Tagged: defence

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Finland develops 'bounding' mine as military deterrence

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland is developing a remotely-detonated mine designed to deter enemies with its “horror”, the country’s defense minister said on Thursday, referring to a device that springs into the air and fires projectiles at its target when triggered.

Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto meets the press to discuss topical security issues in Helsinki, Finland March 8, 2018, Lehtikuva/Emmi Korhonen/via REUTERS

Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto said the defense forces were developing the so-called bounding mine to replace landmines banned by a 1999 international treaty. Its main targets would be soldiers and vehicles.

“This is a remotely tripped explosive, which bounds in the air and fires steel or tungsten bullets downwards,” the minister told reporters.

“This gives quite a good regional effect and deterrence effect, the so called mine horror. This is being tested now.”

In 2011, Finland became the last European Union country to ratify the 1999 Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines.

Finland’s ratification has lately come in for criticism domestically from some Finns who argue landmines could be effective in defending the country’s long borders.

Finland shares a 1,340km (833 miles) border and a difficult history with Russia, and following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, it has stepped up military spending.

Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto meets the press to discuss topical security issues in Helsinki, Finland March 8, 2018, Lehtikuva/Emmi Korhonen/via REUTERS

Niinisto said he was not aware of a similar explosive being used somewhere else, and the Finnish weapon would always be fired by its operator.

According to the Ottawa Treaty, the launcher of such a mine must have direct visual contact with the location upon triggering it, a ministry official specified. The mines banned by the convention involve explosives set off by the proximity of, or contact with, the target.

“This is an explosive that fits well into the Finnish terrain… traditional mines explode upwards or sideways. This fires downwards, so it is more difficult to take cover from it,” Niinisto said.

He added that he had seen international interest for the weapon.

Niinisto, who considers the ratification of the Ottawa convention to have been a mistake, also said that Finland could relinquish the landmine ban during a crisis where “all agreements have become meaningless papers”.

Finland has compulsory military service for all men and it is one of six members of the EU that have not also joined NATO.

In recent years, however, it has forged closer ties with the Western military alliance, while stepping defense cooperation with other Nordic countries.

While backed by most countries, the Ottawa treaty has not been signed by a number of countries including the United States, China, India, and Russia.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, Editing by William Maclean

References

  1. ^ The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. (thomsonreuters.com)
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China's military spending

When assessing China’s military spending and modernization, we should keep six things in mind. First, China’s official military spending figures are questionable, with many independent estimates[1] suggesting that it already spends in excess of $200 billion on its military each year. Although the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has become somewhat more transparent over the past two decades, the exact annual defence budget should be taken with a grain of salt.

Two, until about 2020 the PLA will be undertaking[2] perhaps its most radical modernization drive[3] since 1949, shrinking the size of its ground forces by about 300,000, increasing the relative weight of its air force and navy, and improving joint theatre-level command and control structures. In short, the PLA is evolving into a modern, war-fighting, and offensive-oriented force.

Three, despite spending increases, China’s ability to import defence equipment and technology is still limited by export controls and arms embargoes. Russia and the former Soviet republics are the largest exporters to China over the past five years, with sensors, missiles, and aircraft among the equipment provided. However, the fact that China’s arms imports have steadily decreased[4] over the past 15 years points to its growing defence industrial capabilities, helped in part by reverse engineering[5]and technological theft[6].

Four, as recently as 2013, China spent more on internal security[7] than on defence (local security spending from 2014 onwards has not been fully divulged[8]). This includes funding for entities such as the Ministry of State Security (intelligence) and Ministry of Public Security (law and order), whose functions partly contribute to national defence. But equally, this indicates Beijing’s continuing concerns about its vulnerability to domestic unrest.

Five, despite its greater resources, the PLA of today has never fought a war. Gen. Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, is among the few remaining officers with battle experience (against Vietnam). This is in stark contrast to the United States, which has been battle-hardened (and fatigued) from almost constant warfare in the Gulf, Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Considering the rising[9] tide of[10] jingoism[11], the PLA’s inexperience suggests that it is an adolescent andpotentially[12] trigger-happy[13] force, one that is as likely to drag a country into conflict as it is to prevent one.

