Republic of Yemen Armed Forces

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Republic of Yemen Armed Forces
القوات المسلحة اليمنية
Yemeni Armed Forces Emblem.svg
Emblem of the Armed Forces of Yemen.
Flag of Yemen Armed Forces.svg
Flag of the Armed Forces of Yemen
Service branchesYemen Army
Yemen Navy
Yemen Air Force
Commander-in-chiefAbdrabbuh Mansur Hadi
Deputy minister of DefenseBrig. Gen. Saleh Ali Hassan
Chief of StaffMajor Gen. Mohamed Ali al-Makdashi
Military age18
Active personnel66,700 (2014)[1]
Reserve personnel0[2]
Budget$3.5 billion
Percent of GDP8%
Domestic suppliersYemens Military Industry
Foreign suppliers Russia
 United States
 United Kingdom
 Czech Republic
 North Korea
 Saudi Arabia
 United Arab Emirates
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of Yemen

Saudi–Yemeni War
1948 Arab–Israeli War
North Yemen Civil War
NDF Rebellion
Yemenite War of 1979
1994 civil war in Yemen
Hanish Islands conflict
Shia insurgency in Yemen
South Yemen insurgency
2011 Yemeni revolution

Yemeni Civil War (2015)
RanksMilitary ranks of Yemen

The Armed Forces of Yemen include the Yemen Army (includes Republican Guard), Navy (includes Marines), 1st Armored Division, Yemeni Air Force (Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Yamaniya, which includes the Air Defense Force) (2008). A major reorganization of the armed forces continues. The unified air forces and air defenses are now under one command. The navy is concentrated in Aden. The Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen joined to form the Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990.

The supreme commander of the armed forces is Field Marshal Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi, the President of the Republic of Yemen.[citation needed]

The number of military personnel in Yemen is relatively high; in sum, Yemen has the second largest military force on the Arabian Peninsula after Saudi Arabia. In 2012, total active troops were estimated as follows: army, 66,700; navy, 7,000; and air force, 5,000. In September 2007, the government announced the reinstatement of compulsory military service. Yemen’s defense budget, which in 2006 represented approximately 40 percent of the total government budget, is expected to remain high for the near term, as the military draft takes effect and internal security threats continue to escalate.

Yemen used child soldiers between 2001 and 2004.[4] Child soldiers were also used by organized forces and tribal militia as of 2011.[5]

Since the 2014 civil war, the armed forces have been divided to loyalists of the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and pro-government forces of president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.


North Yemen Civil War[edit]

Fighting during the North Yemen Civil War

The North Yemen Civil War began in 1962 and ended in 1970. It took place between the North Yemen republican forces and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. The Royalists received support from Saudi Arabia and Jordan while the Republicans received support from Egypt and the Soviet Union. the Royalists used local tribesmen. The Republicans also used about 55,000 Egyptian troops.

The Royalists were commanded by Muhammad al-Badr of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen.

The Republican commanders were Gamal Abdul Nasser and Abdul Hakim Amer from Egypt and Abdullah as-Sallal from the North Yemen republic. During the conflict over 50,000 of Egypt's troops were tied down in Yemen, which proved to be a disadvantage to Egypt during the Six-day war in 1967. The war concluded when the Republican forces won, and this resulted in transformation of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen into North Yemen. Over 100,000 died on both sides during the conflict.

Chemical warfare during North Yemen Civil War[edit]

The first attack took place on June 8, 1963 against Kawma, a village of about 100 inhabitants in northern Yemen, killing about seven people and damaging the eyes and lungs of twenty-five others. This incident is considered to have been experimental, and the bombs were described as "home-made, amateurish and relatively ineffective". The Egyptian authorities suggested that the reported incidents were probably caused by napalm, not gas. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Golda Meir, suggested in an interview that Nasser would not hesitate to use gas against Israel as well.

