United Arab Emirates Armed Forces

United Arab Emirates Armed Forces
القوات المسلحة لدولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة
UAE Armed Forces Coat of Arms.svg
United Arab Emirates Armed Forces seal
Founded 1951
Current form 1971
Service branches United Arab Emirates Army
United Arab Emirates Navy
United Arab Emirates Air Force
United Arab Emirates Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority
Supreme Commander President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Deputy Supreme Commander Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Minister of Defence Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Chief of staff Lt. General Hamad Mohammed Thani Al Rumaithi
Military age 18 years
Available for
military service
3,658,577, age 15–49
Fit for
military service
3,072,125, age 15–49
Reaching military
age annually
Active personnel Approximately 63,000[1] (ranked 42nd)
Reserve personnel 180,000 (Almost)
Budget US$22.755 billion (2014)
Percent of GDP 5.6%
Domestic suppliers  United Arab Emirates
Emirates Military Industries Company
Foreign suppliers  United States[2]
Related articles
History The Invasion of Hamasa
Dhofar Rebellion
Lebanese Civil War
Gulf War(1990-1991)
Kosovo Force
United Nations Operation in Somalia II
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
Libyan Civil War (2011)
Libyan Civil War (2014–present)
International military intervention against ISIL
Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)
Sinai insurgency
Ranks Military ranks of United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates Armed Forces (Arabic: القوات المسلحة لدولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة Al-Quwwāt al-Musallaḥa li-Dawlat al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyyah al-Muttaḥidah) are the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates and have primary responsibility for the defence of all seven emirates. They consists of approximately 63,000 personnel, and are headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates Armed Forces were formed in 1951 as the historic Trucial Oman Scouts, a long symbol of public order in Eastern Arabia. Since their formation, the armed forces have been deployed in various military and humanitarian missions. As a result of their active and effective military role despite their small active personnel, the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces are commonly nicknamed as "Little Sparta" by United States Armed Forces General and former US defense secretary James Mattis.[4]


A falcon was added to the original Trucial Oman Levies insignia to signify the union of the seven emirates and formation of a united force.

Prior to the union of the emirates, different tribal confederations formed the de facto military force which was dominant in the area now known as the United Arab Emirates. The Bani Yas and Al Qawasim were the most significant of those tribal confederations. The Al Qawasim were a major maritime force in the region, which prompted the British Royal Navy to organize several campaigns, such as Persian Gulf campaign of 1809 and Persian Gulf campaign of 1819 and the deployment of ground forces in Ras Al Khaimah to control the trade routes the Al Qawasim dominated. With the signing of the 1820 General Maritime Treaty between the British and the tribal sheikhs and the commencement of the British Residency of the Persian Gulf, the British Empire with the assistance of Sheikh Khalid III bin Muhammad al-Qasimi endeavored to form a unified paramilitary force based in Sharjah to suppress the slave trade and prevent tribal conflicts. The paramilitary force was named the Trucial Oman Levies.[5]

The current United Arab Emirates military was formed from the historical Trucial Oman Levies which was established on 11 May 1951. The Trucial Oman Levies, which were renamed the Trucial Oman Scouts in 1956, were considered a long symbol of public order in Eastern Arabia and were commanded by British officers from the British Empire. The Trucial Oman Scouts were turned over to the United Arab Emirates as the nucleus of its defense forces in 1971 with the formation of the UAE and were absorbed into the newly formed united military called the Union Defence Force (UDF). The Union Defence Force was established officially as the military of the United Arab Emirates on 27 December 1971 from a directive issued by the UAE's founding father and first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.[6]

As the Union Defence Force, every emirate was responsible for the equipment and training of its own defence forces. In the event of an attack on any one of the seven emirates, the Union Defence Force would be mobilized from every emirate to defend the attacked emirate. In 1974 the name was changed to the Federal Armed Forces. On 6 May 1976, the Federal Armed Forces were unified as a single body. This was considered a historic event and a large milestone in the military of the United Arab Emirates. May 6 is celebrated annually as the Military Union Day. As a result of the union of forces, the number of personnel formed a brigade and was referred to as the Yarmouk Brigade.[6]