Six, rather paradoxically, the PLA remains a force of last resort—for now. The recent pattern of Chinese assertiveness – whether in the East China Sea or in the Himalayas – has often involved a three-tier approach. It is led by apparent civilians, such as armed fishing vessels[14]dredging ships[15], or road building crews, who are backed up by paramilitary or law enforcement forces such as coast guard vessels and border security. The PLA itself offers a large latent threat, but one that has (so far) barked[16] more than it has bitten[17]. In fact, information, psychological, and legal warfare[18] and economic coercion[19] remain at the pointy end of China’s spear.

What is without doubt is that China has the second-most potent military today after the United States, and this represents the degree to which Beijing has become a peer competitor to Washington as a global power. Its ability to play an offensive role in future conflicts has increased. This is obviously a concern for countries along China’s periphery, particularly those with which it has outstanding territorial disputes. These include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Bhutan, and India. China’s growing military profile also directly involves the United States, which is a resident power in the Western Pacific with alliance commitments to five countries. For all these actors, China’s increased military spending, capabilities, and assertiveness will require continued vigilance, confidence-building measures, and exhortations for greater transparency. At the same time, it will necessitate better defence preparedness, stronger alliances and partnerships to raise the potential costs of Chinese military adventurism, and if necessary the resolute and appropriate application of force.

References

  1. ^ independent estimates (chinapower.csis.org)
  2. ^ undertaking (www.rand.org)
  3. ^ modernization drive (ndupress.ndu.edu)
  4. ^ steadily decreased (armstrade.sipri.org)
  5. ^ reverse engineering (www.reuters.com)
  6. ^ technological theft (www.popularmechanics.com)
  7. ^ more on internal security (www.reuters.com)
  8. ^ been fully divulged (blogs.wsj.com)
  9. ^ rising (foreignpolicy.com)
  10. ^ tide of (edition.cnn.com)
  11. ^ jingoism (www.bbc.com)
  12. ^ potentially (www.newsweek.com)
  13. ^ trigger-happy (www.japantimes.co.jp)
  14. ^ armed fishing vessels (www.washingtonpost.com)
  15. ^ dredging ships (www.ft.com)
  16. ^ barked (www.scmp.com)
  17. ^ bitten (www.lowyinstitute.org)
  18. ^ information, psychological, and legal warfare (jamestown.org)
  19. ^ economic coercion (money.cnn.com)
0

China's military spending

When assessing China’s military spending and modernization, we should keep six things in mind. First, China’s official military spending figures are questionable, with many independent estimates[1] suggesting that it already spends in excess of $200 billion on its military each year. Although the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has become somewhat more transparent over the past two decades, the exact annual defence budget should be taken with a grain of salt.

Two, until about 2020 the PLA will be undertaking[2] perhaps its most radical modernization drive[3] since 1949, shrinking the size of its ground forces by about 300,000, increasing the relative weight of its air force and navy, and improving joint theatre-level command and control structures. In short, the PLA is evolving into a modern, war-fighting, and offensive-oriented force.

Three, despite spending increases, China’s ability to import defence equipment and technology is still limited by export controls and arms embargoes. Russia and the former Soviet republics are the largest exporters to China over the past five years, with sensors, missiles, and aircraft among the equipment provided. However, the fact that China’s arms imports have steadily decreased[4] over the past 15 years points to its growing defence industrial capabilities, helped in part by reverse engineering[5]and technological theft[6].

Four, as recently as 2013, China spent more on internal security[7] than on defence (local security spending from 2014 onwards has not been fully divulged[8]). This includes funding for entities such as the Ministry of State Security (intelligence) and Ministry of Public Security (law and order), whose functions partly contribute to national defence. But equally, this indicates Beijing’s continuing concerns about its vulnerability to domestic unrest.

