Saudi Arabian Army is the land force of Saudi Arabia, the largest state in the Western Asia. This kingdom was founded by Abdul Aziz bin Saud in 1932. This year is also considered as the birth year of Saudi Arabian army, which is a branch of the Saudi Armed forces. The Saudi Arabian Army is also known as the Royal Saudi Land force Or RSLF and plays an important role in the land warfare o the country. The motto of the Saudi Arabian Army is “God is the greatest” or “a land we don’t protect; we don’t deserve to live in it”. The present chief of the army staff is Lt. General Khalid bin Bandar. The ranks vary from lieutenant to the First Class Field Marshal or Mushir. The Saudi Arabian army possesses infantry weapons, main equipments, logistic and engineering vehicles armored fighting vehicles, artillery and missile systems and army aviation. Saudi Arabian army plays an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East region. From the war that united Saudi Arabia to the War Anti-Houthis in 2009 the Saudi army showed their active involvement. Saudi Arabia is a heavily armed country and most of its supply comes from United States.
Saudi Arabian Army History
Saudi Arabia was unified as a single state by joining the kingdoms of Hejaz and Nejd in the year 1932 on September 9th. This day is considered as the national day of the Saudi kingdom. To support the department of military affairs in the administrative and to reduce organizational burden a defense agency was formed in the year 1934. Sheikh Abdullah bin Suleiman was appointed as its head and the headquarters was in the city of Taif. This was followed by restructuring of the army in to infantry, artillery and cavalry units. Army Regiments and brigades were created and were provided with the best available weapons of that time, which included machine guns and cannons. Transport and radios were also introduced in to the army at this time. Regiments and brigade were distributed throughout the Kingdom according to defense needs. The military task of the Saudi Arabian Army changed when the single kingdom came into existence. A military school was established to train the military personal in the year1934 in the city of Taif.
In the year 1939 the Department of Military affairs was abolished and this was replaced by the associate of defense agency called the Presidency of the General Staff of the Army. This associate body of the army was responsible for organizing the Saudi Arabian Army in a better way. They standardized the staff uniforms and formed the distinctive emblem for the army. The first armored division of the army was formed by them and after giving proper training it was attached to the Royal Guard in Riyadh. Later the first infantry regiment and first cavalry contingent were also formed. In 1943 a royal decree was issued to replace the defense agency with the Ministry of Defense as a result of the expansion and the changes in the defense requirement. The first minister of this Ministry was Prince Mansour ibn Abdul Aziz. Later experts were brought in to provide training to the military staff in various fields. Many of the Saudi Arabian army personals were sent to foreign countries for training purpose. During the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia and after the meeting of king Abdul Aziz and the then President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt on 14th February 1945, United States became major ally of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 1948 the Saudi army fought the Arab- Israeli conflict. In this war over 3,000 Saudi troops participated. The other major steps in the development of Saudi Arabian Army were the establishment of the medical emergency school and the signal and radio school. Due to the death of Prince Mansour ibn Abdul Aziz on 2/5/1951, Prince Mishaal ibn Abdul Aziz was appointed to succeed him as Minister of Defense.
Modernization of the Saudi Arabian armed forces started when a royal decree was issued in 1962 appointing Prince Sultan ibn Abdul Aziz Aal Saud as Minister of Defense and Aviation and the Inspector General of the Saudi Arabian Army. Over 20,000 troops of Saudi Army were deployed in Jordan in 1967. In 1969 Saudi Arabian army defeated the South Yemeni Forces when they invaded the Saudi town, Al-Wadiah. During the Yom Kippur War in 1973 Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf nations, protested against the intervention of United States by raising oil prices and sent over 3,000 Saudi soldiers to fight on the Syrian frontline. The Saudi army troops were stationed in Jordan. In 1985 a royal order was issued to appoint Prince Abdul Rahman ibn Abdul Aziz Aal Saud as Deputy Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General due to the increased activity o the ministry of defense and aviation. He issued directives to modify the name of the Saudi Arabian Army to the Royal Saudi Land Forces. During the gulf war in 1990- 1991, Saudi armed force and the Saudi Arabian National Guard along with the allied forces took part in the battle of Khafji and played a great role in the liberation of Kuwait. In Operation Desert Storm two armored brigades and two mechanized brigades of this army was deployed in the Kuwaiti border. The Land Forces with the available manpower, machinery, and equipment became the striking force and the foundation of the valiant armed forces. The strength of the army was only 73,000 in 1992. In the year 2000 the Saudi government has spent many billion dollars to expand the Saudi army. Advanced equipments were acquired by the army by spending the revenue from the oil exports.
