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
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.