Dutch Language Blog

The Dutch Ministry of Defence: Who are they and what do they do? Posted by on Oct 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

During the yearly Prinsjesdag or the day when the King presents the government’s plan for the upcoming year, the Koning Willem-Alexander announced that the military would receive about €3 billion (about $3.3 billion US dollars) money for updating and modernising. This project of herstellen en moderniseren 2020 which began in 2014, has so far cost € 11,035 miljard or about $12 billion dollars. But what does the Dutch military do and what is the money used for?

Photo taken by 7th Army Training Command found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

Ministerie van Defensie

The Netherlands Ministry of Defence or Ministerie van Defensie is the government ministry that is in charge of 4 distinct branches: Marine (Navy), Landmacht (Army), Luchtmacht (Air Force) and Marechaussee. 

You might have noticed that both landmacht and luchtmacht end with the word macht.  One of the definitions of macht that the Van Dale dictionary gives is:

persoon of zaak die macht heeftleger, overheid, mogendheid, staateen hogere machtbovenaards wezen of principe dat de kosmos op bep. wijze regeert en het lot van de mens bepaaltde wetgevende machtlandmachtluchtmachtgrootmachtsupermacht

So the word macht can be used for organisations that have power or force. The literal translation for both these branches would be “land force” and “air force.” The latter translates quite nicely to the English terms we know.

The head of this ministry is Anke Bijleveld; she has held this post since October 2017 and her previous experience has been as a public servant. The Chief of Defence or Commandant der Strijdkrachten is Rob Bauer who is a lieutenant admiral whose military career began in 1981 when he entered military school.

The following video, titled “Defence protects what is precious to us” explains what the Ministry and the different branches do.


De Koninklijke Marine zet zich met vloot en mariniers wereldwijd in voor veiligheid op en vanuit zee. In Nederland en in het buitenland helpt de marine bij crisisbeheersingsoperaties (crisis management operations), humanitaire hulpoperaties en bij rampen (disasters). De Koninklijke Marine is het oudste onderdeel van de Nederlandse krijgsmacht. Source: Marine

The oldest branch within the ministry of defence, the Navy protects the Kingdom’s safety from the sea. The Navy also helps with crisis and humanitaire hulpoperaties or humanitarian operations. The most recent mission of the Navy was to help in the Bahamas after the orkaan Dorian ravaged the area. During this mission, the Navy was tasked in assisting with rescue operations, keeping order, as well food and supplies to the islands.

Photo taken by The Stikkelman found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0


De Koninklijke Landmacht draagt op de grond bij aan vrijheid, veiligheid en welvaart in Nederland en daarbuiten. De landmacht doet dit met professionele en goed getrainde militairen. Zij gaan door waar anderen moeten stoppen. Onder de zwaarste omstandigheden (circumstances) voeren zij gevechtsoperaties (combat operations) uit, bieden humanitaire hulp of ondersteunen bij rampen. Source: Landmacht

The Dutch Army is in charge of land operations that aim to ensure the safety of the Kingdom. Their latest missions include humanitarian help in the Bahamas, as well as missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the fight with ISIS, the Dutch Army has been training the local military as well as taking part in special missions. They have also been part of air campaigns in collaboration with the Belgian Army. The Dutch Army also supports with a surgical team.

Since 2002, the Dutch Army has been helping in Afghanistan. One of their tasks is to assist with the NATO mission “Resolute Support” that is building up the army and police force in the country. The video below explains more how the Army has been supporting in Afghanistan.



Photo taken by Gerard van der Schaaf found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

De Koninklijke Luchtmacht is een modern en technologisch krijgsmachtdeel (armed forces) dat wereldwijd bijdraagt aan vrijheid, veiligheid en welvaart (welfare). Hiervoor beschikt de luchtmacht over hooggekwalificeerd (highly qualified) personeel, vliegtuigen, helikopters en andere wapensystemen. Source: Luchtmacht

Since 1912, the Air Force has focused on keeping the kingdom safe as well as help operatives, all from the air. Within the Dutch territory, the Air Force patrols the air space, as well as support for the coast guard and the national police. The Dutch Air Force is also in charge of defence in ruimte or space. It works together with private organisations. Next year, the launch of the Netherland’s own satellite will be done by the luchtmacht.

During World War II, the German air force or luftwaffe eliminated most of the Dutch Air Force. This was, however, done at a heavy loss on the German side as well. Before the Dutch capitulation, the Dutch Air Force managed to destroy about 220 Nazi aircraft. The air craft and personnel that survived the German attack operated from England during the remainder of the war.


De Koninklijke Marechaussee waakt over de veiligheid van de Staat. In Nederland en ver daarbuiten. Ze wordt wereldwijd ingezet op plaatsen van strategisch belang. Van de Koninklijke paleizen tot aan de buitengrenzen van Europa. Van luchthavens in Nederland tot oorlogs- en crisisgebieden overal ter wereld. De Koninklijke Marechaussee is veelzijdig inzetbaar voor veiligheid, juist als het erop aankomt. Source: Marechaussee

The marechaussee is similar to the French gendarmerie. In the U.S., the National Guard performs some similar duties as the marechaussee, but it isn’t exactly the same. They are also the most visible branch.

If you have flown into any Dutch airport, you have seen the men and women of the marechaussee ensuring the safety of everyone, checking passports and suitcases, and providing support to airport security.  They also monitor by water checking cargo ships. The marechaussee is also responsible for foreign forces within the Netherlands, as well as Dutch military abroad.

The marechaussee is highly visible in the border areas, and they perform routine stops to ensure the safety of the country. In the video below, you can see a grootschalige controle or a large scale control at the border with Belgium. Together with the douane politie (customs) and the belastingdienst (tax authority), the cars and trucks were checked for several points including the cargo in the trucks, ID checks, and mensensmokkel or human trafficking.


Have you been in contact with or known about the Dutch military? Does your country have similar branches like the marine, landmacht, luchtmacht and marechaussee?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!