Complex Made Simple

Revealed: Military divisions where Saudi women could be recruited in

Saudi, embroiled in a seemingly unending Yemeni war since 2015, has outdone itself, shaking up the military in more ways than one.

The Saudi King is not only firing a few military leaders, but also paving the way for the country’s females to take up crucial military positions in an effort to boost its firepower.

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Military shake up

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued Monday a decree swapping out officials in a number of positions, especially in his defense ministry.

General Abdulrahman al-Banyan, previously chief of the joint staff of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, was relieved of his post and appointed to be an adviser to the royal court, Al Arabiya reported.

Replacing him is Gen. Fayyadh bin Hamid al-Rwaili, who once had been the commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force, among the nation’s premier military forces.

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Also appointed as an assistant defense minister was Khaled bin Hussain al-Biyari, CEO Saudi Telecom Co.

A series of political appointments were announced at the same time, including the rare appointment of a female deputy minister of labour and social development, Tamadar bint Yousef al-Ramah.

These firings and the latest female appointment presented a preview as to how Saudi women could assume important military roles in the near future, and at times when the need transcends the move to empower Saudi women, as Saudi has done recently.

Women in military

The recent announcement that Saudi will allow women to enlist in the Saudi army in large numbers, for the first time, was eye opening.

Saudi needs them fast, giving Saudi women until March 1 to submit their applications for the rank of soldier, and candidates must fulfill 12 criteria that include at least having a high school diploma, to be between 25-35, be at least 5 feet tall, and have to conduct a personal interview and pass a medical.

They will be appointed to posts in Riyadh, Mecca, al-Qassim and Medina.

The BBC reported that the roles do not appear to include front-line combat, however, a soldier is one that could perform various activities in Saudi’s military machine.

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Female Firepower

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington.

It estimates the Yemeni war, a war of attrition, is costing Saudi Arabia at least $5-6 billion a month.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), said King Salman “approved the document on developing the Ministry of Defense, including the vision and strategy of the ministry’s developing program, the operational pattern targeting its development, the organizational structure, governance and human resources requirements.”

Saudi has a dire need to boost its ability to win wars, current or future ones, and one way to do just that, is to enlist the right resources to fill gaps where needed.

Global Fire power (GFP) 2017, a ranking of countries’ military might, said Saudi Arabia’s Military Strength, or global fire power ranking is 24 out 133 countries.

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in 2017, Saudi signed a $110bn arms deal with the Trump administration with options for as much as $350bn over 10 years.

“Going beyond military equipment totals and perceived fighting strength is the actual manpower that drives a given military force,” said GFP.

“Wars of attrition traditionally favor those with more manpower to a given effort.”

So here we go:


With a total population of over 32 million, where a recent survey showed 18.5 million males and 15 million females, total available manpower available is 15.3 million, while 14 million are fit for service, with 256,000 in total are military personnel, and 25,000 in reserve personnel.

Point: None of these are Saudi women, and the country’s females will provide an important human resource role where needed.

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Air power

Air power includes both helicopters and aircraft from all branches of service (Air Force, Navy, Army).

Total aircraft strength is 790, with fighter aircraft 177, transport at 221, trainer aircraft at 243.

Total helicopter strength i at 227, with 21 attack helicopters.

Point: UAE’s Mariam al-Mansouri, a female fighter jet pilot, will inspire future female fighters, especially as women, including Arabs, have historically proven to be great aviators.

Army Strength

Tank value includes Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) and light tanks as well as those vehicles considered “tank destroyers”

Saudi has 1142 combat tanks, 5472 Armored fighting vehicles, and 432 towed artillery vehicles.

Point: Saudi Women will be allowed to drive cars starting June 2018, so who says they can’t be driving tanks or tow artillery?

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Navy Strength

Aircraft carrier value includes both traditional aircraft carriers as well as “helicopter carrier”.

Total navy assets amount to 55 with 7 frigates and 4 patrol crafts.

Point: Saudi Women that can drive can learn to navigate ships as captains.


War is as much a battle of logistics, moving man and machine from-to points all over, as it is direct combat.

A quantitative/robust labor force also adds to available wartime industry.

Saudi has 12 million in labor force, operates 4 Major ports/terminals, with 214 serviceable airports.

Point: Saudi Women are open to employment in all logistical centers around he country including military.


War goes beyond simple physical “strength-in-numbers”, relying heavily on financing.

Point: Saudi budgets $56.7bn in defense and as accounting and financing skills are not gender specific, these sectors will likely attract Saudi women who will have a good fighting chance at similar positions in the army.