After the union of the armed forces in 1976, the Yarmouk Brigade was officially renamed the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. The three largest emirates defence forces which originally formed the Federal Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi Defence Force, Dubai Defence Force, and Ras Al Khaimah Mobile Force, were converted into three major military bases/zones for the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. In 1976 the official UAE Armed Forces insignia, uniform, military academies, air force, and naval force were established and the military General Headquarters (GHQ) was formed in the capital Abu Dhabi.[6]

Although initially small in number, the UAE armed forces have grown significantly over the years and are presently equipped with some of the most modern weapon systems, purchased from a variety of outside countries, mainly France, the US and the UK (the former protector of the UAE). 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.[7] During the Gulf War, the US had troops and equipment stationed in the UAE as well as other parts of the Persian Gulf.

The UAE introduced a mandatory military conscription for adult males in 2014 of 16 months to expand its reserve force.[8] The highest loss of life in the history of the UAE military occurred on Friday 4 September 2015, in which 52 soldiers were killed in Marib area of central Yemen by a Tochka missile which targeted a weapons cache and caused a large explosion.[9]


United Arab Emirates Honor Guard.

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

Federal Forces

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

The United Arab Emirates Air Force has about 4,000 personnel.[10] The air force agreed in 1999 to purchase 80 US F-16 multirole fighter aircraft. Other equipment includes 60 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.

  • United Arab Emirates Air Defence Force

The Air Defense Force is responsible for civil defense aircraft and protecting the country therewith.

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

  • United Arab Emirates Marines – The UAE maintained a small battalion-sized Marine force called the UAE Marines until 2011 when it was merged into the UAE-PG.
  • 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.

The UAE Presidential Guard (UAE-PG) was formed in 2011 by merging the Amiri Guard, Special Operations Command, and the Marine Battalion from the UAE Navy. UAE requested training support be provide by the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). [11] The U.S. State Department approved a foreign military sales (FMS) Training Case for UAE-PG in October 2011. Marine Corps Training Mission UAE (MCTM-UAE) operates under chief of mission authority as a Title 22 FMS training case.[12] While the UAE military no longer has a Marine unit, USMC has designated the UAE-PG as its service counterpart.

  • Federal Police Force

Former Emirate forces

Four Emirates maintained their own forces prior to the unification of the defence forces. Three 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 by order of Sheikh Shakhbut Al Nahyan and commanded by Major Edward 'Tug' Wilson.[13] The officer corps were mainly British and Jordanian. Although not initially an operational force of consequence,[13] 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.[14] 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.[14] 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.[14]


A UAE Armed Forces Special Ops soldier assigned to Special Operations Task Force-West, patrols villages in Afghanistan on April 7, 2011.
UAEAF crew chief communicating during an engine test at Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag 11-2 on February 2, 2011.
UAE Army BMP-3 conducting live fire desert training.

It dispatched an infantry battalion to the United Nations UNOSOM II force in Somalia in 1993, it sent the 35th Mechanised 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.

Gulf War

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 US 363rd Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) operated from Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, and US ships operated out of UAE ports.[15] The UAE air force also carried out strikes against Iraqi forces. The UAE Armed Forces participated in the coalition with an army battalion along with a squadron of Dassault Mirage 5 and Mirage 2000.[15] 6 Emirati troops were killed in action.[16]

United Nations Operation in Somalia II

The UAE Armed Forces participated in UNOSOM II which was an intervention launched in March 1993 until March 1995, and committed resources to the United Nations mission.[17][18]


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

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

A UAE deployment in Afghanistan started in 2007.