The principal combating unit of Saudi army consists of eight brigades. Two are armored, five are mechanized and one is airborne brigade. The first Saudi armored brigade, designated the Fourth Armored Brigade, was structured and trained according to the French standards. This brigade was equipped with French made 300 AMX-30 main battle tanks and 500 AMX-10P armored infantry fighting vehicles. The second armored brigade, designated as the Eighth Armored Brigade, was formed by the guidance of United States in the late 1970s. In order to supply this brigade, Saudi Arabia purchased M-60A3 main battle tanks and M-113 armored personnel carriers from America. Saudi Arabia placed an order for 315 M1A2 Abrams, the most advanced tank from United States in 1990 which was delivered to the Saudi army in 1993. The armored brigade with French equipments was stationed at Tabuk in the northwest and the brigade with equipments from United States was at Khamis Mushayt in the southwest. Between the late 1970s and the mid-1980s the army’s four mechanized brigades had been upgraded with the armored fighting vehicles of French and American origin. The brigades of the Saudi Army consisted of one tank battalion, an artillery battalion, three mechanized infantry battalion and a support battalion. The field artillery battalions possessed 155mm self-propelled howitzers and 105mm and 155mm towed guns from United States and France. The anti tank weapons consisted of TOW from united state, the British dragon and French HOT. Transport and medical evacuation helicopters were present but lacked the assault helicopters. The French Crotale surface-to-air missile (SAM), self- propelled guns, Stinger and Redeye shoulder-fired missiles were the tactical weapons for air defense.
The Royal Guard Regiment is the most visible unit of the army as they give protection to the king and are deployed in Riyadh. This was an autonomous body till 1964 and was later incorporated to the Saudi Arabian Army. Only those who were loyal of the king were recruited to this unit and the unit was equipped with light weapons and armored vehicles. Four large military cities were built with the assistance from the United States Army Corps of Engineers between 1970 and 1980 to concentrate the army strength. The first city is located at Khamis Mushayt in the mountains of the southwest near the Yemeni border. The second military city was at Tabuk, defending the northwestern routes leading from Israel, Jordan and Syria. The third site named Assad Military City was located at Al Kharj, about 100 kilometers southeast of Riyadh. The national armaments industry was also established in this location. King Khalid Military City the largest of all the military cities was sited near the strategic Trans-Arabian Pipeline road which connects Ad Dammam with Jordan. This is a self contained city with schools, mosques, hospitals etc. there are underground command bunkers and anti aircraft missiles located in the city. The fifth city was started in the year 1995 towards the south of Riyadh.
Present Saudi Arabian Army
At present the major threat to Saudi army is from Israel. Saudi Arabia is trying for a resolution for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, which keeps the Middle East unrest. Iran is also a major threat to Saudi Arabia. The government of Saudi is willing to spend large amounts for the army expenses. At present the Saudi army has one aviation command with two aviation brigades apart from the earlier brigades. The National Guard consisting of 25,000 tribal people is divided in to three mechanized infantry brigades, five infantry brigades and one ceremonial cavalry squadron. Presently the Saudi army has 72 euro fighter planes, 315 M-1A2 abrams, 450 M60A3 main battle tanks from United States, 320 AMX-30 battle tanks from France. The army also possess 570+ AMX-10P and 400M-2 Bradley armored infantry fighting vehicles from France and U.S, 300 reconnaissance vehicles, 3000+ M113 armored personnel carriers from united states, which includes Al- Fahad produced in Saudi Arabia, 110 self propelled artillery pieces, 60 multiple rocket launchers, 200 + towed artillery pieces, more than 400 mortars and10 surface to surface missiles. The other possessions of the army are 200 rocket launchers, 2000 antitank guided weapons, 450 recoilless launchers, 12 attack helicopters, 1000 surface to air missiles and 90 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk transport helicopters. The present land forces corps includes the engineering corps, maintenance corps, transportation corps, infantry corps, armors corps, aviation corps, artillery corps, and signal corps, catering corps and airborne units and special security forces.
