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Saudi Arabia - Military Personnel

The 20% increase in troop levels planned in 2016 for the Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF) and the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) will create demand for equipment, supplies and training services. The Saudi military consists of an army, air force, navy, air defense, and paramilitary forces.

Eqbal Darandari, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council, called for the implementation of the mandatory recruitment of Saudi women in the military for three months to a year to prepare them to serve the country in the event of a crisis, war or attack. In an interview 15 February 2018 with Al Arabiya, Darandari said that all citizens should be ready to serve their country, and know how to protect themselves. She added that women are no less than men and only need fitness and experience, namely in Karate, self-defense and weaponry. Darandari had stated that joining the army is a national duty that should include men and women, and that all members of the community should be able to defend the country. This came in light of the Vice-Chairman of the Security Committee in the Saudi Shoura Council, General Abdul Hadi al-Amri, rejecting the compulsory recruitment of Saudis, after a member of the Council had called for compulsory recruitment for young men and women alike.

As of 2015 there were nearly 227,000 active-duty personnel. In 2015 the armed forces had the following personnel: army, 75,000; air force, 20,000; air defense, 16,000; and navy, 15,500 (including 3,000 marines), stratgic missile forces, 2,500. In addition, the Saudi Arabian National Guard had 100,000 active soldiers [the major increase over the previous decade] and 25,000 tribal levies [aka paramilitary]. As of 2005 there were nearly 200,000 active-duty personnel. In 2005 the armed forces had the following personnel: army, 75,000; air force, 18,000; air defense, 16,000; and navy, 15,500 (including 3,000 marines). In addition, the Saudi Arabian National Guard had 75,000 active soldiers and 25,000 tribal levies.

Starting in the 1960s, Pakistan’s experienced military helped train the undermanned and unprepared militaries of various fledgling Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia.

Mutual Cooperation Program between the Armed Forces of the two countries commenced in 1967; in March 1979, Saudi authorities requested for military manpower assistance. Consequently, a Protocol Agreement with Saudi Arabia was signed on 14 December 1982 and Pakistani Armed Forces personnel were sent on deputation to Saudi Arabia. Pakistani troops assisted Saudi Arabia in the siege of Mecca in 1979. Pakistan deployed 13,000 troops and 6,000 advisers during the first Gulf War.

Bruce Reidel noted that "Pakistan has provided military aid and expertise to the kingdom for decades. It began with help to the Royal Saudi Air Force to build and pilot its first jet fighters in the 1960s. Pakistani Air Force pilots flew RSAF Lightnings that repulsed a South Yemeni incursion into the kingdom’s southern border in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, up to 15,000 Pakistani troops were stationed in the kingdom, some in a brigade combat force near the Israeli-Jordanian-Saudi border."

A problem shared by all four armed services was the constant need for personnel qualified to operate and maintain a mixed inventory of advanced equipment and weapons. Because the pool of military recruits was limited, Saudi Arabia was forced to rely heavily on high technology. The country's policy of purchasing its weapons from diverse military suppliers contributed to the problem and introduced a hybrid character to the services that hampered their overall efficiency.

Senior personnel, frequently princes of the royal family, usually retained their positions for long periods in the Saudi system. The minister of defense and aviation, Amir Sultan, a full brother of the king, had been appointed to his position in 1962. Crown Prince Abd Allah, a half brother of the king, had been commander of the national guard for the same length of time. The chief of the general staff, with operational responsibility for the four services, held the rank of general; the chiefs of the individual services usually held the rank of lieutenant general.

Any Saudi male citizen — including citizens who had been naturalized for at least five years — could apply for training as an officer if he met the physical and mental standards. Most officer candidates attended military preparatory schools in Riyadh and other cities, where they received free tuition if they committed themselves to attend a military college upon graduation.

The King Abd al Aziz Military Academy was the principal source of second lieutenants for the army. Designed for a capacity of 1,500 cadets, this modern facility was a self-contained small city about forty kilometers from Riyadh. The curriculum required three years of study, with successful completion leading to a bachelor of military science degree and a commission. After graduation the new second lieutenants attended a branch school for specialization in infantry, artillery, armor, ordnance, airborne units, the engineers, communications, military police, or administration.

