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Under the constitution, the amir is the supreme commander of the armed forces. The minister of defense directs the armed forces through the chief of general staff. The National Guard has its own commander, who reports directly to the minister of defense. The public security forces are all under the minister of interior. The minister of defense in early 1993, Ali as Sabah as Salim Al Sabah, had been shifted from the Ministry of Interior as part of the military shakeup after the gulf war. The ruling family maintained a tight grip on the centers of power, including many senior posts in the security services.
Before the Iraqi invasion, the army's manpower strength was 16,000 officers and enlisted men. The principal combat formations were three armored brigades, one mechanized infantry brigade, and one artillery brigade with a regiment of self-propelled howitzers and a surface-to-surface missile (SSM) battalion. All the combat units were under strength; by one estimate, as of 1988 the army's entire fighting strength was the equivalent of only one Western brigade.
Its first-line main battle tanks are M-84s, Yugoslav versions of the Soviet T-72 tank. The army has various models of British armored cars and armored personnel carriers (APCs). Its artillery consists of 155mm self-propelled howitzers, mainly of French manufacture. It has a large inventory of antitank missile systems of British, French, and United States origin, including the improved TOW (tube-launched, optically sighted, wire-guided) missile from the United States. It has purchased the Soviet FROG7 , a mobile battlefield missile with a range of sixty kilometers. In 1984, after the United States rejected a Kuwaiti order for Stinger shoulder-fired SAMs, Kuwait turned to Moscow for air defense weapons, purchasing SA-7 and SA-8 SAMs and ZSU-23-4 antiaircraft guns.
An estimate of the postwar strength of the Kuwaiti army, published in The Military Balance, 1992-1993, revealed the devastating effect of the Persian Gulf War. The disparate ground forces, estimated to number about 8,000, were to be reconstituted into four understrength mechanized and armored brigades, a reserve brigade, and an artillery brigade. Little matériel survived the war: some tanks, APCs, and 155mm guns (see table 38, Appendix). Kuwait's postwar equipment orders include 200 M-84 tanks (from Yugoslavia to offset previous Yugoslav oil purchases) and eighteen self-propelled 155mm guns from France. Kuwait also has received United States, Russian, and Egyptian armored vehicles.
The air force complement in 1990 before the gulf war was estimated at 2,200, excluding foreign personnel. Its inventory included about eighty combat aircraft, mainly Mirage F1s from France and A-4 Skyhawks from the United States, and more than forty helicopters of French manufacture, some fitted for assault missions with antitank missiles. Ground-based air defense was structured around the United States improved Hawk (I-Hawk) missile system, tied into Saudi air defense to receive data transmitted by United States and Saudi AWACS aircraft that had been operating in the area since the start of the Iran-Iraq War.
The Military Balance estimated that the immediate postwar complement of the air force was 1,000, with thirty-four combat aircraft and twelve armed helicopters remaining. By early 1993, however, air force personnel numbered about 2,500, with seventy-four combat aircraft, including McDonnell Douglas A-4s and F-18s, and twenty armed helicopters. Its two air bases, at Ahmad al Jabir and Ali as Salim, badly damaged in the war, are being repaired. In addition to Iraq's capture of the four batteries of I-Hawk medium-range SAMs, most of the fleet of transport aircraft was lost to Iraq. Before the occupation of the amirate, the Kuwaiti air force had ordered forty United States F18 fighter aircraft plus air-to-air missiles and cluster bombs. Deliveries under this order began in the first half of 1992. Kuwait will acquire the strongest air defense network in the Persian Gulf region under a proposal announced by the United States in March 1992 to transfer six Patriot antiballistic missile SAM firing units (each consisting of up to four quadruple launchers, radar, and a control station) and six batteries of Hawk SAMs. The sale will include 450 Patriot missiles and 342 Hawk missiles.
The navy's strength had been estimated at 1,800 in 1990 before the Iraqi occupation. Previously a coastal defense force with police responsibilities, the navy's combat capabilities were significantly enhanced during 1984 with the delivery of eight fast-attack craft armed with Exocet antiship missiles from the West German Lürssen shipyard. The navy also operated a wide variety of smaller patrol craft. According to The Military Balance, the navy was reduced to about 500 personnel in 1992 as a result of the Persian Gulf War and the Kuwaiti policy of removing bidun ("without"--stateless persons without citizenship, many of whom had long-standing stays in Kuwait while others came in the 1960s and 1970s as oil field workers and construction workers) from the armed forces. With the exception of two missile boats, the entire fleet was captured and sunk or badly damaged by coalition forces while being operated by the Iraqis. Some ships are believed to be salvageable. Five Republic of Korea (South Korea) twenty-four-meter patrol craft were among the vessels lost. However, delivery is expected on an additional four craft under an order pending when the war broke out.
Data as of January 1993
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