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ARMY


The army (Ejercito de Tierra) has existed continuously since the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. The oldest and largest of the three services, its mission was the defense of peninsular Spain, the Balearic Islands (Spanish, Islas Baleares), the Canary Islands (Spanish, Canarias), Melilla, Ceuta, and the smaller islands and rocks off the northern coast of Africa. The army was, as of 1988, completing a major reorganization that had been initiated in 1982. It had previously been organized into nine regional operational commands. These were reduced to six commands in conjunction with a revised deployment of forces: Central Command, Southern Command, Levante Command, Eastern Pyrenees Command, Northwestern Command, and Western Pyrenees Command. In addition there were the two military zones of the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. Ceuta and Melilla fell within the Southern Command. At the head of each regional and zonal command was an officer of two-star rank. Although his authority had been reduced, the regional commander, who held the title of captain general, was still among the most senior officers of the army.

Under its earlier organization, the army was grouped into two basic categories: the Immediate Intervention Forces and the Territorial Operational Defense Forces. In theory, the former, consisting of three divisions and ten brigades, had the missions of defending the Pyrenean and the Gibraltar frontiers and of fulfilling Spain's security commitments abroad. The latter force, consisting of two mountain divisions and fourteen brigades, had the missions of maintaining security in the regional commands and of reinforcing the Civil Guard and the police against subversion and terrorism. In reality, most of the Immediate Intervention Forces were not positioned to carry out their ostensible mission of protecting the nation's borders. Many units were stationed near major cities -- as a matter of convenience for officers who held part-time jobs -- from which they also could be called upon to curb disturbances or unrest.

In a gradual process that had not been fully completed as of mid-1988, the division of the army into the Immediate Intervention Forces and the Territorial Operational Defense Forces was being abolished. The brigade had become the fundamental tactical unit. The total number of brigades had been reduced from twenty-four to fifteen by the dismantling of nine territorial defense brigades. Eleven of the brigades had been organized within the existing five divisions; three brigades were to be independent, and one was to be in general reserve.

The best equipped of the five was the first Division, the Brunete Armored Division, with its armored brigade in the Madrid area and its mechanized brigade farther to the southwest near Badajoz. The motorized Second Division, Guzman el Bueno Division, which had acquired a third brigade as a result of the reorganization, was the major defensive force in the south, with full capability for rapid maneuver. The mechanized Third Division, the Maestrazgo Division, under the Levante Command, consisted of two brigades considered to have a medium degree of mobility. The two mountain divisions, the Fourth Division -- or Urgel Division and the Fifth Division -- or Navarra Division, each consisting of two mountain brigades, remained in the Pyrenean border area of the north. Two of the four independent brigades were armored cavalry, one was an airborne brigade, and one was a paratroop brigade (in general reserve).

Numerous other changes were introduced as well, including the reorganization of artillery forces not included in the major combat units. This involved the creation of a field artillery command that consisted of a restructured and consolidated former artillery brigade, the creation of a single straits coastal artillery command that replaced two former coastal artillery regiments, and the introduction of an antiaircraft artillery command that was expected to benefit from significant modernizing of its weapons inventory.

The personnel strength of the army, which previously had been maintained at about 280,000, including 170,000 conscripts, had been trimmed to 240,000 by 1987. This was achieved through lower intakes of conscripts and volunteers and through cuts in the table of organization for officers and NCOs. The government's goal was a smaller but more capable army of 195,000 effectives by 1991. Outside peninsular Spain, about 19,000 troops were stationed in Ceuta and Melilla. These included, in addition to the Spanish Legion and other specialized units, four Regulares regiments of North Africans. An additional 5,800 troops were assigned to the Balearic Islands, and 10,000 were in the Canary Islands.

Data as of December 1988




Last Updated: December 1988


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Spain was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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