The French Armed Forces encompass an army, a navy, an air force and a gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title of "chef des armées" - "chief of the military forces". The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who can order a nuclear strike. The French military has, as some of its primary objectives, the defence of national territory, the protection of French interests abroad, and the maintenance of global stability.

With a reported personnel strength in 2008 of 250,582 Regulars, the French Armed Forces constitutes the largest military in the European Union and the third largest in NATO. In addition the French Armed Forces have 419,000 Reserves, and 101,666 law enforcement Gendarmerie. The French Armed Forces however have the 3rd highest expenditure of any military in the world, as well as the 3rd largest nuclear force in the world, only behind the United States and Russia. The French military is also deemed to have the third highest power projection capability in the world, behind the United States and Great Britain.