The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Revolutionary Army / Ejercito Revolucionario (ER)

The Ejercito Revolucionario (ER) numbered about 38,000 regular troops, with an equal number in the Reserve, as of 2013. In 2000 the Revolutionary Army had an estimated 45,000 members in active service. The ground forces remain primarily armor and artillery units. Their readiness level is low due to severely reduced training. The FAR generally is not capable of mounting effective operations above the battalion level. Most equipment is in storage and unavailable on short notice.

In 1979 the Cuban Army was composed of 175,000 to 185,000 regular and ready reservists. The ready reservists are included in the regular forces because they are combat ready and can be mobilized within 4 hours. In addition, there is a manpower pool of several tens of thousands of reservists who receive training every year.

In 1999 the Revolutionary Army (Ejercito Revolucionario) represented approximately 70 percent of Cuba's regular military manpower. According to the IISS, the Army's estimated 45,000 troops and 39,000 members of the Ready Reserves who were completing the forty-five days of annual active-duty service necessary for maintaining their status, as well as conscripts who were fulfilling their military service requirement. These personnel were under the command of one of three territorial armies, which are under the authority of the FAR's General Staff.

The Army is capable of providing a tenacious defense of the island. It had very limited quick-strike capability off the island because it lacks sufficient sea and air transport mobility. However, the experience in Africa demonstrated that by using its merchant fleet [and with sufficient Soviet support - no longer an option], Cuba could undertake and sustain a long-term deployment and supply effort. Army personnel are well schooled in individual combat skills, and thousands of troops had actual combat experience in Africa. Since personnel were rarely cross-trained, they are very dependent upon key personnel. Should the key personnel be incapacitated, particularly in the command structure, the remaining members of the unit would not have the training necessary to fill vacated positions and to function effectively. The average Cuban soldier acquired little knowledge outside of that needed for his own specialty.

The Military Board of the Army [Consejo Militar del Ejrcito] analyzes and adopts agreements on questions related to the territorial defense put under his consideration. He is integrated by the Head of the Army, that presides over it; the presidents of the Provincial Defense councils of the territory of the Army, and other members designated by the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The Head of the Army, as the President of the Military Board of the Army, is authorized to approve the document that contains the decision of the presidents of the Provincial Defense councils for the territorial defense and its respective plans of preparation, and to dictate to dispositions on the organization and accomplishment of the armed warfare.

The Army includes combat units and security forces, and the organizations and institutions directly subordinated to them. The rest of these are under the command of the Headquarters of Military districts. In the composition of the Army is structured into ground brigades, tank regiments and infantry battalions, artillery and air defense units of the regular troops and the Military services of Territorial Troops.

From the Eastern Army the Brigade of the Border [Brigada de la Frontera] has the mission to defend the border perimeter with Naval Base of Guantnamo, that the government of the United States maintains in Cuba. The combatants of this unit are selected between the best ones and they accept this mission as volunteers. They constitute the Combative Vanguard "Ramn Lpez Pea", the first Cuban soldier victim, in July of 1964, firings originating assassins of the North American base. A company of women comprises of the Brigade and their members also guard the border perimeter.

Cuba's special operations units are smaller and less proficient than they were in the 1990s, but they can still perform selected military and internal security missions. The FAR retains a battalion-size airborne unit and other special operations forces. Special operations training continues, albeit on a smaller scale than in the past.

The Cuban military has long maintained its own secret base for intercepting electronic communications. Operated by the FAR's Electronic Warfare Battalion, this smaller, relatively unknown base is located at El Wajay, 14.5 kilometers southwest of Havana, near the Russian operation at Lourdes. Although not as powerful as the Russian facility, the Cuban military's signals intelligence (SIGINT) facility is thought to be capable of monitoring telephone and radio signals at least as far away as Florida. The Electronic Warfare Battalion reportedly has the equipment necessary to jam United States communications, but is not thought to have used it for this end.

In the event of war, or in response to real or perceived threats to its national security, M1NFAR Headquarters in Havana would operate through the framework of the three armies (that is, the Western, Central and Eastern Armies) and the Isle of Youth Military Region. Each army and the Isle of Youth Military Region would control all ground forces and most paramilitary units (such as the Youth Labor Army (EJT)) in its area of responsibility. The command responsibility during crisis situations for the corps in Cuba is not clear. Each corps headquarters may report directly to MINFAR Headquarters rather than its present army headquarters.

The Cuban Army was capable of maintaining and repairing almost all of its equipment. The Soviet and East European equipment is usually easy to maintain. Many of the models have interchangeable parts within the model lines. The equipment is maintained at effective operational levels. Cuba was, however, almost completely dependent upon outside sources, particularly the Soviet Union, for equipment, spare parts and POL. Cuba does produce some ammunition and explosives. Although the army is well stocked with Soviet equipment, with the new century much of it was obsolete or aging, and there is a critical shortage of spare parts. Most of Cubas equipment came from the former Soviet Union and its East European allies, primarily Czechoslovakia and Poland. Under a 2000 accord, Russia is supposed to assist Cuba in modernizing its inventory. In the meantime, China has become Cubas main supplier of arms.

Cuba reportedly had about 1,500 to 1,700 armored military vehicles in service. In 2005 the army inventory included an estimated 900 main battle tanks, including 400 T62s (200 in service) and 1,100 T54/55s (500 in service). Other armored vehicles included 50 PT76 amphibious light tanks (30 in service), 100 BRDM1/2 reconnaissance vehicles (about 90 in service), 400 BMP1 armored infantry fighting vehicles (about 150 in service), and 700 BTR40/50/60/152 armored personnel carriers (300 in service). The armys artillery included 37 self-propelled howitzers, 500 towed pieces, and about 175 BM14 and BM21 multiple rocket launchers. In addition, the army had 1,000 mortars.

Assessing the situation of Cuba's ground forces has been further complicated by the leadership's decision to put into storage three-fourths of the FAR's equipment. The mothballing of so much of the military's equipment began with the onset of the economic crisis in the early 1990s, and was prompted by the lack of spare and replacement parts for the Soviet-era materiel as well as the shortage of the hard currency needed to pay for the fuel for training and exercises. Much of this equipment is stored in tunnels and caves throughout the island, but it is not thought to be withstanding well the island's tropical environment. Especially vulnerable are the equipment and weaponry that rely on more sophisticated technology. According to the United States Department of Defense's 1998 report entitled, "The Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security," the mothballed materiel would not be available for defense on short notice. The same report also concludes that, owing to severely reduced training, the ground forces' overall state of readiness is low and notes that the FAR generally is not capable of mounting effective operations above the battalion level.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 21-02-2019 18:43:13 ZULU