Saudi led intervention in Yemen

In 2015, the UAE participated in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen to influence the outcome of the Yemeni Civil War (2015–present).[19] On 4 September 2015, 52 UAE soldiers (together with 10 Saudi and 5 Bahraini soldiers) were killed when a Houthi missile hit an ammunition dump at a military base in Ma'rib Governorate,[20] marking the highest death toll on the battlefield in the country's history.[21]

In 2016 Battle of Mukalla, the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces liberated the port of Mukalla from AQAP forces in 36 hours after being held by AQAP for more than a year with the US defense secretary James Mattis calling the UAE led operation a model for American troops.[22] However, in 2018, the Associated Press in a report mentioned that the UAE struck deals with AQAP militants by recruiting them against fighting the Houthis and providing them with money. The report continued to state that the United States was aware of Al-Qaeda joining ranks with the UAE and has held off drone strikes against Al-Qaeda.[23] UAE Brigadier General Musallam Al Rashidi responded to the report by stating that Al Qaeda cannot be reasoned with in the first place stating that “There’s no point in negotiating with these guys.”[24] The UAE military stated that accusations of allowing AQAP to leave with cash contradicts their primary objective of depriving AQAP of its financial strength.[25] The notion of Al Qaeda joining ranks with UAE Armed Forces and the US holding off drone strikes against Al Qaeda has been thoroughly denied by The Pentagon with Colonel Robert Manning, spokesperson of the Pentagon, calling the news source "patently false".[26] According to The Independent, AQAP activity on social media as well as the number of reported attacks conducted by them has decreased since the Emirati intervention.[25]

On 30 April 2018 the UAE armed forces, as part of the ongoing Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, landed troops on the island of Socotra.[27] The Independent newspaper reported that the UAE has politically annexed the island and built a communications network, as well as conducted census and provided Socotra residents with free healthcare and work permits in Abu Dhabi.[28] Two weeks later on 14 May, Saudi troops were also deployed to the archipelago and a deal was brokered between the United Arab Emirates and Yemen for a joint military training exercise and the return of administrative control of Socotra's airport and seaport to Yemen.[29][30][31]

In June 2018, a major offensive was carried out by the UAE-led troops in Hodeidah.[32]

In June, 2019, the UAE announced a partial withdrawal of its troops by reducing Emirati armed forces fighting in Yemen. A senior official from the UAE called the move a “strategic” redeployment.[33] According to a Reuters report, the gulf nation ordered the withdrawal of its troops following security concerns, after tensions with Iran. The UAE stated that it is shifting its focus from Houthi rebels to ISIS and al-Qaeda in Yemen.[34]

Armed equipment

Military expansion (1989–2005)

UAEAF C-17A Globemaster III

In 1989, UAE purchased Scud-B ballistic missiles from North Korea.[35] The UAE went on an expansion drive in 1995, which began with the 1992–93 acquisition of 436 Leclerc Tanks and 415 BMP-3 Armoured 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 standardise them according to NATO/GCC Specifications.

The equipment purchases was also followed by a programme to increase manpower numbers and Emiratisation programme 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 programmes 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 MIM-104 Patriot missiles[36] 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.[36] 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.[37]

Military industry

Battle tested Emirati manufactured APC Nimr restored from Operation Decisive Storm on display in IDEX 2017.

The UAE has begun to produce a greater amount of military equipment in a bid to reduce foreign dependence and help with national industrialisation. The Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding company (ADSB) produces a range of ships and are a prime contractor in the Baynunah Programme, a programme to design develop and produce 5–6 corvettes customised 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 17 November 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 28 November 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 OPB signed four Memorandums of Understanding with leading companies from Europe and Singapore at the Paris Eurosatory 2008 defence exhibition on June 20, 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.[38]

