Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia

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Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces

War flag of Saudi Arabian Army
Motto "God is the greatest"
Founded 1744[1]
Current form 13 January 1902[2]
Service branches
Headquarters Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Royal Standard of Saudi Arabia.svg King Salman
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Minister of Defense Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia Emblem.png Deputy Crown Prince
Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud
Chairman of
the General of Staff
Chief of General Staff flag of the Saudi Armed Forces.svg Colonel General
Abdul Rahman bin Saleh Al Banyan
Military age 17 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service (2012)[6][7]
Conscription No[8][9]
Active personnel
688,000 (Dec 2015)[10][11]
Reserve personnel
211,000 – 255,000 (2014 est.)
Deployed personnel

11,200 troops (ٍSep 2015)
List of major deployment

Budget FY 2016: US$87.2 billion
(ranked 3rd)[16][17]
Percent of GDP FY 2016: 13.7%[18][19]
Domestic suppliers
Foreign suppliers
Related articles

The Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces (Arabic: القُوّات المُسَـلَّحَة السُّـعُوديَّة‎‎; Arabic pronunciation: [al-Quwwāt al-Musallaḥah as-Suʿūdiyyah]) consists of the Saudi Arabian Army, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Navy, the Royal Saudi Air Defense, and the Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force.

In addition the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), which is one of the three major branches of the Joint Forces of the Kingdom. The national guard is under the administrative control of the Ministry of National Guard, instead of the Ministry of Defence, the Saudi Arabian Royal Guard, and paramilitary forces.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the best-funded defence forces in the Middle East. The kingdom spends 25% of its budget, or about $88 billion,[16] on its military. In terms of manpower, Saudi Arabia has about 688,000 active personnel in its military, with 300,000 army troops.[20] Saudi Arabia also has more than 200,000 men in its national guard[21] and 25,000 tribal levies,[22] which is used primarily to secure internal threats but has been used as an expeditionary force too. The navy has about 60,000 members,[23] air defense forces and strategic rocket forces about 40,000 soldiers. In addition to the air forces with more than 63,000 active employees,[24] also there is a military intelligence service, the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP).

The Saudi Arabian National Guard is not a reserve but a fully operational front-line force, and originated out of Abdul Aziz's tribal military-religious force, the Ikhwan. Its modern existence, however, is attributable to it being effectively Abdullah's private army since the 1960s and, unlike the rest of the armed forces, is independent of the Ministry of Defense. The SANG has been a counterbalance to the Sudairi faction in the royal family; Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, the king, is one of the so-called "Sudairi Seven" and controls the remainder of the armed forces.[25]

Armed services[edit]

The armed forces are mainly the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, which also oversees the construction of civilian airports as well as military bases, and meteorology departments.

Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz was Saudi Arabia's Minister of Defence and Aviation from 1962 to 2011. The vice minister, Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz, was his full brother, and served until November 2011. His oldest son, Khalid bin Sultan, was appointed assistant minister in 2001 and was in office until April 2013.

In 1987, members of the air force, army, and navy are mainly recruits from groups of people without a strong identity from the Nejd tribal system and people from urban areas.[26]

Defense spending[edit]

Spending on defense and security has increased significantly since the mid-1990s and was about US$67 billion in 2013. Saudi Arabia ranks among the top five nations in the world in government spending for its military, representing about 9% of GDP in 2013. Its modern, high-technology arsenal makes Saudi Arabia among the world's most densely armed nations, with its military equipment being supplied primarily by the United States, France, and Britain.[27] According to SIPRI, in 2010–14 Saudi Arabia became the world's second largest arms importer, receiving four times more major arms than in 2005–2009. Major imports in 2010–14 included 45 combat aircraft from the UK, 38 combat helicopters from the USA, 4 tanker aircraft from Spain and over 600 armoured vehicles from Canada. Saudi Arabia has a long list of outstanding orders for arms, including 27 more combat aircraft from the UK, 154 combat aircraft from the USA and a large number of armoured vehicles from Canada.[28]

The United States sold more than $80 billion in military hardware between 1951 and 2006 to the Saudi military.[29] In comparison, the Israel Defense Forces received $53.6 billion in U.S. military grants between 1949 and 2007.[30] On 20 October 2010, U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history—an estimated $60.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package represented a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces.[31] The United States emphasized that the arms transfer would increase "interoperability" with U.S. forces. In the 1990–1991 Gulf War, having U.S.-trained Saudi forces, along with military installations built to U.S. specifications, allowed the American armed forces to deploy in a comfortable and familiar battle environment. This new deal would increase these capabilities, as an advanced American military infrastructure is about to be built.[32] The U.S. government was also in talks with Saudi Arabia about the potential sale of advanced naval and missile-defense upgrades.[33]

