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Saudi Arabia’s Army: A Lot Of Good Quality Hardware In Unskilful Hands

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Saudi Arabia’s Army: A Lot Of Good Quality Hardware In Unskilful Hands

Source: dailystar.co.uk

Written by Aleksandr Khramchikhin; Originally appeared at VPK, translated by GM exclusively for SouthFront

Saud Arabia is considered to be the most influential state, not only amongst the Arab countries, but in the whole Islamic world, since Islam was born on its territory, and because it hosts Islam’s sacred cities: Mecca and Medina. The capabilities of the Saudi Kingdom are considerably improved by its enormous reserves in oil and gas and, as a matter of fact, by the considerable financial resources the Kingdom has at its disposal.

Saudi Arabia is the only Stare where the Wahhabi (Salafi) branch of Sunni Islam is the official religion. This makes Saudi Arabia one of the most totalitarian countries in the world. Saudi Arabia is one of the main organisers and sponsors of gobal Sunni terrorism, but this doesnt prevent the country from being considered as a major strategical ally by the West in general and by the US in particular. However, the links between Riyadh and Beijing have significantly tighten latlely, as Beijing is the main buyer consumer for Saudi oil.

An armored collection

Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force have four missile bases at their disposal: Al-Watah, Rawdah, Al Sulayyil, Al Jufayr. All of them are situated in the South-West of the country. They are equipped with 10 to 12 silos for Chinese intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) DF-3A containing from 50 to 120 missiles. The DF-3A missile has a range of approximately 2800 kilometres. In 2004, Saudi Arabia acquired new Chinese DF-21 IRBM (to 35 units). Officially, all of these IRBM are equipped with conventional warheads, although they were designed for nuclear ones. Saudi Arabia could have acquired such charges either directly in China, or in Pakistan.

“A significant part of the Saudi military budget is used to fund terrorism”

The Saudi Arabian ground forces (GF) are complemented with the National Guard (NG), which is in fact the king’s personal guard and is made up of men from the most loyal tribes and families of the kingdom. The ground forces are composed of 21 brigades: 3 brigades of armoured ground forces, 9 of mechanized forces (5 from the ground forces and 4 from the National Guard), 8 brigades of light infantry (3 GF and 5 NG), and one airborne brigade (GF).

The base of the country’s tank fleet is made of 369 americans M1A2 “Abrams“. But the kingdom also has at its disposal 422 old M60A1/3 and 288 French AMX-30 tanks, which are for the most part in storage. The kingdom considers purchasing 800 new German “Leopard-2A7” to replace the M60 and the AMX-30. It is also known that the country also plans to buy more than 150 “Abrams”, which are partly intended to replace the losses in Yemen.

There is also an inventory of 250 reconnaissance vehicles (36 German “Fuchs“, 215 French AML-60/AML-90), at least 64 Canadian light armoured vehicles LAV-AG, approximately 600 IFVs (up to 201 French AMX-10P, 375 American M2 “Bradley“), more than 5000 APCs: 1064 American M113, 150 French M3 “panhard“ and 14 ASMAT, 24 German UR-416, 261 British “Tactic“, 98 Turkish “Cobra“, 55 South African “Al-Kasser“, 25 “Mamba“, 46 RG-32, up to 100 homemade “Al-Fahd“, up to 2107 Canadian and Swiss “Piranha“ (and more than 211 command vehicles and 203 various auxiliary vehicles based on this vehicle), 1073 American V-150, 245 “Oshkosh“ M-ATV armoured vehicles.

The artillery consists of more than 300 self-propelled guns (SPGs): 51 French AU-F-1 and 132 new wheeled SPGs “César“, 159 American M109, 54 Chinese PLZ-45. Towed artillery: 100 American M101 and 30 M102, 37 British FH-70, 50 American M114, 87 M198, 5 Austrian GHN-45, 28 French TR-F-1 and 8 M115. Mortars: 70 self-propelled 81mm, 220 American M30, 110 French “Brandt“, 37 M12-1535, 200 RT-61, 28 2R2M mounted on M113, 24 Mo-120 mounted on AMX-10P and at least 36 mounted on “Piranhas”. There are also 76 Brazilian “Astros-2” Multiple rocket launchers.

Anti-tank missiles: 92 French self-propelled “hot” mounted on AMX-10 IFVs, 1303 American “TOW” (224 of which are mounted on Italian VCC-1 IFVs, 139 on “Piranhas”), 1000 old American M47.

The counter-air defence consists of 1000 manpads (of which 500 are American “Red Eye” and “Stinger”), 20 Self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons mounted on V-150 and 160 anti-aircraft guns – 30 M167 “Vulcan”, 130 M2.

