Military Wiki
Military of the United Arab Emirates
US Navy 030223-N-1050K-001 UAE offloads a BMP3 Tank at a Kuwaiti port facility from its Elbahia L62 landing craft.jpg
BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles of the UAE military offloading
Founded 1951
Current form 1971
Service branches United Arab Emirates Army
United Arab Emirates Navy
United Arab Emirates Air Force
Military age 41 years
Available for
military service
752,707, age 15-49 (2004)
Fit for
military service
412,490, age 15-49 (2004)
Reaching military
age annually
24,506 (2004)
Active personnel 65,000 (ranked 73rd)
Budget US$15.7 billion in 2010 (ranked 18th)
Percent of GDP 7.3%
Foreign suppliers United States
 United Kingdom
 South Korea
 Czech Republic
 South Africa

The Union Defence Force is the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates and has primary responsibility for the defense of all seven emirates. It consists of 70,500 personnel, and is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. UAE.


The Trucial Oman Scouts, long the symbol of public order on the coast and commanded by British officers, were turned over to the United Arab Emirates as the nucleus of its defence forces in 1971.

Although small in number, the UAE armed forces are equipped with some of the most modern weapon systems, purchased from a variety of outside countries. Most officers are graduates of the United Kingdom's Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, with others having attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Royal Military College, Duntroon and St. Cyr, the military academy of France. France opened the Abu Dhabi Base in May 2009. In March 2011, the UAE agreed to join the enforcement of the no-fly-zone over Libya by sending six F-16 and six Mirage 2000 multi-role fighter aircraft.[1]


There are two distinct military organizations in the UAE, the UAE federal military force is called the Union Defence Force, and then several of the Emirates maintain their own forces.

Federal Forces

UAE Army

As part of the military of the United Arab Emirates the United Arab Emirates Ground Force is responsible for land operations.

UAE Air Force

The United Arab Emirates Air Force has about 4000 personnel.[2] The air force agreed in 1999 to purchase 80 advanced U.S. F-16 multirole fighter aircraft. Other equipment includes the Mirage 2000s, British Hawk aircraft, and French helicopters. The air defense has a Hawk missile program for which the United States has been training. The UAE has taken delivery of two of five Triad I-Hawk batteries.

UAE Air Defence Force

  • United Arab Emirates Air Defence Force

UAE Navy

The United Arab Emirates Navy is growing, with more than 2,000 personnel and 72 vessels.

  • United Arab Emirates Marines - The UAE maintains a small battalion sized marine force called the UAE Marines. It is equipped with BMP-3s.
  • United Arab Emirates Coast Guard - The United Arab Emirates Coast Guard is the official coast guard agency of the United Arab Emirates and is primarily responsible for the protection of the UAE's coastline through regulation of maritime laws, maintenance of seamarks, border control, anti-smuggling operations and other services.

Paramilitary forces

  • Federal Police Force

Emirate forces

Four Emirates maintained their own forces prior to the unification of the defence forces. They were theoretically merged into the Union Defence Force in 1976, but in practice remained under emirate control and procured weapons separately for some time after.

  • Abu Dhabi Defence Force - Formed in 1965, drawing on tremendous oil wealth, the Emir of Abu Dhabi gave high priority to the development of the Abu Dhabi Defence Force (ADDF) when the British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf was announced. The officer corps were mainly British and Jordanian. By 1975 it had grown to 15,000 men with two squadrons of Dassault Mirage III fighters and Dassault Mirage 5 attack aircraft, a squadron of Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers, 135 armoured vehicles, Rapier and Crotale missiles, Aérospatiale Alouette III and Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopters, and a sea defence wing of four fast patrol boats.[3] The ADDF became the Western Command of the UDF in 1976.
  • Dubai Defence Force - Formed in 1971, by 1975 the DDF had 3,000 men with Ferret and Saladin armoured cars.[3] It later expanded to 20,000 men in one infantry brigade group, Aermacchi MB-326 ground attack aircraft and MBB Bo 105 helicopters. The DDF became the Central Command of the UDF in 1996.
  • Ras al-Khaimah Mobile Force - Formed in 1969, it initially had 300 men with Ferret and Saladin armoured cars, organised into one armored squadron and two infantry squadrons. It eventually expanded to 9,000 men. It became the Northern Command of the UDF in 1996.