The present Staff Major General of Saudi army is Prince Fahd Ibn Turki Ibn Abdul Aziz. He is also the Commander of the Paratroopers and Special Security Forces Units. He wants to make the land forces more interactive with the community. Saudi Arabia had a deal with U.S for supplying F-15 fighter aircraft, helicopters and other equipments for the army worth $ 60 billion. The present U.S administration has recognized the Saudi army as a partner in promoting regional stability and to defeat Al Qaeda. The political changes in the countries like Egypt and Yemen, the protests in Bahrain and the conflict in Libya are creating threat to the Saudi kingdom. Saudi Arabia acts as a leader in the Middle East and defends the interests of the Arabs in the area. The country is depending on the land forces for its protection. The growing activities of Al- Qaeda are also a cause of concern. The conflicts between the Shiites and Sunnis are another problem faced by the army.
Future of Saudi Arabian Army
The Saudi Army looks forward to improve themselves in all aspects of defense in the coming years. The crashed deal of 2010 for F-15s has caused the Saudi Arabian army to turn to the French for the Rafale which is a fighter with lesser range than the F-15 of United States. Rafale has more advanced weapons and other features than the F-15. For the jet AESA radar is under development. Along with the French aircraft the Saudi army will receive AASM glide bombs. The Lockheed martin missiles in Orlando has received a deal for the procurement of AH- 64 D Apache M- TDAS/PNVS systems and spares for the National Guard unit of the Saudi army. The deal is estimated to be of $ 66.6 million. The deal will be completed on March 31 /2015. The Saudi army is also planning to add 24 Block III to its existing fleet. Saudi Arabia has requested the U.S defense security Co operation agency to augment the artillery capability with $ 886 million worth equipments. The Royal Saudi Land Forces or the Saudi Arabian army has already have towed 155mm and 105mm howitzers and support vehicles and systems, but the 105mm M119A2 and lightweight 155mm M777A2 would help to upgrade the existing M102 105mm guns of Royal Saudi Land Forces. The Saudis are also ordered for C3 systems, Humvees, and artillery locating radars, as part of this deal. A formal request has been made by the Saudi Arabia to buy 73 LAV vehicles which are wheeled and armored with additional equipment. LAV is the primary combat vehicle o the national guards. This procurement of LAV may increase the interoperability between the National Guards and the regular army. It is expected that these vehicles will help in providing alight combat vehicle which is extremely mobile, which enables easy identification of security threats and engagement of counter measures against the threat. These vehicles are expected to provide more stability and security to the territorial areas in the Arabian Peninsula. The request includes 14 standard LAV wheeled armored personnel carriers, 23 LAV- 25s with cannon turrets of 25 mm, 20 LAV- ATs which can carry BGM- 71 TOW missiles, 3 LAV –R Recovery vehicles, which can be used to tow away vehicles in trouble, 4 LAV –A ambulances and 9 LAV-C2 command and control vehicles.
Saudi Arabian army is planning to modernize the armed forces by acquiring the latest type of weapons and armored vehicles. This will enable the army to fight the threats to its defense in a better way. The finances of Saudi Arabia also have limitations and may have to curb the military spending. The army is going to provide a boost in the salary of the soldiers and officers. In the coming years Saudi will continue the strategic defense partnership with United States to make its army more powerful. They also continue to fight against the terrorist activities in the area. Acquiring the latest weapons will strengthen the Saudi army and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia lead by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz will have the leadership in the Arabian Peninsula. The relationship with the United States will provide extensive training opportunity to the Saudi Army personals.
The current military happenings in the Arab region suggest the need for possession of strong army power in the area by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia plays an important role in the global economy and this makes Saudi an important target of attack by terrorist. The geographical position of Saudi also does not provide protection to this country. Most of the neighboring countries have conflict and unrest and this may affect Saudi Arabia in the absence of strong defense forces and military forces that are capable of performing combined operations on the enemy. The present Commander of the Saudi National Guard is Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and Prince Khalid bin Sultan serves as Assistant Minister of Defense and Aviation. The proposed improvement of the army capabilities will strengthen the position of Saudi against Iran.