There were no reports of gas during 1964, and only a few were reported in 1965. The reports grew more frequent in late 1966. On December 11, 1966, fifteen gas bombs killed two people and injured thirty-five. On January 5, 1967, the biggest gas attack came against the village of Kitaf, causing 270 casualties, including 140 fatalities. The target may have been Prince Hassan bin Yahya, who had installed his headquarters nearby. The Egyptian government denied using poison gas, and alleged that Britain and the US were using the reports as psychological warfare against Egypt. On February 12, 1967, it said it would welcome a UN investigation. On March 1, U Thant said he was "powerless" to deal with the matter.

On May 10, the twin villages of Gahar and Gadafa in Wadi Hirran, where Prince Mohamed bin Mohsin was in command, were gas bombed, killing at least seventy-five. The Red Cross was alerted and on June 2, it issued a statement in Geneva expressing concern. The Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Berne made a statement, based on a Red Cross report, that the gas was likely to have been halogenous derivatives - phosgene, mustard gas, lewisite, chloride or cyanogen bromide.

The gas attacks stopped for three weeks after the Six-Day War of June, but resumed on July, against all parts of royalist Yemen. Casualty estimates vary, and an assumption, considered conservative, is that the mustard and phosgene-filled aerial bombs caused approximately 1,500 fatalities and 1,500 injuries.

1994 Civil War[edit]

During the 1994 Yemeni Civil War almost all of the actual fighting in the 1994 civil war occurred in the southern part of the country despite air and missile attacks against cities and major installations in the north. Southerners sought support from neighboring states and received billions of dollars of equipment and financial assistance, mostly from Saudi Arabia, which felt threatened during Gulf War in 1991 when Yemen supported Saddam Hussien. The United States repeatedly called for a cease-fire and a return to the negotiating table. Various attempts, including by a UN special envoy, were unsuccessful to effect a cease-fire.

Southern leaders declared secession and the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Yemen (DRY) on 21 May 1994, but the DRY was not recognized by the international community. Ali Nasir Muhammad supporters greatly assisted military operations against the secessionists and Aden was captured on 7 July 1994. Other resistance quickly collapsed and thousands of southern leaders and military went into exile.

2011 Yemeni Revolution[edit]

Yemeni soldiers from the 1st Armoured Division on 60th Street in Sana'a, 22 May 2011

In March 2011, a month after the beginning of an uprising against President Salehs rule, Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the commander of the 1st Armoured Division, defected to the side of the protesters taking hundreds of troops and several tanks to protect protesting citizens. Rival tanks of the 1st Armoured Division and the Republican Guard faced off against each other in San'na.[6]

The Yemeni Army's 119th Brigade, which had defected to the opposition, launched a joint operation with 31st and 201st Brigades which were still loyal to Saleh and retook the city of Zanjibar on 10 September from Islamist militants who were exploiting the chaos in the country to expand their influence. The offensive relieved besieged army units in the process.[7]

On 17 September, at least one rebel soldier was killed in clashes with loyalists in San'na near the city's central square, trying to protect the protest camp there from security forces.[8]After anti-government tribesmen overran a loyalist army base north of San'na on 20 September, capturing 30 soldiers, the government responded with airstrikes killing up to 80 civilians.[9]

Houthi takeover in Yemen[edit]

Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen[edit]

Pro-Hadi forces[edit]

Beginning in October 2015, the Saudi-led coalition transitioned from direct fighting to providing support and training for Yemeni forces loyal to President Hadi's government. They helped form a new Yemeni National Army (YNA), which they trained at the Al Anad Air Base in the Lahij Governorate. These consisted of Hadi loyalist units, popular mobilization militias and Eritrean and Somali recruits. Eight brigades were trained in total. The Gulf coalition-trained YNA order of battle is as follows:[10]

  • "Salman Decisiveness"
  • 1st Infantry Brigade
  • 2nd Infantry Brigade
  • 3rd Infantry Brigade
  • 4th Infantry Brigade
  • 19th Infantry Brigade
  • 22nd Infantry Brigade
  • 14th Armored Brigade

The Hadi government forces are organized into military districts, as established by the Presidential Decree No. 103 dating back from 2013, dividing each of the country's provinces into military regions. As of 2016, four are in active service under President Hadi, but the other three are areas under Houthi control. They include the following:[11]

In addition to ground forces, the UAE air force trained pilots to form a new Yemeni Air Force using Air Tractor AT-802 light craft. By late October these were reported to be in operation and assisting Hadi loyalist army units near Taiz.[10] Yemeni Army troops fought in Taiz against the Houthi forces, seizing control of several districts in the city in late April 2017.[12]

The Yemeni army has been reinforced by thousands of volunteers under Tareq saleh's national resistance forces. Elements of the republican guard and the Giants brigade have joined the yemen army against the houthis.


