Polisario People's Liberation Army

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Polisario People's Liberation Army
Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro
Coat of arms of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.svg
Coat of Arms
Founded1973
Service branchesSahrawi Liberation Army
Sahrawi Auxiliary Army
HeadquartersSahrawi refugee camps, Tindouf Province, Algeria
Manpower
Conscriptionyes
Industry
Foreign suppliers Algeria  Libya

The Polisario People's Liberation Army is the armed forces of the Polisario Front.

Capabilities[edit]

The Polisario Front has no navy or air force. The Sahrawi People's Liberation Army, (SPLA, often abbreviated in Spanish as ELPS – Ejército de Liberación Popular Saharaui), is the Polisario's army.[1] Its commander-in-chief is the Secretary General, but it is also integrated into the SADR system through the institution of a SADR Minister of Defence. The SPLA's armed units are considered to have a manpower of possibly 6–7,000 active soldiers today, but during the war years its strength appears to have been significantly higher: up to 20,000 men. It has a potential manpower of many times that number, since both male and female refugees in the Tindouf camps undergo military training at age 18.[citation needed] Women formed auxiliary units protecting the camps during war years.

Branches[edit]

  • Sahrawi Liberation Army
  • Sahrawi Auxiliary Army

Equipment[edit]

A Polisario tank division 2012

When it originally began the anti-Spanish rebellion, Polisario was forced to capture its weapons individually, and transport them only by foot or camel. But the

insurgents multiplied their arsenal and military sophistication after striking an alliance with Algeria in 1975. The modern SPLA is equipped mainly with outdated Soviet-manufactured weaponry, donated by Algeria. But its arsenals display a bewildering variety of material, much of it captured from Spanish, Mauritanian (Panhard AMLs) or Moroccan forces (Eland Mk7s, Ratel IFVs, AMX-13s, SK-105 Kürassiers) and made in France, the United States, South Africa, Austria or Britain. The SPLA has several armored units, composed of old tanks (T-55s, T-62s), somewhat more modern armored cars (EE-9 Cascavels, BRDM-2s), infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-1s, BTR-60s), rocket launchers (BM-21s) and halftracks. Surface-to-air missiles (anti-aircraft missiles, as SA-6s, SA-7s, SA-8s and SA-9s) have downed several Moroccan F-5 fighter jets, and helped compensate for the complete Moroccan control of the skies.[2]

One of the most innovative tactics of the SPLA was its early and extensive use of Land Rovers and other re-modeled civilian vehicles, mounting anti-aircraft machine

Captured Moroccan Eland armoured cars in the Polisario Museum

guns (as ZPU-2 or ZU-23) or anti-tank missiles, (as the AT-3 Sagger) and using them in great numbers, to overwhelm unprepared garrisoned outposts in rapid surprise strikes. This may reflect the movement's difficulties in obtaining original military equipment, but nonetheless proved a powerful tactic.[3]

On 3 November 2005, the Polisario Front signed the Geneva Call, committing itself to a total ban on landmines, and later began to destroy its landmine stockpiles under international supervision. Morocco is one of 40 governments that have not signed the 1997 mine ban treaty. Both parties have used mines extensively in the conflict, but some mine-clearing operations have been carried out under MINURSO supervision since the ceasefire agreement.[4][5]

Air Defence[edit]

The Polisario People's Liberation Army has many surface-to-air missiles (anti-aircraft missiles, as SA-6s, SA-7s, SA-8s and SA-9s) and they have downed several Moroccan F-5 fighter jets, and helped compensate for the complete Moroccan control of the skies.

Inventory[edit]

Tanks[edit]

Model Origine Number Photo Notes
T-55 USSR 50 Ex-Polish T-54A.jpg
T-62 USSR 25 Kampfpanzer T 62.JPG
SK-105 Kürassier Austria 9 0033FSDF.JPG
AMX-13 France 15 AMX-13-.jpg

AFL's and IFV's[edit]

Model Origine Number Variant Notes
Eland Mk7 France Gateguardian1.jpg
Ratel IFV South Africa SANDF Armed Forces Day 2017 - South African Army Ratel IFV (32921886001).jpg
Panhard AML France Aml90 054.jpg
EE-9 Cascavel Brazil EE-9 Cascavel de Bolivia.jpg
BRDM-2 USSR BRDM-2 in Korolyov Moscow Oblast.jpg
BMP-1 USSR Afghan National Army on patrol.jpg
BTR-60 USSR BTR-60PB DA-ST-89-06597.jpg

improvised fighting vehicle[edit]

Model Origine Number Photo Notes
Land Rover United Kingdom Land Rover Series II.jpg

Missile trucks[edit]

Model Origine Number Photo Notes
BM-21 Grad USSR BM-21 Grad Kiev.jpg From Algeria

Tactics[edit]

The SPLA traditionally employed ghazzi tactics, i.e., motorized surprise raids over great distances, which were inspired by the traditional camel-back war parties of the Sahrawi tribes. However, after the construction of the Moroccan Wall this changed into tactics more resembling conventional warfare, with a focus on artillery, snipers and other long-range attacks. In both phases of the war, SPLA units relied on superior knowledge of the terrain, speed and surprise, and on the ability to retain experienced fighters.

References[edit]