The UK has also been a major supplier of military equipment to Saudi Arabia since 1965.[34] Since 1985, the UK has supplied military aircraft—notably the Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft—and other equipment as part of the long-term Al-Yamamah arms deal estimated to have been worth £43 billion by 2006 and thought to be worth a further £40 billion.[35]

Canada recently won a contract worth at least US$10 billion to supply the Saudi Arabian army with armored military vehicles.[citation needed]


Saudi Arabian army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during Operation Desert Shield

The army is composed of three armored brigades, five mechanized brigades, one airborne brigade, one Royal Guard brigade, and eight artillery battalions. The army also has one aviation command with two aviation brigades.[27]

The army's main equipment consists of a combination of French- and U.S.-made armored vehicles: 315 M–1A2 Abrams, 290 AMX–30, and 450 M60A3 main battle tanks; 300 reconnaissance vehicles; 570+ AMX–10P and 400 M–2 Bradley armored infantry fighting vehicles; 3,000+ M113 and 100 Al-Fahd armored personnel carriers, produced in Saudi Arabia; 200+ towed artillery pieces; 110 self-propelled artillery pieces; 60 multiple rocket launchers; 400 mortars; 10 surface-to-surface missiles; about 2,000 antitank guided weapons; about 200 rocket launchers; 450 recoilless launchers; 12 attack helicopters; 50+ transport helicopters; and 1,000 surface-to-air missiles.[27]

In 1996 Saudi Arabia had military cities in the northeast, the King Khalid Military City, at Tabuk, at Dharhran, and at Abha in the southwest. There was a 1996 report that construction of a military city at Jizan, orientated toward Yemen, had begun with Defence Minister Prince Sultan pouring the first concrete on 8 May 1996.[36]

Air Force[edit]

Main article: Royal Saudi Air Force

Flag of the Royal Saudi Air Force The air force is organized in seven fighter/ground-attack squadrons, six fighter squadrons, and seven training squadrons. Saudi Arabia has at least 15 active military airfields.[27]

As of 2011, Saudi Arabia has around 300 combat aircraft. The kingdom's combat aircraft are newly acquired Typhoons and upgraded Tornado IDS, F-15 Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle fighter planes. Saudi Arabia has a further 80+ F-15 Eagles on order and an option to buy another 72 Typhoons.


Main article: Royal Saudi Navy
HMS "Makkah", an Al Riyadh class frigate

Flag of the Royal Saudi Navy The navy is divided into two fleets: the Western Fleet has bases in Jeddah, Jizan, and Al Wajh; the Eastern Fleet has bases in Al Jubayl, Ad Dammam, Ras Mishab, and Ras al Ghar. The marines are organized into one infantry regiment with two battalions.[27]

The navy's inventory includes 11 principal surface combatants, 65 patrol and coastal combatants, 7 mine warfare vessels, 8 amphibious craft, and 7 support and miscellaneous craft. Naval aviation forces have 19 helicopters (armed) serving in naval support.[27]

Air Defense[edit]

Astros II MLRS

Flag of the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces Air Defense was part of the Army until 1981 when it was made a separate service. It operates "Peace Shield" a state-of-the-art radar and air defense system consisting of a Command Operations Center at Riyadh, and main operating bases at Dhahran, Taif, Tabuk, Khamis Mushait and Al Kharj. The total system includes 164 sites.[37]

The system equipment comprises 17 General Electric AN/ FPS-117 long-range 3-D radars, 6 Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-43 tactical radars, and Raytheon Improved HAWK air defence missile system.[37]

Ballistic Missile Forces[edit]

The Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Forces (RSSMF) is equipped with the Chinese DF-3 (CSS-2) Dongfeng missile sold to Saudi Arabia by China. A conventional high-explosive warhead (2150 kg) variant of the DongFeng 3A Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile was developed for an export order to Saudi Arabia in 1987. About 30~120 missiles and 9~12 launchers were reportedly delivered in 1988, though no known test launch has ever been made in the country.[38] The Strategical Missile Forces is top secret, so there is no open information concerning the budget and personnel. Probably it is separate branch officially called Strategic Missile Forces (guessing by its website URL

But RSSMF certainly has one advanced Al-Watah ballistic missile base (found on the satellite images) in the rocky central part of Saudi Arabia, some 200 km south-west of the capital city Riyadh.[39] Two other bases include Al Sulayyil ballistic missile base (the older base located 450 km southwest of Riyadh)[40] and Al Jufayr base (placed 90 km south of Riyadh) share many similarities, suggesting that they share the same role.