Five, despite its greater resources, the PLA of today has never fought a war. Gen. Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, is among the few remaining officers with battle experience (against Vietnam). This is in stark contrast to the United States, which has been battle-hardened (and fatigued) from almost constant warfare in the Gulf, Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Considering the rising[9] tide of[10] jingoism[11], the PLA’s inexperience suggests that it is an adolescent andpotentially[12] trigger-happy[13] force, one that is as likely to drag a country into conflict as it is to prevent one.

Six, rather paradoxically, the PLA remains a force of last resort—for now. The recent pattern of Chinese assertiveness – whether in the East China Sea or in the Himalayas – has often involved a three-tier approach. It is led by apparent civilians, such as armed fishing vessels[14]dredging ships[15], or road building crews, who are backed up by paramilitary or law enforcement forces such as coast guard vessels and border security. The PLA itself offers a large latent threat, but one that has (so far) barked[16] more than it has bitten[17]. In fact, information, psychological, and legal warfare[18] and economic coercion[19] remain at the pointy end of China’s spear.

What is without doubt is that China has the second-most potent military today after the United States, and this represents the degree to which Beijing has become a peer competitor to Washington as a global power. Its ability to play an offensive role in future conflicts has increased. This is obviously a concern for countries along China’s periphery, particularly those with which it has outstanding territorial disputes. These include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Bhutan, and India. China’s growing military profile also directly involves the United States, which is a resident power in the Western Pacific with alliance commitments to five countries. For all these actors, China’s increased military spending, capabilities, and assertiveness will require continued vigilance, confidence-building measures, and exhortations for greater transparency. At the same time, it will necessitate better defence preparedness, stronger alliances and partnerships to raise the potential costs of Chinese military adventurism, and if necessary the resolute and appropriate application of force.

References

  1. ^ independent estimates (chinapower.csis.org)
  2. ^ undertaking (www.rand.org)
  3. ^ modernization drive (ndupress.ndu.edu)
  4. ^ steadily decreased (armstrade.sipri.org)
  5. ^ reverse engineering (www.reuters.com)
  6. ^ technological theft (www.popularmechanics.com)
  7. ^ more on internal security (www.reuters.com)
  8. ^ been fully divulged (blogs.wsj.com)
  9. ^ rising (foreignpolicy.com)
  10. ^ tide of (edition.cnn.com)
  11. ^ jingoism (www.bbc.com)
  12. ^ potentially (www.newsweek.com)
  13. ^ trigger-happy (www.japantimes.co.jp)
  14. ^ armed fishing vessels (www.washingtonpost.com)
  15. ^ dredging ships (www.ft.com)
  16. ^ barked (www.scmp.com)
  17. ^ bitten (www.lowyinstitute.org)
  18. ^ information, psychological, and legal warfare (jamestown.org)
  19. ^ economic coercion (money.cnn.com)
0

China's military spending

When assessing China’s military spending and modernization, we should keep six things in mind. First, China’s official military spending figures are questionable, with many independent estimates[1] suggesting that it already spends in excess of $200 billion on its military each year. Although the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has become somewhat more transparent over the past two decades, the exact annual defence budget should be taken with a grain of salt.

Two, until about 2020 the PLA will be undertaking[2] perhaps its most radical modernization drive[3] since 1949, shrinking the size of its ground forces by about 300,000, increasing the relative weight of its air force and navy, and improving joint theatre-level command and control structures. In short, the PLA is evolving into a modern, war-fighting, and offensive-oriented force.

Three, despite spending increases, China’s ability to import defence equipment and technology is still limited by export controls and arms embargoes. Russia and the former Soviet republics are the largest exporters to China over the past five years, with sensors, missiles, and aircraft among the equipment provided. However, the fact that China’s arms imports have steadily decreased[4] over the past 15 years points to its growing defence industrial capabilities, helped in part by reverse engineering[5]and technological theft[6].