The army’s and the National Guard’s aviation counts not less than 54 AH-64 “Apache” (23 D, more than 31 new E; 48 AH-64E in all), up to 80 multipurpose and transport helicopters (4 French AS365N, 15 American Bell-506CS, up to 50 S-70A-1 and UH-60L, 24 UH-60M).

The air force is divided into 9 wings. It is equipped with 68 new European fighters “Typhoon”  (4 more will be bought), up to 154 American fighters F-15 (60-62 C, 20 D training fighters, 68 S, 4 SA. 80 more SA will be bought), 80-82 British “Tornado” IDS. It also has a few Chinese ““Wing Loong” drones.

In service: 5 American E-3A AEW aircrafts and 2 Swedish “Saab-2000”, 2 Sigint planes RE-3, 19 tanker aircrafts (up to 7 American KC-130H

Saudi Arabia’s Army: A Lot Of Good Quality Hardware In Unskilful Hands

Source: wp.com

and KE-3A, 5 European A330MRTT), up to 90 transport aircrafts (35 C-130H, 1-3 L-100-30, up to 19 “Cessna-172“, 5 “Beech-300C”, 10 “Beech-300”, 1 Boeing-767, 2 Boeings-757, 2 Boeings 737, 4 “Gulfstream”, 1 “Learjet-35”, 2 “Learjet-60”), up to 150 training aircrafts (up to 47 British “Hawk”, 20 Pakistani “Mushshak”, 1 British “Jetstream” Mk31, up to 47 Swiss PC-9 and 34 PC-21, 25 American SR22), up to 100 helicopters (12-15 American “Bell 412”, up to 30 Bell-212, up to 18 Bell-205, 9-11 French AS532, 16 S-92, 8 AW139).

Anti-aircraft warfare: separated from the Air Force. 21 SAM batteries “Patriot”, from which 8 are PAC-3 modernized variants (168 launchers), 16 “Tomahawk” guided missile batteries (128 launchers), approximately 200 short range guided missiles (40 French “Crotale” and 141 “Shaheen”), 500 American Manpads “Red Eye”, 145 ZSU: 92 American M163, 53 French AMX-30SA (30mm), 128 Swiss GDF AA canons.

The navy has at its disposal 7 French made frigates (3 Riyadh/Lafayette-class, 4 Medina-class), 4 Badr-class corvettes, 9 Al-Siddiq-class missile boats, 3 British Sandown-class minehunters.

Naval aviation: 40 French helicopters (from 10 to 20 AS365F, up to 19 AS332F). The Saudi Marine Corps consist of 2 battalion using 135 armed Spanish AFV BMR-600P.

When oil doesn’t help

The military budget of Saudi Arabia is traditionally one of the biggest in the world, although a big part of it goes to funding Sunni terrorism abroad. The Saudi armed forces are of course professional. That means that they are composed of strictly hired and highly paid military personnel, equipped with a huge quantity of armoured vehicles, including some of the most up to date. Besides, as shown by the spring 2015 Saudi leaded Arab intervention in Yemen, the combat efficiency of the kingdom’s army is extremely low. Even when using its huge advantage in manpower and equipment, the coalition didn’t manage the chuck out the Houthis far from the territory that was initially in their control. In the meantime, the Saudi army lost more than 20 tanks (at least 5 “Abrams”), 9 light armoured vehicles LAV-AG, 25 IFVs M2 “Bradley”, and more than 120 APC and other armoured vehicles, 1 fighter bomber F15-S, and up to 5 helicopters (including 1 to 2 “Apache”), and one “Wing Loong” drone. The losses in human lives are unknown, but they can be counted in hundreds, if not in thousands. Because of that, Riyadh is constantly searching for mercenary to fight this disgraceful war, even in Latin America.

Saudi Arabia is of course dangerous for Russia, not for its military power (even if its ballistic missiles were equipped with nuclear warheads), but for its funding of terrorism and the progress of its barbaric ideology on our territory – which is what the Riyadh is doing since the 80s. Saudi Arabia has on its hands the blood of our soldiers and peaceful citizens of Chechnya in particular, but also the blood of all the victims of Islamic terrorism in Russia in general. Moreover, it is the Arab monarchies, with at their head the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in partnership with Turkey that organised and funded the “Arab Spring”. They ruined Libya and Syria. And the West at least supported it.

Regarding the really surprising and permanent “flirts” of Moscow with Riyadh: it appears particularly strange that, because of various – and frankly absurd – reasons, there is still no progress on the interdiction of Wahhabism at a federal level in Russia. For example, with the really popular argument of “we can’t forbid an ideology” (then why is Nazism forbidden?), or by directly admitting that “it would negatively affect our relations with Saudi Arabia” (and so what?). Sadly, the Saudi lobbies in Russia are extremely active.

