The Role of Territorial Defense in the Era of Modern Warfare

In most countries worldwide, territorial defense is tasked with covering the mobilisation of their Armed Forces.

18/10/2023 - 10:32

The defense of a country's territorial integrity is not solely the responsibility of the Armed Forces. Territorial defense forces play a crucial role in ensuring national security and their capability to withstand the most modern threats is of paramount importance. This is discussed in this article by

The purpose of territorial defense is to protect the population, critical infrastructure, communication systems, and material and cultural assets from enemy actions, sabotage, and terrorist acts, as well as from the risks arising from armed conflicts or their aftermath.

In most countries around the world, the responsibilities of territorial defense include covering the mobilization of the Armed Forces, safeguarding strategic facilities, and elements of military and civilian infrastructure. For instance, the territorial defense system of foreign countries is continuously evolving.

The majority of countries have territorial defense forces during wartime, in addition to their regular Armed Forces. Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Finland, and many others fall into this category. Citizens of these countries traditionally take pride in having the honorary privilege of belonging to these defense forces.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The organisational and staff structure, as well as the armament of territorial defense units, is analogous to that of regular Land Forces units. In peacetime, the training of reservists is the responsibility of full-time military personnel, numbering around 20 individuals, who also handle the administrative management of territorial defense units.

Territorial defense units are recruited based on a territorial principle. Additionally, volunteers aged 17 to 46 initially sign three-year contracts, which can subsequently be extended for a more extended period. Units responsible for rear support are usually composed of individuals with civilian professions closely related to the military. Persons reaching the age of 50 are subject to discharge from territorial defense forces. The reservist training system encompasses military training as an integral part of citizens' everyday life.

The contemporary structure of the British Army includes the Regular Army, the Territorial Army, and reserves. The Regular Army serves as the backbone of the Land Forces and actively participates in implementing NATO's plans and preparing military personnel for the mobilization deployment of Land Forces in the event of an armed conflict.

The Territorial Army is the first-line reserve of the British Land Forces. Its main roles include reinforcing the Land Forces, defending the homeland, dealing with the consequences of a nuclear strike on the homeland, and providing domestic service. In the event of the mobilization deployment of the Land Forces, the Territorial Army falls under their command.


The Territorial Defense Forces of France are primarily responsible for safeguarding the country's strategic nuclear assets and other vital installations, as well as engaging in military operations, working in conjunction with maneuver forces, primarily within the national territory.

From a military-administrative perspective, the entire territory of France is divided into seven military districts (defense zones during wartime), which are further subdivided into military regions, totaling 21 regions. These districts are commanded by brigades, individual infantry regiments, reconnaissance and engineering units, and other formations. The total strength of the territorial defense forces is approximately 55,000 personnel.

The Territorial Defense Forces closely cooperate with the military gendarmerie, which falls under the direct authority of the Minister of Defense. In peacetime, these forces also include the 9th Airborne Brigade, consisting of around 5,000 personnel, responsible for guarding critical assets. However, if needed, this brigade can become part of international forces.

It's worth noting that the French military leadership places particular emphasis on equipping the Ground Forces with the most modern weaponry available. Additionally, significant attention is devoted to air defense systems. There are plans to introduce anti-aircraft missile units into the Ground Forces armed with systems like the "Roland."


In peacetime, these units are subordinated to the commanders of the military regions where they are stationed. In wartime, they fall under the command of the General Staff of the Land Forces and, under certain conditions, can be placed under the operational command of NATO forces. These forces are designed to facilitate the strategic deployment of the Armed Forces, counter enemy reconnaissance and sabotage-reconnaissance groups, mitigate the consequences of enemy mass destruction weapon use, protect and defend crucial military and industrial facilities, coastal areas, and communication routes.

Within the Territorial Defense Forces, there are three separate brigades, along with individual units and support units, as well as training facilities.

According to media reports, the total strength of the Italian Army amounts to approximately 260,000 personnel. The highest operational-tactical formation is the army corps, which, in peacetime, comprises between five to seven brigades, as well as units and formations for combat and support functions.

State Defense Forces (SDF) in the United States

In 1903, during a period of reforms, the regional official formations of the United States were decisively divided into the National Guard and the "reserve militia-home guard," which is known today as State Defense Forces (SDF). These forces are primarily under the jurisdiction of the state governor, although they are partially overseen by the Bureau of the National Guard. Presently, SDF units are based in 21 states, and some of these include maritime and aviation components. Typically, these units play a significant role in responding to emergencies. They are also actively utilized in tackling criminal activities and counterterrorism efforts. Governors often employ the SDF to support the state's National Guard forces.

The Federal Bureau of the United States National Guard provides partial material support to the SDF, but a significant portion of their funding comes from the states. The size and organization of the SDF depend on each state, but they generally comprise brigades, companies, battalions, and regiments.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the SDF received valuable lessons in civil defense. This extraordinary situation demanded unconventional solutions, sometimes necessitating the transfer of SDF units from other states.

In some states, almost any citizen who meets the age and physical fitness requirements can join the SDF. However, certain states (like Tennessee) may require military service experience or specific skills. For instance, in California, individuals can serve in the SDF even if they have not completed the naturalization process. In many states, individuals are not required to sign long-term contracts, allowing them to leave at any time.

The training process varies depending on the state. In South Carolina, for example, there are units that have received training not only in civil defense but also in rapid response. In New York's State Defense Forces, you can undergo training as a military police officer. Meanwhile, SDF members in some states receive training alongside National Guard personnel, participating in competitions in applied sports disciplines. Furthermore, the compensation for SDF members can differ by state and, in some cases, is comparable to the salaries of military personnel.

As we can see, the organization of state defense forces is a unique part of the military doctrines of most developed countries worldwide. In times of armed conflicts, these territorial defense units shoulder the responsibility of fulfilling critical strategic tasks.

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