Four, as recently as 2013, China spent more on internal security[7] than on defence (local security spending from 2014 onwards has not been fully divulged[8]). This includes funding for entities such as the Ministry of State Security (intelligence) and Ministry of Public Security (law and order), whose functions partly contribute to national defence. But equally, this indicates Beijing’s continuing concerns about its vulnerability to domestic unrest.

Five, despite its greater resources, the PLA of today has never fought a war. Gen. Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, is among the few remaining officers with battle experience (against Vietnam). This is in stark contrast to the United States, which has been battle-hardened (and fatigued) from almost constant warfare in the Gulf, Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Considering the rising[9] tide of[10] jingoism[11], the PLA’s inexperience suggests that it is an adolescent andpotentially[12] trigger-happy[13] force, one that is as likely to drag a country into conflict as it is to prevent one.

Six, rather paradoxically, the PLA remains a force of last resort—for now. The recent pattern of Chinese assertiveness – whether in the East China Sea or in the Himalayas – has often involved a three-tier approach. It is led by apparent civilians, such as armed fishing vessels[14]dredging ships[15], or road building crews, who are backed up by paramilitary or law enforcement forces such as coast guard vessels and border security. The PLA itself offers a large latent threat, but one that has (so far) barked[16] more than it has bitten[17]. In fact, information, psychological, and legal warfare[18] and economic coercion[19] remain at the pointy end of China’s spear.

What is without doubt is that China has the second-most potent military today after the United States, and this represents the degree to which Beijing has become a peer competitor to Washington as a global power. Its ability to play an offensive role in future conflicts has increased. This is obviously a concern for countries along China’s periphery, particularly those with which it has outstanding territorial disputes. These include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Bhutan, and India. China’s growing military profile also directly involves the United States, which is a resident power in the Western Pacific with alliance commitments to five countries. For all these actors, China’s increased military spending, capabilities, and assertiveness will require continued vigilance, confidence-building measures, and exhortations for greater transparency. At the same time, it will necessitate better defence preparedness, stronger alliances and partnerships to raise the potential costs of Chinese military adventurism, and if necessary the resolute and appropriate application of force.

References

  1. ^ independent estimates (chinapower.csis.org)
  2. ^ undertaking (www.rand.org)
  3. ^ modernization drive (ndupress.ndu.edu)
  4. ^ steadily decreased (armstrade.sipri.org)
  5. ^ reverse engineering (www.reuters.com)
  6. ^ technological theft (www.popularmechanics.com)
  7. ^ more on internal security (www.reuters.com)
  8. ^ been fully divulged (blogs.wsj.com)
  9. ^ rising (foreignpolicy.com)
  10. ^ tide of (edition.cnn.com)
  11. ^ jingoism (www.bbc.com)
  12. ^ potentially (www.newsweek.com)
  13. ^ trigger-happy (www.japantimes.co.jp)
  14. ^ armed fishing vessels (www.washingtonpost.com)
  15. ^ dredging ships (www.ft.com)
  16. ^ barked (www.scmp.com)
  17. ^ bitten (www.lowyinstitute.org)
  18. ^ information, psychological, and legal warfare (jamestown.org)
  19. ^ economic coercion (money.cnn.com)
0

TechVets launches to offer UK military veterans a route into cyber and startups

There’s a problem in the UK tech industry and it’s staring us in the face.

The tech industry is growing at twice the rate of the wider economy and now contributes[1] around £97bn a year, up 30pc in five years.

And yet only 4% of military veterans work in ICT, which is 20% less than non-veterans. Yes, a military veteran is five times less likely to go into tech than a non-veteran. That’s crazy.

Meanwhile, 45% of businesses claim to have a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills and 67% of cybersecurity professionals claim[2] they are too busy with their jobs to keep up with skills development and training.

It’s clear, despite its huge growth in the UK, the tech industry is not tapping into the enormous amounts of unrealised human potential contained in the people who are leaving our armed forces. People who have literally put their lives on the line for the country.