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


See also


  1. ^ IISS 2018, pp. 367
  2. ^ "United Arab Emirates - Defense". export.org. 23 April 2018. Archived from the original on 12 November 2018. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Emirati Army - Modernization". Globalsecurity.org. Archived from the original on 2018-11-12. Retrieved 2018-11-11.
  4. ^ "In the UAE, the United States has a quiet, potent ally nicknamed 'Little Sparta'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 18 August 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  5. ^ de Butts, Freddie (1995). Now the Dust Has Settled. Tabb House. ISBN 1873951132.
  6. ^ a b c "توحيد القوات المسلحة أعظم قرارات دولة الاتحاد". Al Bayan. 1 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Libya no-fly zone: Coalition firepower". BBC News. Archived from the original on 9 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  8. ^ "UAE extends compulsory military service to 16 months". Reuters. 8 July 2018.
  9. ^ "UAE, Bahrain say 50 soldiers killed in Yemen attack". Reuters. 4 September 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  10. ^ "United Arab Emirates". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  11. ^ UAE Presidential Guard Command https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/gulf/uae-pg.htm. Retrieved 8 May 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ MARADMIN 620/12, PERSONNEL SOURCING GUIDANCE IN SUPPORT OF MARINE CORPS TRAINING MISSION - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (MCTM- UAE) https://www.marines.mil/News/Messages/Messages-Display/Article/895109/personnel-sourcing-guidance-in-support-of-marine-corps-training-mission-united/. Retrieved 8 May 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ a b De Butts, Freddie (1995). Now The Dust Has Settled. Tabb House. p. 193. ISBN 1873951132.
  14. ^ a b c H. Richard Sindelar III and John E Peterson (1988). Crosscurrents in the Gulf: Arab Regional and Global Interests. Routledge. p. 213.
  15. ^ a b Brigadier General Ibrahim Al-Nakhi. The Gulf war: UAE Participation in that War (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 October 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  16. ^ "The Role of the United Arab Emirates in the Iran-Iraq War and the Persian Gulf War". Country-data.com. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
  17. ^ "UNITED NATIONS OPERATION IN SOMALIA II". UN.org. 21 March 1997. Archived from the original on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  18. ^ Salama, Samira (3 January 2015). "Priming UAE's military into a force to reckon with". Gulf News. Archived from the original on 22 December 2018. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Tributes paid to 45 Emirati heroes martyred in Yemen". gulfnews.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
  20. ^ "Yemen crisis: UAE launches fresh Yemen attacks". BBC.com. 5 September 2015. Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  21. ^ Reporter, Staff. "UAE salutes 45 soldiers martyred in Yemen – Khaleej Times". khaleejtimes.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
  22. ^ "US-UAE counter-terrorism operations on the rise in Yemen". The National. 15 March 2018. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Inside the UAE's war on al-Qaeda in Yemen". The Independent. Archived from the original on 15 August 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  24. ^ "UAE responds to AP report on deals with al-Qaida in Yemen". Associated Press. 13 August 2018. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  25. ^ a b Trew, Bel (15 August 2018). "Inside the UAE's war on al-Qaeda in Yemen". The Independent. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  26. ^ "Pentagon denies reports of U.S. allies bribing, recruiting al Qaeda fighters in Yemen". Washington Times. Archived from the original on 29 August 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  27. ^ "As Saudi Arabia and the UAE struggle for control of Socotra, Yemen's island paradise may just swap one occupation for another". The Independent. 21 May 2018. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  28. ^ "Socotra island: The Unesco-protected 'Jewel of Arabia' vanishing amid Yemen's civil war". The Independent. 2 May 2018. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  29. ^ "Yemen PM: Crisis over UAE deployment to Socotra over". Aljazeera.com. Archived from the original on 2018-05-18. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
  30. ^ "Yemen, UAE Agree on Deal Over Socotra". Al Bawaba. 14 May 2018. Archived from the original on 16 May 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  31. ^ "As Saudi Arabia and the UAE struggle for control of Socotra, Yemen's island paradise may just swap one occupation for another". The Independent. 21 May 2018. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  32. ^ "Yemen separatist leader says Hodeidah offensive will not stop". Reuters. Archived from the original on 20 September 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  33. ^ "UAE partially withdrawing from Yemen, says official". CNN. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  34. ^ "Exclusive: UAE scales down military presence in Yemen as Gulf tensions flare". Reuters. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  35. ^ Diplomat, Samuel Ramani , The. "Why Did the UAE Purchase Weapons From North Korea?". Archived from the original on 2017-08-09. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  36. ^ a b "Gulf States Requesting ABM-Capable Systems". Defense Industry Daily. 2 October 2014. Archived from the original on 16 October 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  37. ^ "US bolsters UAE's missile defense in major arms deal". Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  38. ^ April Yee. "Abu Dhabi's Tawazun putting new eyes on the skies with radar deal". Retrieved 25 December 2014.

Further reading

External links

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