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Top 10 Smallest Military in the World (Updated in 2023)

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

Smallest Military in the World

Did you know that Vatican City has the smallest military in the world? The Swiss Guard, dressed in their distinctive blue, red, and yellow uniforms, are responsible for protecting the Pope and the Vatican. Despite their small size, they are highly trained and dedicated to their duty.

It’s amazing to think that such a tiny country has its own army!

Today, we’ll explore the intriguing world of small military forces. From picturesque Luxembourg to the Nordic island nation of Iceland, we will delve into the unique challenges faced by these pint-sized armed forces and showcase more of the world’s smallest armies.

What Country Has the Smallest Military?

Answer: The Swiss Guard


With a military size of only 110 active members, the Swiss Guard of The Vatican holds the record for the world’s smallest standing army. Its primary mission is to keep the Pope, as well as The Vatican safe, in the smallest country in the world.

About the Swiss Guard


Pope Julius II, impressed by the Swiss soldiers’ loyalty and prowess in battle, established the Guard in 1506. Since they arrived in Rome on January 22, 1506, the Swiss Guards have served as the Pope’s personal bodyguards.

  • The Swiss Guard is a very prestigious military organization with stringent entry standards. Catholic, single, and between the ages of 19 and 30, they must be Swiss citizens.
  • These guards need to have finished basic military training and be in good physical shape.
  • The uniform of the Swiss Guard is easily recognizable and has changed very little since the Guard’s inception. A blue, red, orange, and yellow tunic, a black beret, and knee-high stockings make up the uniform. The Guard also has a polearm known as a halberd.
  • Also known as the smallest military in history, The Swiss Guard has a rich tradition dating back many years. It has served as the Pope’s fortress during times of political upheaval, revolution, and war. The Guard has also been involved in some of the most pivotal moments in history, such as the Second Vatican Council in 1962-1965 and the Sack of Rome in 1527.
  • The Swiss Guard represents the independence and autonomy of the Vatican. It also serves as a poignant reminder of the Catholic Church’s long and deep ties to Switzerland.

World’s Smallest Military Forces

Aside from the Vatican, some small countries have made the deliberate decision to maintain small or no military forces for a variety of reasons.

 These factors include their relatively small size, unique geographical location, historical circumstances, diplomatic relationships, and strong commitments to neutrality or pacifism.

In their pursuit of progress, governments frequently give priority to various aspects of development, directing resources toward crucial areas such as social welfare, healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

Here are a few countries that boast some of the tiniest military forces in the world:

1. Iceland: Icelandic Defense Force


2. Mauritius: National Coast Guard of Mauritius


3. Costa Rica: Public Forces of Costa Rica (Fuerza Pública de Costa Rica)


4. Panama: Panamanian Public Forces (Fuerzas Públicas de Panamá)


5. Haiti: Defense Forces of Haiti (Forces Armées d’Haïti)


6. Antigua and Barbuda: The Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force

7. Seychelles: Seychelles People’s Defence Force

8. Barbados: Barbados Defence Force 


9. Gambia: Gambian Armed Forces


10. Luxembourg: Luxembourg Army (Lëtzebuerger Arméi)

Comparing the World’s Smallest Military Forces


In a world where military strength is typically the focal point of conversations, learning about the countries with the lowest armed forces is fascinating. Some countries take a different approach to security and defense than those that claim massive militaries and impressive defense capabilities.

The following size comparison chart features countries with the smallest armies. The chart presents data on active military personnel, paramilitary units, reserves, and total population.

This comparison table makes use of the most up-to-date data available, which provides a wide-ranging picture of the security arrangements of these countries.

Country Active Duty Paramilitary Reserves Total Personnel 2023 Population Military Spendings (million dollars)
Iceland 0 250 0 250 375,318 0
Mauritius 0 2,500 0 2,500 1,300,557 20
Costa Rica 0 9,800 0 9,800 5,212,173 0
Panama 0 26,000 0 26,000 4,468,087 0
Haiti 150 50 0 200 11,724,763 13
Antigua & Barbuda 180 0 80 260 94,298 Data unavailable
Seychelles 420 0 0 420 107,660 26
Barbados 610 0 430 1,000 281,995 Data unavailable
Gambia 800 0 0 800 2,773,168 15
Luxembourg 900 600 0 1,500 654,768 565


The smallest military in the world proves that size isn’t everything. These small but committed armed forces, from the Swiss Guard of the Vatican to the defense units of Iceland and Luxembourg, face special challenges and play an important role in protecting their countries.

Learning about the world’s smallest militaries can teach us a lot about the intriguing diversity of the world’s defense forces. They also serve as a reminder that strength in the military isn’t always measured in numbers but in the spirit and passion of those who serve.

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