The problem is acute. Every year there are over 15,000 ‘service leavers’ leaving the UK military. And right now there are over 900,000 working-age veterans in the UK and other estimates say there are 220,000 who are unemployed or inactive.

That has to change. That’s why today I am backing the launch of a new non-profit to address this issue: TechVets[3].

Next week in London, TechVets will launch on 8 March at Level 39, in Canary Wharf, with an audience of veterans, tech business leaders and investors.

TechVets will be a not-for-profit which provides a bridge for veterans and service leavers into cybersecurity and technology.

Veterans possess unrivalled leadership, crisis management and problem-solving skills which have been forged in the toughest environments. When given effective transition support, veterans have the potential to contribute an enormous amount to the future of the UK’s tech, cybersecurity and startup sectors.

TechVets is being backed by General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE (pictured), who served as Commander Joint Forces Command, one of the six “Chiefs of Staff” leading the UK Armed Forces until April 2016. He says: “The transferable skills of the veteran community are a national resource and have a vital role to play in supporting the security and prosperity of the nation.”

At the launch, TechVets is announcing details of their first support programme, a Digital Cyber Academy, with Immersive Labs[4]. This will provide free Cyber-Security training to the first cohort from the service leaver and veteran community.

TechVets will bring people together: serving as a catalyst to foster greater dialogue and creating connections between veterans and the technology and cyber security sectors and to highlight the strong mutual benefits. By leveraging the extensive networks of the TechVets founders, and organising resources made available by businesses, TechVets creates and curates opportunities for veterans and helps the UK economy by stimulating the technology sector.

The TechVets founders are: Peter Connolly (a retired Army Major, entrepreneur and founder of a cyber and physical security consultancy); Mark Milton (a tech design and innovation specialist with a background in cyber security); and Euan Crawford (a corporate financier, who spent time with the Army Reserve in Iraq before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant). Interest declared: I am also joining as a co-founder and adviser.

Connolly explains: “Around 15,000 people per year leave military service in the UK, and while they are highly trained, hard-working, bright minds, they typically do not find their way into the tech industry due to predominantly a lack of connections. We aim to address this missed opportunity by the TechVets programme bringing in veterans to help build our digital future.”

As well as providing free cyber-security training, TechVets is working with industry partners to secure employment for their cohort. TechVets will take no recruitment fees for this service. TechVets will work closely with the UK government, the MOD’s the Career Transition Partnership, military charities, and industry champions, in order to build the UK’s tech and cyber sectors with the unrealised human potential of the UK veteran community.

Milton says: “The UK government is committed to making the UK a secure and resilient digital nation, this programme supports that goal by recognising the unrealised human potential of our veteran community to address our cyber skills shortage.”

Crawford adds: “We are looking forward to working closely with the UK government and defence, the Career Transition Partnership, military charities, and industry champions, in order to harness the unrealised human potential within veterans. We are totally committed to supporting the recruitment and education of veterans and service leavers, and to helping veterans to leverage their transferable skills and succeed in tech.”

The TechVets launch event will be at Level 39, Canary Wharf, on Thursday 8 March, 2-6pm, and will feature veterans who have succeeded in tech and cyber as well as speakers from NCSC, Amazon, Google, Google Deepmind, IBM, Oracle, Institute for Cyber-Security Innovation, Cylon, Hut Zero.

Veterans and service leavers can register TechVets.co to apply to join the first cohort for cyber training or give feedback on what support would be most valued. Companies hiring in tech or cyber or who would like to signpost veterans to them please email [email protected]
Charities who are working with individuals who they feel may benefit, head to TechVets.co to register OR email [email protected]

References

  1. ^ contributes (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  2. ^ claim (www.esg-global.com)
  3. ^ TechVets (techvets.co)
  4. ^ Immersive Labs (immersivelabs.co.uk)
0

Saudi Arabia fires top army chiefs in military shake-up

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman[1] has fired his top military commanders and reshuffled his cabinet in a shake-up of key security and government ministries.

