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Royal Bahamas Defence Force
Emblem of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force
Founded1980; 44 years ago (1980)
Service branches
  • Squadron
  • Commando Squadron
  • Military Police & Force Protection
  • Harbour Patrol
  • Port Security
HeadquartersNew Providence Island
Commander-in-ChiefKing Charles III
Minister of National SecurityWayne Munroe KC
Commander Defence ForceRaymond King
Military age18
Available for
military service
84,903[1], age 18-49 (2010 est.)
Fit for
military service
62,779[1] males, age 18-49 (2010 est.),
63,954[1] females, age 18-49 (2010 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
2,840[1] males (2010 est.),
2,758[1] females (2010 est.)
BudgetUS$67,106,665 (2018)
Percent of GDP0.5% (2018) [2]
Related articles
RanksMilitary ranks of Bahamas

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) is the military of The Bahamas. Since The Bahamas does not have an army or an air force, its navy composes the entirety of its armed forces. Under The Defence Act, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force has been mandated to defend The Bahamas, protect its territorial integrity, patrol its waters, provide assistance in times of disaster, maintain order in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies of The Bahamas, and carry out any such duties as determined by the National Security Council. The Defence Force is also a member of CARICOM's Regional Security Task Force. The task force has seen action in the United Nations mandate in Haiti 1994.


By an Act of Parliament, the RBDF became an official entity on 31 March 1980, falling under the Ministry of National Security. The King of The Bahamas, King Charles III, is Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Force with his ceremonial role exercised by the Governor General of the Bahamas. The Defence Force also has adopted its own system of medals and awards.

The only combat action the RBDF has ever been involved in has been against Cuba. On 10 May 1980, the HMBS Flamingo attempted to arrest two Cuban fishing vessels, the Ferrocem 165 and the Ferrocem 54, for poaching in Bahamian waters. In retaliation, two Cuban MiG-21s invaded Bahamas airspace and fired on the patrol boat. The Cubans sank the ship with their 23 mm cannons, and fired upon Marines in distress in the water.[3] Fenrick Sturrup, Austin Smith, David Tucker and Edward Williams, all Bahamian Defence Force Marines, were killed in the attack.[4] Fifteen crewmen and the Commander made it safely to Duncan Town, on Ragged Island, after being picked up by the fishing vessels they had boarded. The poachers were convicted in July 1980, and Cuba eventually admitted responsibility, paying the Bahamas $10 million in compensation for the incident.

The Force

The RBDF is a strictly naval force, differing from the rest of its Caribbean and Commonwealth of Nations counterparts in there being no regular land-based military formations. With about 1,600 members however, it is the largest of the Commonwealth Caribbean navies.

Serving members of the RBDF are assigned to one of seven major sub-sections: Headquarters, Administration, Engineering, Supply, Military Police, Operations and The Commando Squadron. The Operations Department contains the mobile arms of the RBDF and comprises the main operational units:

The Commando Squadron is a sizable force of 500 Special Marine Commandos. Training is conducted with U.S. Special Operations Forces and British equivalents (such as the Royal Marines) in special operations and maritime warfare. A common training practice is to have a marine recruit conduct a two-mile swim carrying a forty-pound rucksack.

Several changes in equipment have been seen in the recent history of the RBDF. Originally British-style uniforms were worn by RBDF personnel; now U.S. Marine Corps-style digital woodland camouflage is worn (as opposed to the U.S. Army universal camouflage worn by The Royal Bahamas Police Force Drug Enforcement Unit). Similarly, the first weapons employed by the RBDF were the British Sterling submachine gun and the L1A1 SLR; now the U.S.-manufactured M4 carbine and the Heckler & Koch UMP submachine gun are employed for front-line duties.

The M101 105mm howitzer towed artillery piece is also employed, with fifteen guns in RBDF service.[citation needed]


There are two career tracks in the RBDF: Marine (rating) & Officer (ranks). The enlisted personnel ranks range from Marine Seaman to Force Chief Petty Officer. The Officer ranks range from Midshipman to Commodore. The force is organized and trained along the lines of the British Royal Navy and many of the officers attend British service academies.

The Headquarters of the Defence Force are at The New National Security Complex on John F. Kennedy Drive , on New Providence Island. The commanding officer, known as "Commander Defence Force" is Commodore Dr. Raymond King. Additional bases are located in Matthew Town, Inagua, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Freeport, Grand Bahama, and Gun Point, Ragged Island.

The RBDF uses the British Royal Navy style of rank insignia, and all ships' names carry the prefix HMBS (His Majesty’s Bahamian Ship).