Yemeni soldiers, August 2011

Yemen’s military is divided into an army, navy, air force, and the presidential guard.

The army is organized into eight armored brigades, 16 infantry brigades, six mechanized brigades,[13] two airborne commando brigades, one surface-to-surface missile brigade, three artillery brigades, one central guard force, one Special Forces brigade, and six air defense brigades, which consist of four antiaircraft artillery battalions and one surface-to-air missile battalion.[14]

"A military takeover could only realistically be launched by one of the five Area Commanders.[15] Having himself come to power by coup, Saleh has been extremely careful to select Commanders whose loyalty is ensured by tribal bonds. Members of Saleh's Sanhan tribe control all military districts and most high security posts, with the commanders enjoying blood and/or close ties to Saleh. The Commanders report directly to the President, outside the normal channels of the Ministry of Defense and without constitutional mandate. They are the final authority in nearly every aspect of regional governance. In practice, they behave like tribal sheikhs and super-governors, parceling out new schools, water projects, and money. Despite periodic efforts to integrate military units, the Commanders recruit largely from regional tribes."

As of September 2005, "Brigadier General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Commander of the Northeastern region, is the most powerful of these military elites. The commander of the Eastern Area is BG Mohammed Ali Mohsen. The Eastern Area includes the governorates of Hadramawt and al-Mahra. Ali Faraj is commander for the Central Area, which includes Al-Jawf, Maarib, al-Bayda, and Shabwa, while the Southern Commander, controlling the Aden, Taiz, Lahaj, al-Dhala and Abyan, is Abd al-Aziz al-Thabet. Finally, BG Awadh bin Fareed commands the Central Area, including the capital Sanaa. With the exception of Ali Mohsen, all of these commands are subject to periodic change or shuffle."

The air force includes an air defense force.[14] Yemen recently placed an order for TOR air defence systems, which will be far more advanced than the current air defense systems in place. The TOR order has been completed. The Yemeni Army has a total strength of 43,500 troops.[2][better source needed]

In 2001, Yemen’s National Defense Council abolished the existing two-year compulsory military service, relying instead on volunteers to fill posts in the military and security forces. In 2007, the Yemeni government announced that it would reinstate the draft to counter unemployment; approximately 70,000 new recruits were expected to join the military.[citation needed]

Defense budget[edit]

Yemen’s defense spending has historically been one of the government’s three largest expenditures and is expected to remain high as a result of the reinstatement of conscription and security threats posed by terrorism and tribal conflict. The defense budget increased from US$540 million in 2001 to an estimated US$2 billion–US$2.1 billion in 2006, to which it is probably $3.5 billion by 2012. According to the U.S. government, the 2006 budget represents about 6 percent of gross domestic product.[3]

Paramilitary forces[edit]

In 2009, Yemen’s paramilitary force had about 71,000 troops. Approximately 50,000 constituted the Central Security Organization of the Ministry of Interior; they are equipped with a range of infantry weapons and armored personnel carriers.

20,000 were forces of armed tribal levies.

