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Sunday, March 8, 2015

How effective are the Armed Forces of the Persian Gulf? (Part II)

Links A. Global Firepower Ranks the Armed Forces of the World
          B. World's Largest Armies, According to Global Security
          C. Business Insider's 35 Most Powerful Armies

I am fascinated by the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces.  This is a lean, mean, fighting machine, and most people outside of the business of war, don't seem to have a clue.  Since getting involved in two ill-advised wars against Israel, the Saudis have kept a very low military profile.  The Saudi military was content to follow the U.S. lead in the first Gulf War, although Saudi units were in the thick of the fighting and acquitted themselves well (especially armor).  The Royal Family, closely associated with every aspect of the military take full advantage of the situation to create a sense of patriotism that the Kingdom had never previously experienced.  Saudi soldiers were welcomed home with parades and children waving that confusing green flag with the sword and all the spaghetti.  The Saudi's have 315 front line M-1A2 Abrams heavy battle tanks ready at the drop of a pin, and 200 more in storage.  If necessary (however unlikely), they have 290 French-made AMX-30s ready to go, which have been re-conditioned for desert warfare and is a tight little tank in its own right.  The Saudi forces are more than adequate when it comes to artillery, both mobile and stationary, and if you recall, during the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein started tossing some Scud missiles in the direction of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.  Since then, the Saudis have been determined to find a system similar to the Israeli "Dome", which blocks any incoming missiles.  Until that technology becomes available to the Kingdom, they are more than sufficient with anti-missile and missile intercept systems.  The Saudi ground forces are hardy and pride themselves on their regimen and training.  The Air Force continues to fly U.S.-made F-15S bombers and F-15C fighters, but the mainstay of the Saudi fighter squadrons is the Typhoon Eurofighter.  The purchase of the Eurofighter came as a bit of a surprise and involved some controversy with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who somehow was involved with negotiations.  The U.S. had been hoping that the Saudi Air Force would upgrade to F-16s, F-18s, or possibly even F-35s.  The Saudis can mobilize 250,000 troops in a matter of days.  I read a news report recently which hypothesized that the Houthi issue in Yemen exposed a weakness in the Saudi military.  In a way, the comment is accurate.  If the Saudis wanted to military intervene in Yemen, I have no idea how they would pull that off.  All of their armor is pointed in another direction, and PCS'd on the other side of the country.  Fortunately, a handful of elderly Eastern European women with gas could wipe out the Houthis, so I don't think the Saudis really have much to worry about.  I do think its a bit of a waste, the Saudi military being all shined up, trained, and ready to go, with the world's most modern equipment, but not having a war to fight. By the way, its important to remember that the stature of the military in the Kingdom has very little to do with any perceived threat from the outside.  The impressiveness of the military is a direct reflection of the Royal family.

The military of the United Arab Emirates is similar in many ways to that of Saudi Arabia.  Just to show off, lets name all seven of the Emirates: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Umm al-Quwain, Sharjah, Ajman, and Ras al-Khaimah.  The UAE is an amazing country and I highly recommend it to everyone except couples who like to kiss in public, and Gay folks. (Gay and like to kiss in public but want to stay in the Gulf?  Try Oman.)  The beaches are magnificent, the hotels and modern developments are awe-inspiring, the de-salinization plants are state-of-the-art, and the Russian prostitutes are least at night, in the lobbies of hotels.  If you think you have seen wealth in Beverly Hills or the Hamptons, you haven't seen anything until you've visited Dubai.  The Emiratis spend a great deal of money on the military and on the intelligence services.  The UAE Air Force is exceptional.  The government has approached this branch of the Armed Forces with a sense of import.  Currently, the UAE flies roughly 60 recently refitted F-16S and 50 French Mirage 2000-9, which have also been refitted with the latest hardware.  The Air Force has a superior support network and a budding Helicopter capability.  The training is also exceptional, and the pilots have been receiving some valuable experience over the skies of Iraq and Syria, as part of the U.S. coalition of allies.  In the late 1990s, the Emiratis chose a heavy battle tank other than the U.S.-offered Abrams.  The UAE purchased 388 French-built Leclerc heavy battle tanks, which are, next to the Abrams, arguably the best heavy tank on the battlefield (I respect French military shoot me).  The Navy has 11 corvettes of three separate makes, all very fast and capable of offensive operations.  The Navy lacks even one Frigate, which is probably a good thing...I can't imagine its use, in a coastline like the UAE's.  Recently, the UAE has been focusing on fast attack craft and support vessels for naval operations.  Overall, the navy meets all the requirements without really excelling in any particular area.  The UAE does not expect to get invaded anytime soon, but the need to keep its heavy tanks in good performance order is essential.  If Saudi Arabia suffers a border incursion of any kind (IS), the UAE will be determined to aid the Saudis as much as possible.  Aside from the armor, the superior UAE Air Force will be welcome.

Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar shouldn't mind being thrown together into one paragraph.  I'm sure its not the first time.  Of the three smaller Gulf nations, Kuwait has the more prolific military.  Following the first Gulf War, the Royal family was determined to put up a bit more of a resistance, should Saddam come knocking again.  Even though the official statistics list the Kuwaiti army as having 11,000 soldiers, somehow they have managed to purchase over 200 U.S. 1-A2 Abrams tanks.  to supplement the Abrams, Kuwait purchased 400 Humvees, roughly 100 self-propelled howitzers, over 200 anti-tank guided weapons, and, the cherry on the cake, 27 Russian-made BM-30 Smerch multiple launch rocket systems.  Can they even fit all this shit into Kuwait?  More reasonably, the Kuwaitis purchased 35 F-18 Hornets, along with multiple support aircraft, 18 Apache Attack Helicopters, and about 100 separate air defense system units (including SAM and the UK Starburst).  Neither Qatar nor Bahrain pretend to have use for a major Armed Forces.  Qatar does have 62 German-made Leopard tanks, which given the source are bound to be bad ass (and their reviews agree).  Qatar relies on less than 20 French-made Mirages and a handful of older helicopters to round-out its Air Force.  The standing army is somewhere near 13,000.  Bahrain also has a small army, with no tanks (they used to have less than 100 M60s; current location, unknown).  The Air Force is respectable, with 17 active and modern F-16s, and 4 squadrons (36 in total) of older attack helicopters.  Both Qatar and Bahrain have sizeable and well-trained security services.  If the U.S. or Saudi Arabia requested military assistance from Qatar and Bahrain, I see some useful Mirages and F-16s, possibly some attack helicopters, and 62 German Leopard heavy battle tanks.  Both navies are negligible, although Bahrain is in possession of an older former U.S. Frigate and a handful of guided missile patrol craft. 

Yemen is in a state of flux....the mechanism that controls the functions of state has yet to be determined for more than a few days at a time.  The Yemeni military has collapsed and will have to be rebuilt.  The Houthis are in hardly better shape.  The last video I recall of Houthis celebrating in the streets included a man on a camel, carrying a musket that George Washington wouldn't have been seen with.  I'm at a loss as to how these Houthi folks won out, although I suspect that they just waited longer.  The real concern is for the well-being of the U.S. military (and clandestine/civilian) personnel still in country.  Al-Qaeda is primed to take over, given that the U.S. military is exclusively limited to the use of Drones for offensive actions, and the Houthis don't seem to have much in the way of equipment.  I thought the Iranians were trying to make some statement here?  I say we take our young men and women out, and let Al-Qaeda or the Houthis have it.  The Saudis will be forced to deal with the situation, and something tells me that they will make short-work of both the Houthis and Al-Qaeda.  the Omani Air Force is a bit of a surprise, with 12 F/16C/D and 12 Eurofighter Typhoons on the way.  11 BAe 203 Hawks for ground attack, and lots of useful support elements.  The Omani Army is built to suit its environment.  The Royal Army still keeps 38 older Challenger British-made heavy tanks, but is focused more on a rapid-reply offensive capability.  Somehow the Omanis came into possession of one (1) B1 Italian Centauro Monster with 120 mm weapon.  More useful are the 175 Swiss-built Mowag Piranha armored fighting vehicles.  The Royal Omani Navy is impressive, with five new Corvettes (2 built in 1994), 3 more ordered from BAe, 4 fast attack craft, 3 additional Al-Bushra French-made patrol craft, and an amphibious transport vessel.  The Royal Omani Armed Forces have a very close relationship with both the United States and the United Kingdom, so security in Muscat is not an over-riding concern. 

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