Due to a lack of ships, most RBDF members do not spend time at sea, and are used for other military or non-military roles. The Defence Force is primarily an armed service, whose roles also encompass some aspects of a coast guard as well as a disaster relief agency. These roles require Defence Force personnel to assume the duties of: Naval and infantry personnel, Police Officers (Peace Officer), Customs Officers, Immigration Officers, Fisheries Inspectors, Emergency Rescue Personnel, Search & Rescue, Sentry, Detention Centre security and Maintenance of Navigational Aids.

The RBDF offers a high school course called the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Rangers.

Peacekeeping missions have been conducted with the participation of RBDF members in El Salvador and Haiti.


The main ships in the force are two Bahamas-class and four Legend-class offshore patrol vessels.[5] The latter are the first part of the nine-vessel acquisition contract signed with the Damen Shipyards Group in April 2013.[6][7] Most of the missions consist of anti-poaching patrols, anti-drug patrols, immigration enforcement, search and rescue, or general National Defence missions.

Four of the new vessels will be Stan 4207 design, four of the new vessels will be Stan 3007 design, and the final vessel will be 55 metres (180 ft) landing craft style transport craft, Damen Stan Lander 5612.

HMBS Bahamas P-60 in Nassau


Naval ensign of the RBDF
Vessel Origin Type In service Notes
Patrol vessels
HMBS Bahamas United States patrol boat 1[8] Bahamas class
HMBS Nassau United States patrol boat 1[8] Bahamas class
HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Legend class
HMBS Durward Knowles The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Legend class
HMBS Leon Livingstone Smith The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Legend class
HMBS Rolly Gray The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Legend class
HMBS Lignum Vitae The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Floral Class
HMBS Cascarilla The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Floral Class
HMBS Kamalame The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Floral Class
HMBS Madeira The Netherlands patrol boat 1[8] Floral Class
Landing craft
HMBS Lawrence Major The Netherlands landing craft / auxiliary 1[8] Damen Stan Lander
A Cessna 208B similar to this one is used by the RBDF

Air Wing

The Air Wing was formed on November 26, 1981, two years after the creation of the defence force. Initially three Aero Commanders were purchased from Bahamasair and operated, but these were sold off in 1990. In 1992, a Cessna 402 was added with a Cessna 421 soon after. By late 2005, the delivery of a Super king Air 350 took place. In May 2009, a Cessna 208 Turbine Caravan with floats and a Partenavia P.68 were delivered and significantly improved the RBDF's surveillance and transport capabilities.

Roundel available for use by RBDF Air Wing aircraft

In December 2019, Bahamas established the Bahamas Unmanned Aerial System program, which contracted Swift Engineering to provide 55 unmanned aerial vehicles.[9]

Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Maritime Patrol
Super King Air United States patrol 350 1[10]
Partenavia P.68 Italy transport / utility 1[10]
Cessna 208 United States transport / utility 208B 1[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bahamas, The. "CIA – The World Factbook". Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  2. ^ In 2010 the total estimated capital and recurrent expenditure on the RBDF was $48,901,806 of a total Budgetary Expenditure of $1,819,306,320. This represents about 0.7% of GDP. (
  3. ^ Webbe, Stephen (May 19, 1980). "Bahamas seethes over patrol-boat sinking". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston, Mass. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  4. ^ Maura, Matt (May 13, 2011). "Prime Minister says country remains 'indebted' to marines of HMBS Flamingo". The Freeport News. Freeport, Bahamas. Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  5. ^ Rosamond, Jon (2014-07-24). "Bahamas inducts first vessels in fleet renewal effort". London: IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on 2014-07-27. Retrieved 2017-03-26. The first of four 42 m Legend-class (Stan Patrol 4207) offshore patrol craft, HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna (P421), was commissioned into service on 20 June, having completed its transatlantic delivery voyage in May, and commenced its maiden operational deployment on 27 June.
  6. ^ "Royal Bahamas Defence Force contracts Damen for fleet of long range patrol craft 19 Apr 2013". Damen Group. 2013-04-19. Archived from the original on 2014-07-18. In addition, eight patrol vessels, four of the Damen Stan Patrol 4207 type and another four type SPa 3007, will join the Bahamas' fleet.
  7. ^ "Lock, Stock and a Sandy Bottom". Think Defence. 2013-05-13. Archived from the original on 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2014-07-18.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Trade Registers Archived 2011-05-13 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 14 September 2017
  9. ^ Sanchez, Alejandro (February 3, 2020). "Bahamas Defence Force acquires UAVs". IHS Jane’s. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) has established the Bahamas Unmanned Aerial System (BUAS) programme, after signing a contract with Swift Tactical Systems for the delivery of 55 unmanned aerial vehicles.
  10. ^ a b c "World Air Forces 2023". Flightglobal Insight. 2023. Retrieved 23 November 2022.