Those dismissed by royal decree overnight on Tuesday included the Saudi army’s chief of staff, and the heads of the ground and air defence forces.

First Lieutenant General Fayyad bin Hamed al-Ruwayli was appointed the new chief of staff, while Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah was appointed as deputy labour minister in a rare senior post for a woman in the kingdom.

Prince Turki bin Talal – the brother of Alwaleed bin Talal – a billionaire businessman who was detained for months[2] by the government on allegations of corruption – was also appointed to a deputy governor position.

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No official reason has been given for the overhaul, but it comes as Saudi Arabia[3] faces growing criticism against the military coalition it leads in the Yemen war.

The developments also come amid a series of changes led by country’s 32-year-old Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman[4] (also known as MBS), who has vowed to transform both Saudi Arabia’s culture and economy.

MBS was appointed[5] crown prince in June 2017 when King Salman, his father, implemented a major government shake-up.

‘MBS is coming soon’

Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor of Arab politics, said that while many see a link between the Saudi reshuffle and the war in Yemen, the move signals changes to come within the kingdom’s internal politics.

“This development tells us one thing: the new king [MBS] is coming sooner rather than later,” Zweiri told Al Jazeera.

“It seems that he’s setting the platform for his son to rule – we’ve witnessed serious changes to the economy, attempts to fight corruption and so on,” he added.

Zweiri further explained that Saudi Arabia has a strategy it is following in Yemen and that a government reshuffle does not necessarily mean its policy in the war would change.

Saudi Arabia entered the Yemen war in 2015 when it launched a military offensive after Houthi rebels took over the capital, Sanaa, and large swathes of the impoverished country a year earlier.

Due to the high civilian death toll, the kingdom has been under fire to alter its strategy in the war.

Repairing Saudi’s image?

Commenting on the appointment of Alwaleed’s brother, Zweiri said he believes Saudi may be trying to repair its image, after it launched an arrest campaign[6] of royal family members, ministers and top businessmen in November 2017.

“It’s all political – they’re trying to send a message that we’re not against him [Alwaleed] – and that despite what we did, he’s still one of us,” said Zweiri.

More importantly, said Zweiri, the government reshuffle is aimed at bringing those closer to MBS to power in a bid to promote “a new way of thinking”.

Since MBS’ appointment as crown prince, Saudi announced it would end its long-standing ban on allowing women to drive, and major economic reforms seeking to privatise the economy have been introduced.

“I think we are going to see more changes in personnel both within [the] military as well as civilian administration, simply because he is putting in his own people and he wants to project a certain image of the kingdom,” James Dorsey, senior fellow at the S Raja Ratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, told Al Jazeera.

“One has to keep in mind that in effect the crown prince has changed the government structure of Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that it’s a one-man rule as opposed to the past when decisions were taken by consensus.

References

  1. ^ King Salman (www.aljazeera.com)
  2. ^ detained for months (www.aljazeera.com)
  3. ^ Saudi Arabia (www.aljazeera.com)
  4. ^ Mohammed bin Salman (www.aljazeera.com)
  5. ^ appointed (www.aljazeera.com)
  6. ^ launched an arrest campaign (www.aljazeera.com)
0

The Ten Strongest Military Forces In The Middle East

The Middle East and North Africa are generally seen as one of the least stable parts of the world. Indeed, the Institute for Economics and Peace ranks it the most violent region[1] in its annual Global Peace Index.

That’s not surprising, given the civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, as well as the insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, intermittent violence in Israel and the neighboring Palestinian Territories, plus the occasional flare-ups in Iran and Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Many of the larger conflicts have become venues for proxy wars in which regional powers are testing the abilities of their rivals. In Yemen for example, a coalition involving Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others is fighting to reinstate the government of president Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi while Iran has been providing support[2] to the main opposition group, known as the Houthi rebels. In Syria, elements of the armed forces of Iran, Turkey and others have been heavily involved alongside myriad rebel groups.