Nevertheless, by dumping the oil market and by overthrowing the secular Arab regimes, Riyadh has mostly hewing down the bough on which it is sitting. The huge expenses for the support of the Syrian opposition and for the war in Yemen, with the abrupt fall of the price of the barrel of oil have put a several blow to the kingdom’s economy. Moreover, the Saudis recently got embroiled with most of the other monarchies in the region; especially with the UAE and Qatar.

It is quite hard to expect the Saudi authorities to sober up, although it cannot be totally excluded. There are also chances for an economical crash or a political crisis.

More about Saudi Arabia’s Armed Forces HERE

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The author is dead right with his analysis. The Saudis will continue to use global terror as a means of obtaining foreign policy objectives. The implementation of terror assures them that states will approach them towards solutions. They are both cop and criminal. When the curtains come down on the Saudis, it will be quick and grim.


Wahabism needs to be branded as an extremist puritanical ideology that must be rooted out of Islam – if the Muslim world wants to save itself from this curse. Until they do so, they will all remain responsible for the terror and intolerance they tolerate as one of their own

Pave Way IV

You’re more accurately describing Salafism, SA. That’s a rather small ultra-orthodox ‘puritanical’ branch of Sunni Islam (and not terribly popular unless you’re a masochist). Some Salafists keep to themselves while others are radicalized – that’s more a function of a particular mosque or cleric. Salafists are not ‘automatically’ radicalized jihadi terrorists – there are plenty of Salafists that are no more threatening than the average Amish, fundamentalist Christian or Orthodox Jew.

On the other hand, all Wahhabism is Saudi Wahhabism. It took ultra-orthodox Salafism one step further and mixed it in with the repressive rule of the Saudi Royals. It’s politicized Salafism intentionally morphed into a control religion for the state. It is used in sort of a power-sharing arrangement by psychopathic Wahhabist clerics and the equally psychopathic al Saud family, both of whom benefit by keeping the little people in Saudi Arabia slavishly obedient and under control. The al Saud family couldn’t rule without the cooperation of the Wahhabists, and the Wahhabists wouldn’t exist without the protection and support of the Saudi Royals. Mutually-beneficial psychopathy.

Most Muslims on earth consider Wahhabism to be the Saudi’s unique, freakish corruption of their religion. As such, they don’t even consider Wahhabism a legitimate ‘branch’ of Sunni Islam at all and say so all the time. You don’t see much about that in the MSM because the entire scheme of destabilizing and partitioning the Middle East relies on the perception of irreconcilable fake wars within Islam (Sunni vs. Shia) and against Islam (Christian vs. Muslim).

The western MSM narrative subtly repeats the message over and over that Islam = terrorism. When have you ever heard them explain the simple difference between Muslims and Salafists and Wahhabists like I did above? They would prefer you don’t know because it interferes with their pipelines and oil theft schemes.

Marek Pejović

well, the numbering of equipment is OK, but i feel as if the real “substance” of the title is missing. yes, army is professional – and what now? THIS is the main scoop, but questions remain:
how corrupt is it?
which is the social background of the soldiers – rich, poor, first sons, later sons?
how is soldiering looked upon in society?
how professional are those professional soldiers?
how UNprofessional are the officers?
what is their level of motivation and ideological training?
all these questions need answering, and in my opinion they weren’t answered…

and after this information, the Yemen situation could be commented upon!

i’ll chip in that i know saudis ban members of tribes hostile to their takeover from the military.

anyways, nice list of equipment, but for the real goodies, the human factor, i think the article is lacking.


I read that at the simplest daily level, Saudi soldiers bribe their immediate superiors to get out of night guard duty as a standard and routine exercise, orders are given out to unit, and bribes are then offered and lowest bribe gets night guard duty. From there it can only get worse.
If watch any You Tube video of Houthi’s attacks on Saudi observation and forward base points in Yemen, will repeatedly see same things. Sure, they leave in hurry when overrun, but these bases almost always have haphazard layouts, poorly constructed, with trash strewn everywhere, cheap blue visible tarpaulins against brown earth, Browning machine guns that aren’t set up in supportive cross fire lines if even set up at all, shoddy half trenches, and especially, they abandon masses of ammunition without any plan to remove or destroy it when fleeing. The Houthi’s can’t even carry away all the weapons and ammunition bounty on offer, as they operating on foot.


Basically, since what I have observed since Gulf War I is that the KSA does not fight well. They need to be backed up all of the time. Just looking at the number of fuel tankers the KSA Airforce has in inventory, so why did they need US assistance? It’s their neighborhood, so why did they need US Intel? They are just two points of many, that can be paraded as evidence that despite all of the gear and help, these guys are nothing.

There was an expression I was taught at Parris Island when I entered the USMC, in the early 1980’s. It went like this:

Sadists kill for fun, Mercenaries kill for money, Marines kill for both reasons.

