Saudi Arabia Military - 2023


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

Military and security forces

Saudi Arabian Armed Forces (SAAF): Ministry of Defense: Royal Saudi Land Forces, Royal Saudi Naval Forces (includes marines, special forces, naval aviation), Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces, Royal Saudi Strategic Missiles Force; Ministry of the National Guard (SANG)

Ministry of Interior: police, Border Guard, Facilities Security Force; State Security Presidency: General Directorate of Investigation (Mabahith), Special Security Forces, Special Emergency Forces (2023)

note: SANG (also known as the White Army) is a land force separate from the Ministry of Defense that is responsible for internal security, protecting the royal family, and external defense

Military expenditures

6% of GDP (2022 est.)

6% of GDP (2021 est.)

8% of GDP (2020 est.)

8.8% of GDP (2019 est.)

10% of GDP (2018 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Saudi Armed Forces have about 250,000 total active troops; approximately 125,000 under the Ministry of Defense (75,000 Land Forces; 15,000 Naval Forces, including about 3,000 marines; 35,000 Air Force/Air Defense/Strategic Missile Forces) and up to 130,000 in the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) (2022)

note: SANG also has an irregular force (Fowj), primarily Bedouin tribal volunteers, with a total strength of approximately 25,000

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the inventory of the Saudi military forces, including the SANG, includes a mix of mostly modern weapons systems from the US and Europe; in recent years, the US has been the leading supplier of armaments; Saudi Arabia is one of the world's largest importers of arms  (2022)

note: as of 2022, the Saudi Navy was in the midst of a multi-year and multi-billion dollar expansion and modernization program to purchase new frigates, corvettes, and other naval craft; in 2022, it received two of an expected five corvettes as part of a joint construction effort with Spain; in 2018, it signed a contract to acquire four US-built multi-purpose littoral mission ships, which will be comparable to frigates in capabilities

Military service age and obligation

men (17-40) and women (21-40) may volunteer for military service; no conscription (2022)

note 1: in 2021, women were allowed to serve in the Army, Air Defense, Navy, Strategic Missile Force, medical services, and internal security forces up to the rank of non-commissioned officer

note 2: the National Guard is restricted to citizens, but the regular Saudi military has hired foreigners on contract for operations associated with its intervention in Yemen

Military deployments

estimated 2,500-5,000 Yemen (varies depending on operations) (2022)

Military - note

the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces (SAAF) are divided into the regular forces under the Ministry of Defense and the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG); the regular forces are responsible for territorial defense, although they can be called for domestic security duties if needed; they include land, naval, air, air defense, and strategic missile forces; the Land Forces have approximately 15 combat brigades which include a mix of armored, aviation, light infantry, mechanized or motorized infantry, royal guards, and airborne/special forces, plus separate battalions of artillery; the Naval Forces are undergoing a major acquisitions and modernization program; its principal warships are approximately 16 frigates and corvettes, with an additional 4 frigates on order; the Air Force is the largest and one of the most modern in the region, with over 350 combat aircraft from Europe and the US with more on order; the Strategic Missile Force manages Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile inventory, largely acquired from China

the SANG is responsible for both internal security and external defense; its duties include protecting the royal family, guarding against military coups, defending strategic facilities and resources, and providing security for the cities of Mecca and Medina; the SANG is primarily comprised of tribal elements loyal to the Saud family and has at least 11 brigades of light infantry, mechanized/motorized infantry, and security forces; it is supplemented by combat helicopter units and tribal levies/militias known as Fowj

there are also large numbers of paramilitary forces under the Ministry of Interior, including Border Guards and the Facilities Security Force, as well as the Special Security Forces and Special Emergency Forces under the State Security Presidency

the US is Saudi Arabia’s closest security partner; the SAAF conducts bilateral exercises with the US military and hosts US forces; the US has participated in a cooperative program to equip and train the SANG since 1973; much of the equipment for both the regular forces and the SANG has been acquired from the US; Saudi Arabia also has defense relationships with China, France, India, the UK, and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members

in 2015, Saudi Arabia led a military intervention into Yemen by a coalition of Arab states in support of the Republic of Yemen Government against the separatist Huthis; Saudi forces from both the Ministry of Defense and the SANG participated in combat operations in Yemen; Saudi Arabia also raised and equipped paramilitary/militia security forces in Yemen--based largely on tribal or regional affiliation--to deploy along the Saudi-Yemen border (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding Saudi Arabia on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Saudi Arabia 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Saudi Arabia 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.