Such involvement requires heavy investment and Middle East governments have been spending huge amounts to sustain their armed forces, with the Gulf countries in particular involved in an expensive arms race. By far the biggest spender[3] is Saudi Arabia. Last year, Riyadh’s defence budget was more than next five biggest spenders in the region combined (Iraq, Israel, Iran, Algeria, Oman), according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Money is not the only criteria for judging the capabilities of a country’s military forces though. The quality and quantity of weaponry and training are also key elements, as are the number of soldiers, sailors and pilots that can be called on in an emergency. The Global Firepower (GFP) index weighs up more than 50 such factors, including the range of weapons in the arsenal, the amount of available manpower and the abilities of the local defence industry, to come up with its rankings of the most effective fighting forces globally.[4]

Lower scores are best in the GFP index. There is a theoretical perfect score of 0.0000, although the closest any country comes to that is the U.S., which tops the rankings with a score of 0.0857. Within the Middle East, there is a wide range of results, with Mauritania the worst performer by some distance, with a score of 4.2664 which is the fourth worst out of the 130 countries ranked globally. Further up the rankings, but still not high enough to make the cut for the regional top ten despite huge investments in recent years, is Qatar, with a score of 1.8943. Also missing out from the higher echelons is Jordan, whose armed forces have often been thought of as among the most capable in the region. It is ranked at 13 in the MENA region, with a score of  1.2024.

Here though are the countries that do make it into the top ten, in reverse order.

10) United Arab Emirates

Active personnel: 63,000

2017 budget: unknown

With a GFP score of 0.9087, the UAE is ranked well ahead of most of its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) neighbours, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. The IISS reckons the country’s forces to be “arguably the best trained and most capable among the GCC states”. They have gained valuable front-line experience in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen in recent years and the country’s special forces impressed many observers with their amphibious assault to capture the Yemeni port city of Aden in July 2015. However, the UAE’s armed forces remain relatively small, with 63,000 active service personnel.

A local man watches as an aircraft of the UAE Air Force’s Al Fursan aerobatics display team performs at the Dubai Airshow, on November 13 2017 (Photo: Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images)

9) Iraq

Active personnel: 64,000

2017 budget: $19.3bn

Iraq has the second highest known budget of any country in the region, although this is still a long way behind Saudi Arabia’s spending levels. The country’s armed forces have made significant gains in recent years in battles against Islamic State militants, recapturing the city of Mosul in October 2017 and driving them out of other areas of the country since then. They have been helped in that task by assistance from the US and other Western powers, as well as military advice from Iran’s Al Quds brigade. Questions remain about the long-term shape of Iraq’s armed forces post-conflict, particularly its Shia-dominated Popular Mobilisation Units (Al Hashd al Shaabi) and the role of Kurdish forces. Under the GFP index, Iraq’s military scores 0.8961.

Members of the Iraqi army, police force and Al Hashd al Shaabi militia stage a military parade as part of the victory over Islamic State terrorists, in Baghdad, Iraq on December 10, 2017. (Photo: Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

8) Morocco

Active personnel: 195,000

2017 budget: $3.5bn

Morocco has the fifth largest armed forces in the region, with 175,000 army personnel and a further 13,000 in the air force and 7,800 in the navy. However, it also has one of the lowest budgets, at just $3.5bn in 2017. Despite that, it gains a GFP score of 0.8702. The country’s forces have gained useful experience as a result of political instability in its neighbourhood, in particular the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the south, as well as more limited experience further afield, including as part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. Greater investment in its military forces is expected in the coming years, helped by support from Saudi Arabia.

7) Syria

Active personnel: 142,500

2017 budget: unknown

More than six years of fighting has left Syria’s military machine badly damaged but also battle-hardened. The IISS says the army currently has some 105,000 serving members but is short of personnel, leading to increased efforts at conscription, which many do their best to avoid. Allied militias fighting alongside conventional forces have played an important role in keeping the regime of Bashir al Assad from being toppled. The GFP index gives Syria’s armed forces a score of 0.7603.

