Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) is the navy of
Since The Bahamas does not have an army or
an air force, its navy composes the entirety of its armed forces.
Defence Act, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force has been mandated to
Bahamas, protect its territorial integrity, patrol its
waters, provide assistance and relied in times of disaster,
maintain order in conjunction with the law enforcement agencies of
The Bahamas, and carry out any such duties as determined by the
National Security Council.
The Defence Force is also a
member of Caricom
's Regional Security Task
task force has seen action in the United
Nations mandate in Haiti
is strictly a naval force, and therefore differs from the rest of
its Caribbean counterparts.
With about 1,000 members, it
is the largest of the Commonwealth Caribbean
Several changes in equipment can be seen. In the beginning, the
British uniform was used. Now U.S. woodland camouflage is used as
opposed to the U.S. Army's universal camouflage worn by The
Royal Bahamas Police
Drug Enforcement Unit.
The first weapons used were the Sterling submachine gun
. Now the American M4
rifle and the Heckler and Koch
UMP submachine gun is
employed for duty.
Unlike other British Commonwealth Land Forces, there are no regular
infantry brigades. Instead, there are special forces. These are the
Special Operations Unit (which is the sea going section associated
with all ships and small craft), and the Commando Squadron, which
acts as an Amphibious Infantry unit and also performs security
measures. This is a sizeable force of at least 500 Special Marine
Commandos. Training is conducted with the U.S. Navy
in special naval warfare and also with the British
. A common training
practice is to have a marine recruit conduct a two mile swim with a
forty pound ruck sack.
105 mm Howitzer towed artillery
is also employed in service.
There are two career tracks in the RBDF: Marine (rating) &
Officer. The enlisted personnel ranks range from Marine to Force
Chief Petty Officer. The Officer ranks range from Midshipman to
Commodore. The force is organized and trained along the lines of
the British Royal Navy
and many of the
officers attend British service academies.
The main ships in the force are Two Bahamas Class OPV
's, and three smaller Protector Class OPV's. Most of
the missions consist of anti-poaching patrols, anti-drug
immigration enforcement, Search and Rescue, or general National
The Headquarters of the Defence Force are at RBDF Base Coral
Harbour, on New Providence Island. The commander is Commodore
Clifford 'Butch' Scavella. Additional bases are located in Matthew Town,
Inagua and Freeport, Grand Bahama.
The RBDF uses the British Royal Navy
style of rank insignia
, and all ships
carry the title HMBS (Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ship).
Because of the lack of ships, most RBDF members do not spend time
at sea, and are used for other military or non-military
Peacekeeping missions have been conducted with the participation of
RBDF members in El Salvador and Haiti.
The RBDF operates three aircraft; a King Air 500, Cessna 208B
and the Partenavia P.68
Observer. The aircraft are
used chiefly for reconnaissance and maritime patrol. They also
provide surveillance of large areas and aid in the strategic
deployment of surface crafts.
Call for an overhaul of the RBDF
During a radio interview on the Bahamas radio station Love 97
'Issues of the Day' show on 5 December 2006, the RBDF commander
stated that there were only two patrol boats operational and there
is only one plane in service, but no pilot trained to fly the
aircraft. He also stated that up to 25% of the ranks of the Defence
Force are 'bad apples' and need to be weeded out.
The commander also stated that there are many programs being
studied set to improve the Defence Force's capacity to provide
security for Bahamian territorial waters. The future revitalization
of the RBDF will include the provision of additional aircraft,
increased manpower & salaries, base facilities and command
In the early summer of 2008, these overhauls had begun. The RBDF
has also reduced numbers by a third in order to remove undesirable
personnel from the military ranks. Service vehicles and patrol
boats are in more regular use and both illegal immigrant seizures
and illegal drug seizures have increased proportionately to the
revamped force finally being used. One of the major seizures was
undertaken by boat P-48. Roughly 692 kilogram sized bales of
marijuana were taken off a "go-fast" boat (a light offshore racing
boat) with a local street value of roughly 750,000 USD and a Miami
street value at well over 1.3 million USD.
By an Act of Parliament, the RBDF became an official entity on 31
March 1980, falling under the Ministry of National Security. The
Queen of The Bahamas, Elizabeth II, is Commander-in-Chief of the
Defence Force with her ceremonial role exercised by the Bahamas'
Governor General. The Defence Force also has adopted its own system
of medals and awards.
combat action the RBDF has ever been involved with has been against
On 10 May 1980, the HMBS Flamingo
attempted to arrest two
Cuban fishing vessels, the Ferrocem 165
, for poaching in Bahamian waters.
In retaliation, two Cuban MiG-21s
Bahamas airspace and fired on the patrol boat. The Cubans sank the
ship with their 23 mm cannons, and fired upon Marines in
distress in the water. Fenrick Sturrup, Austin Smith, David Tucker
and Edward Williams, all Bahamian Defence Force Marines, were
killed in the attack. Fifteen crewmen and the Commander made it
safely to Duncan Town, on Ragged Island, after being picked up by
the very fishing vessels they had boarded.
The poachers were convicted in July 1980, and Cuba eventually
admitted responsibility, paying the Bahamas $10 million in
compensation for the incident.