Independent Forces[edit]


Main article: Saudi National Guard
SANG soldiers receiving mortar training from a US serviceman

The Saudi Arabian National Guard is independent of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation and is organized into three mechanized infantry brigades, five infantry brigades, and one ceremonial cavalry squadron.

The SANG is equipped with 100 Saudi-manufactured Al-Fahd infantry fighting vehicles.[41] It has been strengthened by the purchase of US$1 billion worth of new armored vehicles from Canada.

Royal Guard[edit]

The Saudi Arabian Royal Guard Regiment is one of the more visible units . Originally an independent military force, the Royal Guards were incorporated into the Army in 1964. However, the Royal Guards still retained their unique mission of protecting the House of Saud. Units of the Royal Guard protect the King of Saudi Arabia at all times.[42]

The Royal Guards report directly to the king and for security reasons maintain a separate communications network from the regular Army.

Members of the Royal Guard Regiment often wore the flowing white thaub (robe) and white kaffiyah and qutrah (traditional Arab headgear of skullcap and scarf). Royal Guardsmen wear bright green berets when in conventional uniforms.

Recent military operations[edit]

The Persian Gulf War[edit]

Desert Storm, the 1991 liberation of Kuwait and military invasion of Iraq, was launched from Saudi territory and Saudi forces participated in the operation

When Iraq invaded Saudi Arabia's northern neighbor Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia immediately requested the deployment of U.S. troops within the country to deter further aggression. Saudi forces participated in the subsequent Operation Desert Storm: Saudi pilots flew more than 7,000 sorties and Saudi troops took part in the battles around the Saudi town of Raʾs al-Khafji.[43]

Operation Southern Watch[edit]

Since the Gulf War, the United States stationed 5,000 troops in Saudi Arabia, a figure that rose to 10,000 during the 2003 conflict in Iraq.[44] Operation Southern Watch enforced the no-fly zones over southern Iraq set up after 1991, as well, the country's oil exports through the shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf are protected by the United States Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain. It was conducted by Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) with the mission of monitoring and controlling airspace south of the 32nd Parallel (extended to the 33rd Parallel in 1996) in Iraq, following the 1991 Persian Gulf War until the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

This was one of the stated motivations behind the September 11th terrorist attacks,[44] as well as the Khobar Towers bombing.[45] Bin Laden interpreted the Islamic prophet, Muhammad as banning the "permanent presence of infidels in Arabia".[46] U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia served to provoke skirmishes between Iraq and the United States between both Persian Gulf Wars.

Shia insurgency in Yemen[edit]

On 5 November 2009, the Royal Saudi Land Forces launched a sweeping ground offensive against Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels after they crossed the Saudi border in order to outflank the Yemeni Army, which had launched a military campaign against the Houthis to control and pacify the northern Yemeni mountains, and killed two Saudi border guards. The Saudi forces relied heavily on air power and artillery to soften the rebels without risking their men. The Saudi Army lost 133 soldiers in the fighting against the rebels, with most of the casualties occurring when ground forces tried to move into areas that had been softened by shelling. that "raised alarms across the Sunni Arab world about the Iran is supporting the Yemeni rebels".[47]


Lieutenant First Lieutenant Captain Major Lieutenant Colonel Colonel Brigadier General Major General Lieutenant General General

Enlisted Ranks[edit]

Enlisted Ranks
Private Private First Class Corporal Vice Sergeant Sergeant Sergeant First Class Master Sergeant

Ministers of the Ministry of Defence[edit]

Deputy Ministers[edit]

Military industry[edit]

