In addition to traditional defense roles, the military has been called on to provide support to civil authorities for disaster relief and internal security. The Bangladesh Air Force and Navy, with about 7,000 personnel each, perform traditional military missions. A Coast Guard has been recently formed, under the Home Ministry, to play a stronger role in the area of anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, and protection of offshore resources. Recognition of economic and fiscal constraints has led to the establishment of several paramilitary and auxiliary forces, including the 40,000-member Bangladesh Rifles; the Ansars and Village Defense Parties Organization, which claims 64 members in every village in the country; and a 5,000-member specialized police unit known as the Armed Polic. The Bangladesh Rifles, under the authority of the Home Ministry, are commanded by army officers who are seconded to the organization.
In addition to in-country military training, some advanced and technical training takes place abroad, including grant-aid training in the United States. People's Republic of China, Pakistan, and eastern Europe are the major defense suppliers to Bangladesh, but military leaders are trying to find affordable alternatives to Chinese equipment.
In 1995 the Bangladesh Air Force made its largest purchase from the U.S to date: 12 T-37 jet trainers. More recently, Bangladesh procured four C-130 transport aircraft. A 2,300-member Bangladesh Army contingent served with coalition forces during the 1991 Gulf war. Bangladesh is currently the second-leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations, with an infantry battalion in UNIKOM (Kuwait), an engineer battalion in UNTAET, (East Timor) and another infantry battalion scheduled for service in Sierra Leone in May 2000.
Military branches: Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, paramilitary forces (includes Bangladesh Rifles, Bangladesh Ansars, Village Defense Parties, National Cadet Corps), Armed Police battalions
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 34,683,414 (2000 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 20,565,193 (2000 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure: $559 million (FY96/97)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 1.8% (FY96/97)
The highest award given by the Bangladesh Armed Forces is the Bir Sreshtho
Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.