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UAE Armed Forces:

Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan

Right from ancient times to modern age, human civilization has been encircled by power politics. Strong defence has been one of the main instruments to keep enemies at bay in war theatres and peace situations/environments. It guarantees smooth sailing of governance, territorial sovereignty and national pride. It leads the way of glory, durable peace, and sustainable socio-economic development and United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one the exemplary model to follow in this regard. Right from the beginning, UAE under successive visionary leadership maintained its focus to institutionalize strong armed forces, gradually increase its military capabilities and moreover modernize its weaponry.
Keeping in view, the rapidly changing geo-political and geo-strategic scenarios in the Arab Gulf, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Middle East at large, importance of professional armed forces has increased tremendously. Non state threats like piracy, terrorism, extremism, human trafficking and the last but not the least, energy security speak tall about the importance of capable armed forces. Moreover, ongoing economic prosperity march is also directly linked with the performance and efficiency of the armed forces in the region.
Sixth May marks the 36th Unification Anniversary of the Armed Forces of United Arab Emirates which symbolizes the Federation and the national unity. On May 6, 1976 a historic decision was made to unify the Armed Forces of the Emirates towards a sublime goal: defend the UAE and its national achievements.

Sixth May 1976 is a glorious day in history when the UAE Armed Forces was unified under one flag and one command to be an impregnable shield to defend our nation and our achievements. It is the day of appreciation for UAE’s men in uniform. Harry Truman, the former US President expressed the importance of Armed Forces Day by stating “this is simply a day to salute all men and women in all branches of the service who protect our country and you.”They can be called upon at a moment’s notice to perform a risky and perilous mission for freedom and country.” The UAE Armed Forces day is also celebrated with zeal and pride every year.

Stages Labels/Phases
Stage I Coast of Oman Scouts
Stage II Trucial Emirates Force later as Defense Force
Stage III Armed Forces
Source: National Shield Journal (April 2012).

It was indeed a gigantic effort and the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May God bless his soul), Father and Founder of the UAE Federation who laid the foundation for the military thinking and doctrine adopted by the armed forces until they became a highly sophisticated force.

The formation of the armed forces coincided with the early days of the 1971 Federation, as the concept behind the forces was in line with the UAE’s socio-economic and social master development plan. The two building processes developed in complete harmony in all fields of national life. His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (May God protect him), has played a key role in turning the late Father and Founder of the Federation Sheikh Zayed’s vision into reality. His Highness was totally focused on the armed forces development plans, establishing military academies and institutions to arm cadets with modern military sciences.

The unification of the armed forces had not been smooth and easy but ultimately the will of visionary leadership prevailed which strengthened the Federation, developed and upgraded the armed forces in all aspects and acquired vast knowledge in the military field. It gradually unleashed a comprehensive process to bring in state-of-the-art weaponry and acquire the most modern military field skills.

According to National Shield Journal the Armed Forces are now made up of 51,000 personnel; 44,000 in the Army, 2,500 in the Navy and 4,500 in the Air Force. Before 1976, the UAE had about 3,000 regular military personnel. Reports which appeared in the UAE “Dira’ Al Watan” magazine on the event highlighted the UAE’s armed forces’ success in adopting modern defence systems and technologies in a relatively short period of time. It also highlights salient features of strong defence, self-reliance and deterrence.


President of the UAE and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in his message on the 36th Armed Forces Day reaffirmed his strong commitment to the development and requirements of its armed forces.”Our commitment to developing our Armed Forces and providing all resources to enable them shoulder their responsibilities and carry out their duties is firm and unwavering and we are confident that these forces are capable of keeping up with modern technology and approaches to preserve their high preparedness to take up their responsibility of defending the nation and its security and stability, said Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Sheikh Khalifa highly appreciated the services of the first generation of the military whose contributions have enriched the march of our Armed Forces and laid the firm foundations for its growth and development.

