United Arab Emirates Military - 2023


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Military and security forces

United Arab Emirates Armed Forces: Land Forces, Navy Forces, Air Force, Presidential Guard (includes special operations forces); Ministry of Interior: Coast Guard Forces, Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Patrol Agency (CICPA) (2023)

note: each emirate maintains a local police force called a general directorate, which is officially a branch of the federal Ministry of Interior; all emirate-level general directorates of police enforce their respective emirate’s laws autonomously; they also enforce federal laws within their emirate in coordination with one another under the federal ministry; the State Security Directorate (SSD) in Abu Dhabi and Dubai State Security (DSS) have primary responsible for counterterrorism law enforcement efforts; local, emirate-level police forces, especially Abu Dhabi Police and Dubai Police, are the first responders in such cases and provide technical assistance to SSD and DSS 

Military expenditures

5.6% of GDP (2020 est.)

5.4% of GDP (2019 est.)

5.5% of GDP (2018 est.)

5.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

6% of GDP (2016 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 65,000 active personnel (45,000 Land Forces; 3,000 Navy; 5,000 Air Force; 12,000 Presidential Guard) (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the military's inventory is comprised of a wide variety of mostly modern imported equipment; over the past decade, the UAE has acquired military equipment from more than 20 countries with France, Russia, and the US as the leading suppliers; in recent years, the UAE has tried to boost its domestic defense industry (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-30 years of age for compulsory military service for men (compulsory service initiated in 2014); 17 years of age for volunteers with parental approval; men can volunteer up to age 40; 24-month general service obligation, 16 months for secondary school graduates; women can volunteer to serve for 9 months regardless of education (2022)

note 1: compulsory service may be completed in the uniformed military, the Ministry of Interior, or other security institutions designated by the military leadership

note 2: the UAE military employs a considerable number—estimates range from a low of about 30% to as much as 70% of the force—of foreign personnel on contract; the UAE has also hired foreign mercenaries for some operations during its intervention in Yemen

Military deployments

continues to maintain a small force in Yemen; also maintains some troops at military bases in Eritrea and Somalia (Somaliland) (2023)

note: in 2015, UAE intervened militarily in Yemen as part of the Saudi-led coalition in support of the Republic of Yemen Government with an estimated 3,500 troops, as well as supporting air and naval forces; UAE withdrew its main military force from Yemen in 2019, but has retained a small military presence while working with proxies in southern Yemen, most notably the Southern Transitional Council (STC)

Military - note

the UAE Armed Forces (UAEAF) are responsible for external defense and supporting the UAE’s foreign policy objectives; the military’s primary concerns include terrorism, regional instability, particularly in neighboring Yemen, and Iran, including a territorial dispute over 3 islands in the Strait of Hormuz and Iranian support to proxy forces in the region; in recent years, the UAE has undertaken a large military modernization program to go along with an assertive security policy which has included military interventions in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, as well as peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and Somalia; the UAEAF has organized, trained, and equipped tens of thousands of militia forces in Yemen and offered training and equipment to several countries in Africa; the UAE also hosts the region’s first military school for women, which has trained female peacekeepers for deployment in Africa and Asia

the UAE has strong security ties to France and the US; it hosts a multi-service French military base, which includes the French naval command for the Indian Ocean (ALINDIEN); the UAE has a defense cooperation agreement with the US and hosts about 3,500 US troops, mostly air and naval personnel; it also has defense ties with a variety of other countries, including Australia, China, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, South Korea, and the UK, as well as fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, particularly Saudi Arabia, and NATO

the UAEAF traces its origins to the establishment of the Trucial Oman Scouts in 1951, a joint UK-Abu Dhabi organization modeled after Jordan’s Arab Legion, which became the Abu Dhabi Defense Force in 1965; the modern UAEAF were formed in 1976; today, the UAE’s military is considered to be one of the best-trained and most capable forces in the Persian Gulf region; the Land Forces have approximately 5 brigades of armored, light infantry, and mechanized forces, plus supporting artillery units; the Presidential Guard, considered the elite of the Land Forces, has a mechanized brigade and a special operations command; the Air Forces and the Joint Aviation Command together have nearly 150 French- and US-made combat aircraft with more advanced US multipurpose fighters on order; the Navy’s principal warships include nearly 15 corvettes and offshore patrol vessels, also with more on order (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding United Arab Emirates on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of United Arab Emirates 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about United Arab Emirates 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.