6) Algeria

Active personnel: 130,000

2017 budget: $10bn

With the best equipped forces in North Africa – much of it sourced from Russia and, to a lesser extent, China – Algeria’s military has a score of 0.4366 in the GFP index. The country has had to battle domestic Islamist extremists for many years and faces troublesome border areas with neighbours including Libya and Mali, not to mention playing a role in supporting the Western Saharan independence movement the Polisario Front.

5) Saudi Arabia

Active personnel: 227,000

2017 budget: $76.7bn

The regional giant, at least in terms of its military budget which easily outpaces any other rival, Saudi Arabia’s GFP score of 0.4302 puts it in fifth place overall in the region. The huge amount of money being spent by Riyadh each year means the country has the best equipped armed forces in the region with the exception of Israel. Its involvement in the Yemen civil war over the past three years has given its forces valuable frontline experience, but its failure to defeat its Houthi opponents there has also raised questions about how effective a fighting force the Saudi military really is.

A Saudi F-15 fighter jet landing at the Khamis Mushayt military airbase, as part of ongoing operations in Yemen, on November 16, 2015.(Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

4) Iran

Active personnel: 523,000

2017 budget: $16bn

Iran has more men under arms than any other country in the region, with 350,000 in the army, 18,000 in the navy, 30,000 serving in the air force and a further 125,000 in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). Years of international sanctions have meant it has been unable to source many weapons systems from abroad, forcing it to improvise and develop a substantial home-grown defence industry. Its armed forces are also seen as particular strong in asymmetric warfare. Iranian forces, particularly the elite Al Quds unit of the IRGC, have played a key role in the fighting in both Syria and Iraq and Tehran has also provided support to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran’s GFP score of 0.3933 puts it ahead of any of its immediate neighbours.

3) Israel

Active personnel: 176,500

2017 budget: $18.5bn

With numerous hostile neighbours to contend with, Israel has always felt the need to ensure its armed forces are clearly superior to anything they might have to face in battle. The Israel Defence Forces are the best equipped, best trained and most capable of any in the region according to the IISS, not least because of continued massive support from the US. However, the country’s GFP index score of 0.3476 still places it behind two others in the region.

2) Egypt

Active personnel: 438,500

2017 budget: $2.7bn

With a former general now in charge of the country – Abdel el Sisi – it is unsurprising that Egypt’s army is in a powerful position in the domestic political arena. The defence forces are currently in the midst of an equipment recapitalisation programme, with new fighter aircraft, attack helicopters and surface-to-air missiles all being bought in. However, the country has struggled to deal with the challenge posed by insurgent, terrorist groups in the northern Sinai Peninsula for the past few years. With a GFP score of 0.2676, Egypt is seen as having the second strongest armed forces in the region and the tenth strongest in the world overall, ahead of the likes of Italy and Pakistan.

1) Turkey

Active personnel: 355,800

2017 budget: $8bn

Viewed by the GFP as the most powerful in the MENA region with a score of 0.2491, Turkey’s armed forces have faced a turbulent few years, with many officers purged from the services following a failed coup in July 2016. Since then the country has become ever more heavily involved in the war in neighbouring Syria, culminating in the Afrin campaign[5] launched in January 2018. The country also has important overseas military ties with Qatar and Somalia, basing troops in both countries. Not only is it seen as the strongest military force in the MENA region, it is ranked in eighth place globally, just ahead of Germany and one place below Japan.

Turkish soldiers parade during the celebrations for the 94th anniversary of Republic Day in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 29, 2017. (Photo: Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

References

  1. ^ most violent region (economicsandpeace.org)
  2. ^ providing support (reliefweb.int)
  3. ^ biggest spender (www.forbes.com)
  4. ^ index (www.globalfirepower.com)
  5. ^ Afrin campaign (www.reuters.com)