After the general demobilization that followed World War II, compulsory national service for all eligible males over 19 years of age was introduced. Call-ups of national servicemen ceased in 1960, but those who had been trained formed part of the general reserve until June 1974, when the national service legislation expired. Reserves now form part of the long-term reserve established in 1964, composed of all men under 45 years of age who have served in the regular army since 28 February 1964, plus the highly trained units of the territorial army volunteer reserve. Home service forces are stationed in northern Ireland, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands.
Total active army strength in 2002 was 114,800 including 8,050 women. Equipment included 594 main battle tanks, 575 armored infantry fighting vehicles, and 1,117 armored personnel carriers. The Navy had 42,350 personnel including 7,000 Royal Marines and 6,200 Naval Aviators. The British fleet included 16 submarines and 35 principal surface combatants. The Royal Air Force had a strength of 53,300 operating 332 combat aircraft. The United Kingdom had approximately 200 operational nuclear weapons.
Basing its defense policy on NATO, the British government in the 1970s reduced its overseas commitments. The defense budget for 2002 was $31.7 billion, or 2.3% of GDP. British troops participate in a number of peacekeeping missions. The United States has 9,400 troops stationed in the United Kingdom.