Germany.[26]

After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania rapidly increased the defence spending, becoming one of the top spenders by GDP in the NATO military alliance.[27] The following years marked major acquisitions, including M142 HIMARS with the ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles, additional NASAMS medium-range air defence systems and artillery ammunition.[28] In 2023, Lithuanian leadership approved the plans to form an army division, based on the three army brigades.[29] As part of the plan, the country also decided to acquire Leopard 2 tanks.[30] In 2023, Germany agreed to deploy a brigade in Lithuania on a permanent basis.[31] The Bundeswehr brigade, named Panzerbrigade 45, is scheduled to be deployed by 2027 and will consist of around 5000 troops.[32]


Structure of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, 2023 (click to enlarge)

The President of Lithuania is the commander-in-chief of the Lithuanian Armed Forces according to the Constitution of Lithuania. Ministry of National Defence is directly responsible for the organisation of the defence system.[33] 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.[34]

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 Force and Military Police. The Reserve Forces are under command of the Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces.

Lithuanian Riflemen's Union is a paramilitary organization that 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. The same applies to the State Border Guard Service and the Public Security Service.[35]

Lithuanian Land Force

Lithuanian soldier during an exercise.

The core of the Lithuanian Land Force structure is the Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf (MIB "Iron Wolf") consisting of four mechanized infantry battalions and an artillery battalion, supported by the 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.

The 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 NATO standards. Since 2007, the standard assault rifle is the 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. Lithuanian Land forces have carried out major modernization and acquired more new weapons and heavier armour.

Lithuania has been restructuring its 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 deploy outside Lithuania's borders. The volunteers have already successfully participated in international operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In May 2023, the State Defence Council approved the plan to form an army division, based on the three army brigades.[29] The division-sized unit would have enhanced capabilities, including new tank, reconnaissance, engineering and artillery battalions.[29]

Lithuanian Air Force

Lithuanian Air Force helicopter

The Lithuanian Air Force (LAF) is an integral part of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The LAF is formed by 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 a capital overhaul, upgrade and modernisation in the 2000s.

Following the initial acquisitions, the LAF began its aircraft's modernisation 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 the USA. Simultaneously, 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 and they are based in Zokniai Air Base, near the city of Šiauliai (see Baltic Air Policing). The external border of the European Union (with Kaliningrad and Belarus) is patrolled by the Aviation Unit of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service which, since the 2000s, uses helicopters EC-120, EC-135 and EC-145.

Lithuanian Navy

Lithuanian Naval Force Flyvefisken-class ship 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.[37] 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.[38] 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

Lithuanian Special Forces squadron Aitvaras deployed in Afghanistan.

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.[39] The Special Operations Force is formed from the Special Operations Unit.[40]

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 the necessary capabilities to react to terrorist attacks. The capabilities of special forces make them the main national response force responsible for counter-terrorism operations and operations to prevent violations of sovereignty.[40]

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.[40]

International cooperation

Lithuanian soldier in Afghanistan, 2012
Lithuanian Bandvagn 206 helping an Afghan National Police vehicle in the snow

Lithuania has been a member of NATO military alliance since 2004. In the European Union, Lithuanian Armed Forces have also taken part in the Nordic Battle Group since 2008. Lithuanian Armed Forces also participate in the 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

Lithuanian Air Force L-39ZA with two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon

Soon after the 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 the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Mechanised Infantry Brigade "Iron Wolf" was affiliated to the Danish Division based on agreements signed by Denmark and Lithuania in August 2006. Lithuanian Armed Forces started to boost the Brigade's ability 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.[41] 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

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:

In January 2011, the Baltic states were invited to join Nordic Defence Cooperation, the defence framework of the Nordic countries.[43] In November 2012, the three countries agreed to create a joint military staff in 2013.[44] 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.[45]

Foreign missions and operations


Lithuanian soldiers have taken part in international operations since 1993. From the summer of 2005 until 2014, 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 included personnel from Denmark, Iceland and the 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).[46]

Current operations (in 2022)

Deployment Organization Operation Personnel[1]
Central African Republic EU EUTM RCA 2
Iraq NATO NATO Mission Iraq 2
Mali EU EUTM Mali 2
Kosovo NATO KFOR 1
Ukraine JMTG-U 30

List of military equipment




See also




a. ^ The 23,000 is structured like this: 14,500 in the Army, 1,500 in the Air Force, 700 in the Navy, and 6,300 in other units. The other units includes the Logistics Support Command (1,400), Training and Doctrine Command (1,500), the Special Operations Force (unknown) as well as the battalions of HQ and Military Police (2,600).[47]

b. ^ The paramilitary includes 10,600 of the Riflemen's Union and 3,550 of the State Border Guard Service.[2]

c. ^ The number of 1.05 billion is without including military pensions. When the military pensions are included, the military budget reaches 1.12 billion.[2]


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