Yemen was building a small coast guard under the Ministry of Interior, training naval military technicians for posts in Aden and Mukalla.[16]

Air Force[edit]

(Number of equipment needs to be verified)

Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service[citation needed] Notes
C-130 Hercules  United States of America tactical transport C-130H 3+2 on order
Antonov An-12  Soviet Union tactical transport 2
Antonov An-26 tactical transport 6
Yakovlev Yak-40 tactical transport 35
Aero L-39 Albatros  Czechoslovakia jet training/light attack L-39c 12
Agusta-Bell AB204  Italy utility AB204B 2
Agusta-Bell AB206 utility 6
Agusta-Bell AB212 utility AB212 2
Agusta-Bell AB214 utility AB214 6
Bell UH-1H  United States of America utility UH-1H 4
Kamov Ka-27  Soviet Union utility 25
Kamov Ka-32 ASW KA-32 T\S 3
Mil Mi-8 transport/attack Mi-8T \ Mi-17 10
Mil Mi-14 transport/anti-submarine 36
Mil Mi-24 attack Mi-35 15
MiG-29 fighter MiG-29SMT/ MiG-29UB 22+23 on order
Mig-21 fighter Mig-21MF Fishbed-J / Bis Fishbed-L 72
Mig-23 ground attack Mig-23BN/ML/UB/MS 44
F-5E Tiger II  United States fighter F-5E
Su-22  Soviet Union bomber Su-22M-2
Yakovlev Yak-11 trainer 14
Zlin Z 142  Czechoslovakia trainer Z 142 6
Casa CN-235  Spain transport CN-235M 1+3 on order
Cessna 208 Caravan  United States of America transport 2
Ilyushin IL-76  Russia transport 3
Sud Alouette III  France utility SA-316B 2
RQ-11 Raven  United States of America Mini-UAV 4


Yemen's navy was created in 1990 when North and South Yemen united. The navy’s major bases are located in Aden and Al Hudaydah; there are also bases in Mukalla, Perim Island, and Socotra that maintain naval support equipment.[citation needed] Yemen's navy uses +2,000 officers and seamen to support their main bases at Aden and Hodeida. A naval fortress is in construction at Hodeida.

Yemen early on had problems with trying to keep drugs from entering Yemen by sea. In 2006, Yemen purchased ten patrol boats based on the Australian Bay class, which were very effective at stopping smugglers from entering Yemen.

In the Hanish Islands conflict, Yemen prepared its navy for an assault on the Hanish islands and on Eritrea. Eritrea accidentally destroyed a Russian ship thinking it was a Yemeni ship. The invasion however never happened since Eritrea made agreements with Yemen which involved Eritrea taking over the islands. Yemen however, later took over Zukur-Hanish archipelago island which created further tensions with the Eritrean government but it didn't lead to another war.

Naval equipment[edit]

(Number of equipment needs to be verified)


Missile boats

Patrol crafts

Utility crafts

Landing ships



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Yemen Military Strength".
  3. ^ a b Yemen was Bulgaria's Biggest Arms Export Partner in 2010 - UN, Novinite, 9 August 2011
  4. ^ "President Bush Signs Law on Child Soldiers". Human Rights Watch.
  5. ^ United States State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (2011)
  6. ^ Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar
  7. ^ Almasmari, Hakim (10 September 2011). "Yemen army recaptures provincial capital of Abyan". CNN. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Archived from the original on 2018-05-06. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ a b Mello, Alexandre. Knights, Michael. Gulf Coalition Operations in Yemen (Part 1): The Ground War. Published 26 March 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  11. ^ Ali al-Dhahab (30 June 2016). Yemen’s Warring Parties: Formations and Dynamics. Al Jazeera Center for Studies. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  12. ^ Yemeni army seizes control of Gharafi in Taiz. Al Arabiya. Published 25 April 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Critical Threats". Critical Threats.
  14. ^ a b Country profile: Yemen. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (August 2008).
  15. ^ Wikileaks/U.S. Department of State, 05SANAA2766.html Archived 2011-08-08 at the Wayback Machine., September 2005 (United States diplomatic cables leak)
  16. ^ "Interviews: Commander of Yemeni Coast Guard Forces Ali Ahmed Ras'ee". Yemen Post. 2009-02-09. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2011-12-04. The tasks of coastguard forces are stipulated in the establishment decree, and these tasks are varied. The coastguard forces have security and not military functions, including keeping order in Yemeni ports and launching patrols in Yemeni coasts and regional waters. Other tasks are limiting illegal immigration, protecting national waters against indiscriminate fishing, protecting environment against pollution, fighting piracy, rescue and search activities.

External links[edit]