The vast majority of Saudi Arabia's military equipment is imported from European and North American suppliers.[27] However, the Al-Fahd Infantry fighting vehicle and the Al-Faris 8-400 armored personnel carrier, used by Saudi land forces, were manufactured by the Abdallah Al Faris Company for Heavy Industries, based in Dammam.[48] Also, Al-Kaser and Al-Mansour armored vehicles and the Al-Masmak MRAP which has achieved very high protection, all are Saudi-made[49][50] Ashibl 1 and Ashibl 2 are Saudi-made armored vehicles used by the Royal Saudi Land Forces and the kingdom's most elite special operations units of Battalion 85. Saudi Arabia has also recently unveiled the new Tuwaiq MRAP[51][52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ al-Rasheed, Madawi (2010). A History of Saudi Arabia. ISBN 978-0-521-74754-7. 
  2. ^ William Ochsenwald (2004). The Middle East: A History. McGraw Hill. p. 697. ISBN 0-07-244233-6. 
  3. ^ "King Salman bin Abdulaziz". 18 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Mohammed bin Nayef kingpin in new Saudi Arabia: country experts". Middle East Eye. 1 February 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "Military vows to protect Kingdom". Arab News. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 2016-04-06. 
  8. ^ name="armedforces"
  9. ^ name="The World Factbook"
  10. ^ "Saudi Arabia spends 25% of its budget on its military — here's what it has for the money". 
  11. ^ "MSAUDI ARABIA LAUNCHES MASSIVE MILITARY EXERCISE WITH 20 NATIONS". Arab News. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  12. ^ Shrivastava, Sanskar (15 March 2011). "Saudi Arabian Troops Enter Bahrain, Bahrain Opposition Calls It War". The World Reporter. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  13. ^ Henderson, Simon. "Bahrain's Crisis: Saudi Forces Intervene". Washington Institute. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 
  14. ^ Felicia Schwartz, Hakim Almasmari and Asa Fitch (26 March 2015). "Saudi Arabia Launches Military Operations in Yemen". WSJ. 
  15. ^ "Saudi Arabia launches airstrikes in Yemen". CNN. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2015" (PDF). Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  17. ^ "Giri Rajendran: Russia and China drive global defence-spending increases in 2015". IIss. 9 February 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  18. ^ The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database
  19. ^ "The SIPRI Military Expenditure Database". SIPRI. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  20. ^ "Political Regimes in the Arab World: Society and the Exercise of Power". September 4, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Saudi King Salman cements hold on power". 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  22. ^ ", 31 December 2015,
  23. ^ ",military power
  24. ^ Cordesman, Anthony H.; Al-Rodhan, Khalid R. (June 28, 2006). Gulf Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric Wars (PDF). Greenwood Publishing Group. CSIS. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-275-99399-3. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  25. ^ John Pike. "Saudi Arabian National Guard". Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  26. ^ Mackey, p. 207.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g "Country Profile: Saudi Arabia", September 2006, United States Library of Congress
  28. ^ "Trends in International Arms Transfer, 2014". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  29. ^ "Saudi Arabia", Federation of American Scientists
  30. ^ Pierre Tristam Middle East Issues Expert. "U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia". Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
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  32. ^ Anthony H. Cordesman (17 September 2010). "US-Saudi Security Cooperation, Impact of Arms Sales". Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service. 
  33. ^ "Saudi Arms Deal Advances", Wall Street Journal
  34. ^ Gardner, Charles (1981). British Aircraft Corporation. A history by Charles Gardner. B.T. Batsford Ltd. pp. 224–249. ISBN 0-7134-3815-0. 
  35. ^ O'Connell, Dominic (20 August 2006). "BAE cashes in on £40bn Arab jet deal". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 22 August 2006. 
  36. ^ James Bruce, "Saudis building military city on Yemen border", Jane's Defence Weekly, 15 May 1996, p.3
  37. ^ a b "Peace Shield (Saudi Arabia), Systems", Jane's Military Communications, 5 July 2005 Retrieved 2012-01-23
  38. ^ SinoDefence "DongFeng 3 (CSS-2) Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile", sinodefence, 27 February 2009.
  39. ^ Sean O'Connor, "Saudi ballistic missile site revealed", IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 10 July 2013.
  40. ^ Ronen Bergman, "Al Sulayyil Missile Base",
  41. ^ "Al Fahd - Wheeled Armoured Reconnaissance/Personnel Carrier". Army Technology. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  42. ^ John Pike (2002-10-30). "Royal Saudi Land Forces". Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
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  44. ^ a b "US pulls out of Saudi Arabia". BBC News. 29 April 2003. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2009. 
  45. ^ Plotz, David (2001) "What Does Osama Bin Laden Want?", Slate
  46. ^ Bergen, Peter L. (2001). Holy War Inc. Simon & Schuster. p. 3. 
  47. ^ Robert F. Worth (26 October 2010). "Saudi Border With Yemen Is Still Inviting for Al Qaeda". New York Times. 
  48. ^ "Weapons made in Saudi Arabia" at
  49. ^ "Al-Masmak Masmak Nyoka Mk2 MRAP Mine Resistant Armored Personnel Carrier technical data sheet". Army Recognition. Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
  50. ^ "Photos & Videos". Retrieved 25 December 2014. 
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China, Russia, Saudi Arabia Boosted Defense Most as U.S. Cut

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]