Sudan Military - 2023


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Military and security forces

Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF): Ground Force, Navy, Sudanese Air Force; Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Border Guards; Ministry of Interior: security police, special forces police, traffic police, Central Reserve Police (2023)

note 1: the RSF is a semi-autonomous paramilitary force formed in 2013 to fight armed rebel groups in Sudan, with Mohammed Hamdan DAGALO (aka Hemeti) as its commander (he is also a member of the Sovereign Council); it was initially placed under the National Intelligence and Security Service, then came under the direct command of former president Omar al-BASHIR, who boosted the RSF as his own personal security force; as a result, the RSF was better funded and equipped than the regular armed forces; the RSF has since recruited from all parts of Sudan beyond its original Darfuri Arab groups but remains under the personal patronage and control of DAGALO; the RSF has participated in combat operations in Yemen and in counterinsurgency operations in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile State; it has also been active along the borders with Libya and the Central African Republic and has been used to respond to anti-regime demonstrations; the RSF has been accused of committing human rights abuses against civilians and is reportedly involved in business enterprises, such as gold mining

note 2: the Central Reserve Police (aka Abu Tira) is a combat-trained paramilitary force that has been used against demonstrators and sanctioned by the US for human rights abuses

Military expenditures

1% of GDP (2021 est.)

1% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.4% of GDP (2019 est.)

2% of GDP (2018 est.)

3.6% of GDP (2017 est.)

note: many defense expenditures are probably off-budget

Military and security service personnel strengths

estimates vary widely; up to 200,000 SAF personnel; the strength of the RSF ranges from a low of about 30,000 to as many as 100,000 fighters; up to 80,000 Central Reserve Police (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the SAF's inventory includes a mix of Chinese, Russian, Soviet-era, and domestically produced weapons systems; in recent years, Russia has been the leading arms provider; Sudan has one of the largest defense industries in Africa, which includes state-owned companies with military involvement; it mostly manufactures weapons systems under license from China, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine (2022)

Military service age and obligation

18-33 years of age for compulsory or voluntary military service for men and women; 12-24 month service obligation (2023)

note: implementation of conscription is reportedly uneven

Military deployments

approximately 750 Democratic Republic of the Congo (East African Community stabilization force)

Sudan joined the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015, reportedly providing as many as 40,000 troops during the peak of the war in 2016-17, mostly from the Rapid Support Forces; by 2021, Sudan had reduced the size of the force to about a brigade (approximately 2-3,000 troops) (2022)

Military - note

the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) is a large and relatively well-equipped military; its primary focuses are internal security, border issues, and potential external threats from its neighbors; the SAF is often supported by militia and paramilitary forces, particularly the Rapid Support Forces (RSF); in the Spring of 2023, heavy fighting broke out between the SAF and the paramilitary RSF amid disputes over an internationally-backed plan for a transition towards civilian rule, particularly around the capital Khartoum and in some outlying areas; both the SAF and the RSF have some operational experience from internal security operations and Sudan’s years-long intervention in Yemen with the Saudi-led coalition; information on the organization of the SAF and the RSF varies; the SAF Army is estimated to have more than 10 infantry divisions, as well as divisions of mechanized, armored, and airborne/special forces, and several independent infantry brigades; the SAF Air Force has several squadrons of Chinese- and Russian-origin combat  aircraft, as well as multiple squadrons of combat helicopters, also largely of Russian origin; the Navy has a small force of coastal patrol boats; the RSF is a lightly-armed ground force reportedly organized into brigades of varying size and makeup   

the Sudanese military has been a dominant force in the ruling of the country since its independence in 1956; in addition, the Sudanese military and security forces have a large role in the country's economy, reportedly controlling over 200 commercial companies, including businesses involved in gold mining, rubber production, agriculture, and meat exports

the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has operated in the disputed Abyei region along the border between Sudan and South Sudan since 2011; UNISFA's mission includes ensuring security, protecting civilians, strengthening the capacity of the Abyei Police Service, de-mining, monitoring/verifying the redeployment of armed forces from the area, and facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid; UNISFA had about 2,800 personnel deployed as of early 2023

the October 2020 peace agreement provided for the establishment of a Joint Security Keeping Forces (JSKF) comprised of 12,000 personnel tasked with securing the Darfur region in the place of the UN African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), a joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force that operated in the war-torn region between 2007 and the end of its mandate in December 2020; in June 2021, Sudan's transitional government announced it would increase the size of this force to 20,000 and expand its mission scope to include the capital and other parts of the country suffering from violence; the force would include the SAF, RSF, police, intelligence, and representatives from armed groups involved in peace negotiations; in September 2022, the first 2,000 members of the JSKF completed training (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding Sudan 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 Sudan 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Sudan 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.