We were taught unlimited violence, against all comers ( the better armed and trained the opponents, the more fun ) and we needed no reason whatsoever to go out and do our thing, anyplace on the planet. It did not make us super powered fighters but, it did give us the potential to become true monsters among the rest of humanity. For the most part, I was not hesitant about committing the violence or the possible consequences of that life. What I feared most of all, even to this day, was becoming what I was truly intended to be. It is possibly the greatest blessing that I have received in my life, I was not permanently set upon that path. Maybe I am wrong but, possibly none of us that rolled out of 3rd Battalion H Company in my series, really wanted to release what was created inside of us, even at the price of our own lives.

The KSA dudes seem to have none of this. No one in their neck of the woods is afraid of them at all. This is being proven all the time by the manner in which the boyz in Yemen are handing them their asses. This is my view of what is going on there. I wish a good day to all.

Balázs Jávorszky

Hm, this analysis is quite flawed. Exactly the same argument can be made to demonstrate the extreme low quality of the US armed forces. They couldn’t subjugate either the Iraqis or the Afghans in a much longer time frame. The Taliban controls more territory now than ever. We should be much more careful with our analyses. The US is also utilizing a huge army of mercenaries like the NATO troops and the “Afghan Army”. They are supposed to give the bulk of the infantry. I don’t see much difference.

Joseph Scott

No, everyone who has worked with the Saudis knows how wretched they are. Their entire armed forces depends on Western support contractors, because as terrible as they are as fighters, they are even WORSE as technicians. All these people get to see on a daily basis how utterly incompetent the Saudis are. Then there are all the American military personnel who have advised and trained them, or gone on exercises with them, or who operated with them in the 1991 Gulf War. Ask any one of them, and they will tell you what a useless joke the Saudis are. In 1991, their most elite National Guard mechanised formation had to be escorted around by US Army Special Forces, because they were quite helpless. The SF people escorting them were completely astounded by how cowardly and lacking in the simplest military skills they were.

Also, Saudi failures in Yemen (and now in Saudi Arabia!) in no way resemble US problems in Iraq (and by the way, the insurgency in Iraq did die down, so you’ve got that part wrong too) or the ongoing fiasco in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the problem has never been winning the firefights. Although the US lost an outpost here or had a foolhardy SOF unit take heavy (relative to the very small size of the unit) losses there, in a squad vs. squad firefight, US troops would prevail practically every time against Iraqi insurgents or the Taliban. US troops found enemy tactics to be simplistic and their weapons handling appalling.

The problem the US has in these situations is that first, US officers are not very good at operational and strategic planning, so while Americans kill lots of enemy insurgents, too many get away, and the US is unable to sufficiently degrade their force structure, eliminate their leadership or isolate them from their logistical or popular support. US troops, while certainly not the best in the world, are still reasonably professional as armies go at the small unit and individual soldier level. They can shoot straight and manoeuvre decently. The failings of the US come at the higher planning levels. Look at Gothic Serpent. Operationally, it was a disaster, but at a tactical level, the Americans acquired an extremely lopsided bodycount vs. a vastly large force, somewhere between 40 and 100 to 1, and they survived.

Second, the US is really bad at not shooting up the whole countryside, or figuring out who to trust in whatever country they are in, so they fail at the most important principal of counter-insurgency: guaranteeing the security of the civilian population. The Taliban get recruits because despite the US being able to kill them in droves, they can’t protect the Afghani people from their own excessive firepower or from Taliban coercion. Angry Afghanis keep joining the Taliban to get revenge for family killed in clumsy airstrikes, drone strikes, badly planned SF raids, trigger happy infantry who couldn’t tell a farmer with a shovel from a Taliban fighter, or even the occasional psycho who enlisted because they like to shoot random people for fun. Others join the Taliban because, after all these years, the Taliban are still there, and betting on them winning, given the history of invasions of Afghanistan, seems like good odds.

Saudis, on the other hand, don’t win firefights with the Houthi. Saudis with tanks and IFVs get ambushed and shot to pieces by foot-mobile infantry in flip-flops all the time. On an individual soldier level, the Houthis completely outclass the Saudis. They shoot better, they are far more willing to stand and fight, they can manoeuvre. Saudis usually just run away. Saudis have no idea how to execute simple tactical manoeuvres. Saudis bunch up in big convoys with no room between vehicles and no proper recon, and then, when they find themselves in a trap, they don’t try to fight their way out, they don’t try and dig an and fight back, they don’t try to flank their enemy, they just panic and either freeze up and die where they are or run about in confusion looking for escape, leaving behind their vehicles and weapons. US troops have been caught in ambushes, but when they are, they fight back. They still operate in teams, they attempt to locate and destroy the enemy, they call in supporting fires, they manoeuvre, using suppressive fire and cover where they can, out of the kill zone. Saudis can’t do any of that. Saudi troops are essentially civilians in uniforms.

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