Officers in mid-career competed for places at the Command and Staff College at Riyadh to earn a master of military science degree, a required step toward promotion to the senior ranks. Selected officers also attended higher military colleges in the United States and other countries.

A network of army schools trained NCOs in branch and specialized services. Basic training of enlisted personnel was conducted by Saudi NCOs, but most subsequent training was carried out with the assistance of foreign military personnel or specialists under contract.

Science graduates of technical institutions and universities could obtain direct commissions as second lieutenants. In September 1990, the king issued a directive opening military training programs to all male university graduates without distinction as to geographic and tribal balance, which had been factors in the past.

Air force flight training took place at the King Faisal Air Academy at Al Kharj. The flight training consisted of a twenty-seven-month course that began with intensive instruction in the English language. British instructors under contract to British Aerospace (BAe, formerly the British Aircraft Corporation) held most of the faculty positions at the air academy as well as at the Technical Studies Institute at Dhahran, where Saudi aircraft technicians were trained.

After successful completion of primary training, cadets were assigned for several months of advanced training on British Strikemasters and Hawks, which had sufficient avionics and weapons for alternate use as light daytime interceptors. Prospective transport pilots and F-15 pilots were sent to the United States for advanced training.

A number of naval technical and training facilities were built with United States guidance. Much of the United States Navy's training in connection with its equipment deliveries, including that for enlisted men, was conducted at San Diego and at other United States training installations. In the 1980s, training and advisory responsibilities increasingly shifted to France, linked to the delivery of major ship units.

The Marine Training Institute at Jiddah, founded in 1982, had a capacity of 500 officers and NCO students. Officers could earn specialized degrees in mechanical, electrical, or electronic engineering, general science, or military science. The general course for NCOs was of twenty-six months' duration.

Saudi Arabia, a large country with a small population, felt the strains of modernization, particularly since the mid-1960s. The military, because of the increasing complexity of its arms and equipment, has faced an ever-expanding requirement for technical skills within its ranks. As in many other countries — developing or developed — competition for technicians was very high among all sectors of the rapidly modernizing economy, and, for the military, retaining trained specialists has been difficult.

Since the establishment of the kingdom, the Saudis have relied on volunteers to fill the ranks of the services. On several occasions, Saudi officials have indicated that a system of conscription would be introduced. A military draft has, however, never been instituted, presumably because it would be bitterly unpopular, difficult to enforce, and liable to introduce unreliable elements into the military. The intended radical increases in the size of the army and the national guard would seem to necessitate some form of compulsory service. Nevertheless, in June 1991, the minister of defense and aviation declared that no conscription was needed because the rush of volunteers sometimes exceeded the capacity of training centers to absorb them.

The government conducted regular advertising campaigns to inform young Saudi males of the benefits available to them in the armed forces. Recruiting stations existed throughout the country; the government tried to strike a geographic balance by attracting a representative cross section of the population to the enlisted ranks. The officer corps was still predominantly composed of members of the Najd aristocracy. The national guard continued to rely on an old system of tribal levies to fill its ranks, yielding a composition much less representative of the nation as a whole. Guardsmen were recruited mainly from a few of the important camel-rearing tribes of Najd, reputedly the most trustworthy in the kingdom.

The military enlistment period was three years; cash and other rewards were offered as inducements to reenlist. Pay scales were set at levels higher than that for other government service, and the military have been spared salary cuts that applied to civil servants. Allowances and fringe benefits were generous. The government spent huge sums of money to improve the amenities and comfort for personnel in order to increase the attractiveness of military careers. The military cities included excellent family housing for married officers and NCOs, as well as modern barracks for unmarried personnel. The military cities also offered excellent schools and hospitals as well as convenient shopping centers and recreational facilities.

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Page last modified: 16-02-2018 19:06:45 ZULU