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Yemen Defense Structure

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in December 2012 issued a decree ordering the restructure of the Yemeni Armed Forces to both reform Yemen’s security forces and to remove remnants of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s network from official command positions. The new structure establishes five military branches under the Ministry of Defense (MoD): the Army, the Air Force and Air Defense, the Navy and Coastal Defense Forces, the Border Guard, and the Strategic Reserve Forces. The new structure seeks to improve the command and control of Yemen’s military forces under the MoD. The successful implementation of these sweeping changes to the structure of the security forces will be a key determinant in the success of Yemen’s transition process and fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,

In December 2012, President Hadi announced a number of decrees to, among other things, remove several key leaders of Yemeni security forces units—including the heads of the MOD and MOI counterterrorism units. President Hadi’s decrees also called for further reorganization of the Yemeni security ministries—specifically, consolidating the MOD and MOI counterterrorism units under a newly created Yemeni special operations command under MOD. As of February 2013, this new special operations command had been formed, and was overseeing the MOD counterterrorism unit, while planning was under way for the MOI counterterrorism unit to be absorbed under the new command.

Despite two rounds of presidential decrees stripping the ex-president’s relatives and loyalists of top military posts, the two most powerful commanders — Saleh’s eldest son Ahmed of the Republican Guard, and the former president’s kinsman Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who last year defected from the Saleh regime to protect anti-government protestors with his First Armored Division — still control their respective divisions of the fractured army.

As his first move, Hadi announced the removal of Ahmed Ali Saleh, the ex-president’s eldest son, ex-head of the powerful Republican Guard and former heir-apparent to rule Yemen. He was appointed ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. A Saleh nephew who was deputy chief of intelligence became military attaché in Yemen’s embassy in Ethiopia. Another Saleh nephew who headed of the Presidential Guard was named military attaché in Germany. Yet another Saleh military man to get removed was Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who commanded 50,000 troops of Yemen’s First Armored Division in Sana’a. The general was effectively neutralized by being appointed presidential adviser.

Yemen's military was divided into an army, navy, and air force. The army is organized into eight armored brigades, 16 infantry brigades, six mechanized brigades, 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. The navy's major bases are located in Aden and Al Hudaydah; there are also bases in Al Mukalla, Perim Island, and Socotra that maintain naval support equipment. The air force includes an air defense force.

Yemen's army is reported to be equipped with 790 main battle tanks, 130 reconnaissance vehicles, 200 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 710 armored personnel carriers, 310 towed artillery, 25 self-propelled artillery, 294 multiple rocket launchers, 502 mortars, six Scud B (up to an estimated 33 missiles) and 28 other surface-to-surface missiles, 71 antitank guided weapons, some rocket launchers, some recoilless launchers, 530 air defense guns, and an estimated 800 surface-to-air missiles. The navy's inventory includes eight missile craft, six miscellaneous boats/craft, five inshore patrol craft, six mine countermeasures vessels, one landing ship (tank), two landing craft (mechanical), four landing craft (utility), and two support and miscellaneous tankers. The air force, including air defense, has 75 combat aircraft and eight attack helicopters, as well as assorted transport aircraft, training aircraft and helicopters, and both air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.



(Five Ministers)






Estimated 60,000 personnel
Estimated 1,700 personnel
Estimated 5,000 personnel



  8 Armored Brigades
16 Infantry Brigades
  6 Mechanized Brigades
3 Artillery Brigades
1 Special Forces  Brigade
2 Airborne Commando Bde
1 SSM Brigade
4 AAA Battalions
1 SAM Battalion
5 Combat Aircraft Units
1 Helicopter Unit
1 Transport Unit

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Page last modified: 03-02-2017 15:55:23 ZULU