In addition, the Sharjah National Guard was formed in 1972. It was essentially a paramilitary force of 500-600 men with Shorland armoured cars. It merged with the Federal Police in 1976.[3]


The UAE sent forces to assist Kuwait during the 1990-1991 Gulf War where several hundred UAE troops participated in the conflict as part of the GCC Peninsula Shield force that advanced into Kuwait City. The U.S. 363rd Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) operated from Al Dhafra Air Base in Dubai, and US ships operated out of UAE ports. The UAE air force also carried out strikes against Iraqi forces. A total of six UAE combat deaths were reported as a result of the fighting.

It dispatched an infantry battalion to the United Nations UNOSOM II force in Somalia in 1993, it sent the 35th Mechanized Infantry Battalion to Kosovo, and sent a regiment to Kuwait during the Iraq War. In addition, it helps protect the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz. It is a leading partner in the campaign against terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and financial arenas. The UAE military provides humanitarian assistance to Iraq.

UAE Military field engineers arrived in Lebanon at September 8, 2007 in Beirut for clearing areas of south Lebanon from mines and cluster bombs. A UAE deployment in Afghanistan started in 2007.

Military expansion (1991–2005)

UAE soldiers in U.S. training.

UAE French built Leclerc tank.

The UAE went on an expansion drive in 1995, which began with the 1992-93 acquisition of 436 Leclerc Tanks and 415 BMP-3 Armored Vehicles. It had learned from the Iranian experiences with having a single supplier for its military and has diversified its arms purchases, purchasing weaponry mainly from Russia, the United States, the UK, Ukraine, France, Italy and Germany. It has also taken care to invest in the systems it has purchased and standardize them according to NATO/GCC Specifications.

The equipment purchases was also followed by a programme to increase manpower numbers and Emiratisation program for the Armed forces. Presently (2005) almost all pilots in the UAE Air Force are UAE nationals, with the restriction of non-nationals to certain positions in the instruction and maintenance divisions of the airforce. More nationals are being trained to fill these ranks, with programs such as the Technical Trainee Project underway to try to fill the technical jobs in the country.

There has also been a qualitative shift in the Personnel in the armed services, with expert instruction being brought in from around the world, refinement of local military training institutions and the increase in standards across the armed forces.[citation needed] In 2008, the UAE bought Patriot missiles[4] and related radar, support services for the Patriot systems. There has been work concurrently on the Hawk systems, the Patriots predecessor, currently in use by the UAE.

In the last days of 2011, during a war scare with Iran over the Straits of Hormuz, the UAE announced a purchase of US $3.48 billion worth of American missile systems: 2 radar systems, 96 missiles, spare parts and training.[4] The UAE was the first country to acquire the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD). A contract worth $1.96 billion was agreed for Lockheed Martin Corp to supply two Thaad anti-missile batteries.[5]

Military industry

The UAE has begun to produce a greater amount of military equipment in a bid to reduce foreign dependence and help with national industrialization. The Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding company - ADSB ([1]) produce a range of ships and are a prime contractor in the Baynunah Program, a program to design develop and produce 5-6 corvettes customized for operation in the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf. It has also produced and is producing ammunition, military transport vehicles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

In 2007, the first small arm ever produced in UAE, the Caracal pistol, was introduced at IDEX. It became the official sidearm of the UAE armed forces and security forces. The National Guard of Bahrain adopted it shortly thereafter. Jordan ordered an unspecified number of pistol in April, 2008 during SOFEX, the Special Forces Exhibition held in Jordan. UAE and Algeria established on November, 17th, 2008 a joint committee in order to test the Caracal pistol for further adoption by Algeria.

A joint venture agreement was signed in Abu Dhabi on November 28, 2007 between Tawazun Holding LLC, an investment company established by the Offset Program Bureau (OPB), Al Jaber Trading Establishment, part of Al Jaber Group, and Rheinmetall Munitions Systems, to set up the Al Burkan munition factory at the Zayed Military City in Abu Dhabi.

The OSP signed four Memorandums of Understanding with leading companies from Europe and Singapore at the Paris Eurosatory 2008 defense exhibition on Junen 20th, Rheinmetall Group and Diehl Defence Holding of Germany, Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engg), and Thales of France.

Tawazun has also partnered with Saab on radar development.[6]

Military expenditures

  • 1999: $2,100,000,000 (1.8% of Gross Domestic Product)
  • 2000: $2,600,000,000 (0.8% of Gross Domestic Product)
  • 2005: $3,800,000,000 (1.0% of Gross Domestic Product)
  • 2010: $10,000,000,000



Further reading

  • Britain, the UAE, and the defence of the Gulf revisited, International Affairs (journal), September 2013

External links

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2003 edition".

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).