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Organization and Equipment of the Armed Forces

Sultan Qabus ibn Said retained for himself the positions of prime minister and minister of defense. The sultan's uncle, Fahar ibn Taimur Al Said, served as deputy prime minister for security and defense. Between 1970 and 1987, the armed forces commander, as well as the heads of the air force and navy, were British generals and admirals on loan. As of early 1993, the chief of staff and the three service commanders were Omanis. As of 1992, personnel strength of the Royal Armed Forces (as they were renamed--RAF) had reached about 35,700, including 6,000 royal household troops--a 4,500 Royal Guard of Oman (RGO) brigade, two Special Forces regiments totaling 700 trained by British air commandos, and 800 miscellaneous other personnel--and foreign personnel, who are believed to number about 3,700. The army, known as the Royal Oman Land Forces (ROLF), is the largest of the service branches with a strength of 20,000. The ROLF is organized into regiments, although each regiment is of no more than battalion size. It includes two armored regiments composed of three tank squadrons; one armored reconnaissance regiment composed of three armored car squadrons; eight infantry regiments, three of which are staffed by Baluchis; four artillery regiments; one air defense regiment of two batteries; one infantry reconnaissance regiment composed of three reconnaissance companies; two independent reconnaissance companies; one airborne regiment; and one field engineering regiment of three squadrons. A small tribal militia of rifle company strength on the Musandam Peninsula is known as the Musandam Security Force.

One divisional headquarters and two brigade headquarters are maintained, within which the independent regiments can be combined into larger fighting units. The separate royal household troops consist of the RGO, the Special Forces elements, and personnel to staff the royal yacht and a number of transport aircraft and helicopters. The RGO, an elite corps with the primary function of protecting the sultan and performing ceremonial duties, has a separate identity within the ROLF but is trained to operate in the field alongside other army formations.

The two tank squadrons are equipped with United States M-60A1 and M-60A3 tanks and with British Chieftains. The armored car squadrons are outfitted with British Scorpion light tanks and French VBC-90s. The ROLF lacks armored equipment for troop movement, depending on Austrian Steyr cross-country vehicles. In July 1991, Oman ordered US$150 million worth of armored vehicles from the United States. The ROLF has a variety of towed artillery pieces; its principal antitank weapons are TOW and Milan guided missiles. Air defense is provided by a variety of guns and shoulder-fired SAMs (see table 42, Appendix).

Initially, nearly all the army officers and men were Baluchis from Pakistan, except for senior commanders, who were British. As of early 1993, most of the officers were Omanis, although British involvement continued, especially in the armored regiment. The training battalion of the RAF conducts recruit training for all services at the RAF training center near Muscat. Officer candidates--who must serve at least one year in the enlisted ranks--attend the Sultan Qabus Military College and the Officers' Training School. In 1988 the first class of twenty officers graduated from the Sultan's Armed Forces Command and Staff College near Muscat. This is a triservice school to prepare midranking officers for senior command and staff appointments. Officers of other government security services and some civilian officials also attend.

The Royal Oman Navy (RON), with a strength of 3,000 in 1992, has its headquarters at As Sib, thirty-six kilometers west of Muscat. The principal naval establishment is the Said ibn Sultan Naval Base, completed in 1987, at Wudham Alwa near As Sib. One of the largest engineering projects ever undertaken in Oman, it provides a home port for the RON fleet, training facilities, and workshops for carrying out all maintenance and repair activities. The Naval Training Center, located at the base, offers entrylevel courses for officers and enlisted personnel, as well as specialized branch training. Initially, the navy was staffed almost entirely by British officers and Pakistani NCOs. By the late 1980s, most ship commanders were Omanis, although many Pakistani and British technical personnel remained.

The navy's main combat vessels are four Province-class missile boats built by Vosper Thornycroft. Armed with Exocet antiship missiles and 76mm guns, the last ship was delivered in 1989. The navy also operates four Brook Marine fast-attack craft with 76mm guns and four inshore patrol craft. The navy is well equipped for amphibious operations and has one 2,500-ton landing ship capable of transporting sixty-ton tanks and three LCMs (landing craft-mechanized). Oman has ordered two corvettes with eight Exocet missiles, scheduled for delivery from Britain in 1995-96, and hopes to remedy its lack of minesweepers.

The Royal Oman Air Force (ROAF) had a strength of about 3,500 in 1992. Its forty-four combat aircraft of British manufacture consist of two fighter-ground attack squadrons of modern Jaguars, a ground attack and reconnaissance squadron of older Hunters, and a squadron of Strikemasters and Defenders for counterinsurgency, maritime reconnaissance, and training purposes. The air force is fairly well equipped with three transport squadrons and two squadrons of helicopters for troop transport and medical transport. Rapier SAMs are linked to an integrated air control and early warning network based on a Martello radar system. Skyvan aircraft fitted with radar and special navigational gear conduct maritime reconnaissance and antipollution patrols. The principal air bases are at Thamarit in the south and on Masirah. Others are collocated with the international airport at As Sib, at Al Khasab on the Musandam Peninsula, at Nazwah, and at Salalah. Officer and pilot training takes place at the Sultan Qabus Air Academy on Masirah. Pilots of fighter aircraft receive advanced training in Britain.

Data as of January 1993

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