Sheikh Khalifa highlighted that Armed Forces has always played an efficient role in the region including participation in the Peninsula Shield Force which represents just one mechanism of military cooperation among the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Armed Forces have always made sure to shoulder their international responsibilities through contributing to the international peacekeeping forces Khalifa further elaborated.

He proudly said UAE Armed Forces had set an example of discipline and commitment which reflected the authentic positive image of the nation and its people and added a humanitarian aspect to their traits. Armed Forces has been instrumental in national action though drawing up and implementing plans as part of its role in sustainable development nationwide.


In his message on the occasion, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, labeled the army as men of chivalry, magnanimity, altruism and self-sacrifice. “Every new day dawns making you more adherent to the values of fidelity, loyalty, redemption, and more determined to perfection, success and excellence”. The decision taken on the 6th of May 1976 personified the faith of the founding fathers in the importance of the Union and stressed their determination to consolidate the Union and enhance its architecture, thus discrediting the doubts of sceptics about our dreams of a powerful nation that faces the future with confidence, hope and optimism” Shaikh Mohammad said.

The UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Essa Abdullah Al Basha Al Noaimi and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne

The UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Essa Abdullah Al Basha Al Noaimi said the ties between Pakistan and his country will expand in days ahead as he is committed to further cement the multi-faceted relationship. He made these brief remarks during a reception hosted by Brigadier (Staff) Abdulla Mohammed Ali Al Kaabi to the 36th anniversary of the UAE Armed Forces Unification Day.

The envoy said the UAE had already undertaken many projects in Pakistan for the welfare of its people and remained committed to do more in this regard.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne was the chief guest on the occasion indicating close ties between the armed forces of the two brotherly countries. It was attended among others by diplomats from many countries, politicians, journalists and members of the Non-Governmental Organizations.

The Armed Forces uphold the UAE’s foreign policy, which is ever ready to combat any foreign aggression and strives for good neighbourly relations. Throughout its history, armed forces have been playing a major role in humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping operations. UAE armed forces had multiple contributions to humanitarian relief operation world wide.

Armed Forces have played a vital peacekeeping role under the United Nations which earned world recognition and respect for the country. There is no doubt that the wise policy laid down by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May God bless his soul) and pursued by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has motivated the UAE people to extend a helping hand to the needy. They have gained wide experience in handling people of different backgrounds. UAE Armed Forces was part of the Arab Deterrent Force to maintain peace in Lebanon, helped the Somali people in the early 1990s, joined in the liberation of Kuwait, and participated in relief missions in Kosovo, Pakistan and Yemen. The Armed Forces played a major role in humanitarian assistance to many countries badly affected by natural calamities and contributed to the social welfare of its people.
General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, termed May 6th a shining landmark in the history of armed forces as it takes a special place in our national march, which is filled with countless gains and achievements on the internal and external levels.
In a message given to the Nation Shield (Dira Al Watan) magazine on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of the unification of the UAE Armed Forces, General Shaikh Mohammed said that the unification of our armed forces under one central command and one flag and logo was done with the goal to make it a strong shield that protects homeland’s security, sovereignty, stability and territorial integrity.
During the devastating floods in Pakistan last year, UAE Armed Forces successfully carried out grand operations of rescue, distribution of relief goods, and logistics to different parts of Pakistan. Chinooks rigorously participated in the humanitarian assistance activities in the most flood affected regions of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochitsan. UAE Military Field Hospitals launched effective vaccination campaigns to save children, women and elderly people from different diseases. Water purification plants were also set up to provide clean drinking water in the most flood affected areas.
Concluding Remarks
Armed Forces are the national shield of a country. Strong armed forces and modern weaponry and capabilities are must to cope with all the regional and international security threats. Political wisdom, commitment and above all visionary leadership has played remarkable role in building UAE Armed Forces capabilities. UAE is an independent and sovereign country which has its own each and every possible modern Defence System to protect its national pride. Thanks to successive rulers and visionary leadership of UAE. It is reality that the unification of the UAE armed forces was turning point that helped it to strengthen its regional and international presence. Long Live Armed Forces of UAE

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