Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces

Revolutionary Armed Forces
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias

Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces emblem
Founded 1960
Current form 1960
Service branches Army
Air and Air Defense Force
paramilitary units
Civil Defense
National Reserves
Headquarters Havana
Commander-in-Chief Pres. Raúl Castro
Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Corps Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frías
Conscription 2 years
Available for
military service
Men: 3,134,622
Women: 3,022,063, age 15–49
Fit for
military service
Men: 1,929,370
Women: 1,888,498, age 15–49
Active personnel 90,000 (2015 est.)[1]
Reserve personnel 1,500,000[1]
Percent of GDP 3.8% (2006)
Domestic suppliers Union de Industrias Militares
Foreign suppliers  Russia
 North Korea
 Soviet Union
Related articles
History Military history of Cuba
Ranks Ranks of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces

The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias—FAR) consist of ground forces, naval forces, air and air defence forces, and other paramilitary bodies including the Territorial Troops Militia (Milicias de Tropas Territoriales—MTT), Youth Labor Army (Ejército Juvenil del Trabajo—EJT), and the Defense and Production Brigades (Brigadas de Producción y Defensa—BPD), plus the Civil Defense Organization (Defensa Civil de Cuba - DCC) and the National Reserves Institution (Instituto Nacional de las Reservas Estatales - INRE).

The armed forces has long been the most powerful institution in Cuba and high-ranking generals are believed to play crucial roles in all conceivable succession scenarios.[2] The military controls 60 percent of the economy through the management of hundreds of enterprises in key economic sectors.[3][4] The military is also Raúl Castro's base.[4] In numerous speeches, Raúl Castro has emphasized the military's role as a people's partner.[5]

From 1966 until the late 1980s, Soviet Government military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities to number one in Latin America and project power abroad. The first Cuban military mission in Africa was established in Ghana in 1961. Cuba's military forces appeared in Algeria, in 1963, when a military medical brigade came over from Havana to support the regime.[6] Since the 1960s, Cuba sent military forces to African and Arab countries; Syria in 1973, Ethiopia in 1978, the Cuban intervention in Angola from 1975 to 1989, and Nicaragua and El Salvador during the 1980s.

The Soviet Union gave both military and financial aid to the Cubans. The tonnage of Soviet military deliveries to Cuba throughout most of the 1980s exceeded deliveries in any year since the military build-up during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 1989 the government instituted a cleanup of the armed forces and the Ministry of Interior, convicting army Major General and Hero of The Republic of Cuba Arnaldo Ochoa, Ministry of Interior Colonel Antonio de la Guardia (Tony la Guardia), and Ministry of Interior Brigadier General Patricio de la Guardia on charges of corruption and drug trafficking. This judgment is known in Cuba as "Causa 1" (Cause 1). Ochoa and Antonio de la Guardia were executed. Following the executions, the Army was drastically downsized, the Ministry of Interior was moved under the informal control of Revolutionary Armed Forces chief General Raúl Castro (Fidel Castro's brother), and large numbers of army officers were moved into the Ministry of Interior.

Cuban military power has been sharply reduced by the loss of Soviet subsidies. Today, the Revolutionary Armed Forces number 39,000 regular troops.[1] The DIA reported in 1998 that the country's paramilitary organizations, the Territorial Militia Troops, the Youth Labor Army, and the Naval Militia had suffered considerable morale and training degradation over the previous seven years but still retained the potential to "make an enemy invasion costly."[7] Cuba also adopted a "war of the people" strategy that highlights the defensive nature of its capabilities.

On September 14, 2012, a Cuban senior general agreed to further deepen military cooperation with China during a visit to Beijing. He said that Cuba was willing to enhance exchanges with the Chinese military and strengthen bilateral cooperation in personnel training and other areas.[8]

Revolutionary Army (Ejercito Rebelde)

Guards at the Mausoleum of José Marti, Santiago de Cuba
Soldiers of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias on a motorbike

In 1984, according to Jane's Military Review, there were three major geographical commands, Western, Central, and Eastern. There were a reported 130,000 all ranks, and each command was garrisoned by an army comprising a single armoured division, a mechanised division, and a corps of three infantry divisions, though the Eastern Command had two corps totalling six divisions.

A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment in the first half of 1998 said that the army's armour and artillery units were at low readiness levels due to 'severely reduced' training, generally incapable of mounting effective operations above the battalion level, and that equipment was mostly in storage and unavailable at short notice.[9] The same report said that Cuban special operations forces continue to train but on a smaller scale than beforehand, and that while the lack of replacement parts for its existing equipment and the current severe shortage of fuel were increasingly affecting operational capabilities, Cuba remained able to offer considerable resistance to any regional power.[10]

2002 organization

In 1999 the Revolutionary Army (Ejercito Revolucionario) represented approximately 70 percent of Cuba's regular military manpower. According to the IISS, the army's estimated 45,000 troops including 6,000 active and 39,000 members of the Ready Reserves who were completing the forty-five days of annual active-duty service necessary for maintaining their status, as well as conscripts who were fulfilling their military service requirement.[11]

The IISS reported in 1999 that the army's troop formations consisted of four to five armored brigades; nine mechanized infantry brigades; an airborne brigade; fourteen reserve brigades; and the Border Brigade. In addition, there is an air defense artillery regiment and a surface-to-air missile brigade. Each of the three territorial armies is believed to be assigned at least one armored brigade-usually attached to the army's headquarters-as well as a mechanized infantry brigade. As well, it is known that the Border Brigade in Guantanamo and at least one ground artillery regiment (attached to a mechanized infantry brigade), based in Las Tunas, are under the Eastern Army's command.[11]

1996 organization

In 1996, according to Jane's Information Group, the army was organized into three Territorial Military Commands with three Armies, one army for each command.[12] At the time, there were an estimated 38,000 army personnel.[13]

Revolutionary Army Command:

Western Army (deployed in the capital and the provinces of Havana and Pinar del Río)

2nd (Pinar del Río) Army Corps:

Central Army (Provinces of Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus)

4th (Las Villas) Army Corps:

Eastern Army (Provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Granma, Holguín, Las Tunas, Camagüey and Ciego de Avila)

6th (Holguín) Army Corps:

6th (Camagüey) Army Corps:


Infantry weapons

Name Country of origin Type Notes
Makarov PM  Soviet Union Semi-automatic pistol
Stechkin APS  Soviet Union Machine pistol
SKS  Soviet Union Semi-automatic carbine Mostly limited to use as a ceremonial weapon.
AKM  Soviet Union Assault Rifle
AK-74  Soviet Union Assault Rifle
RPK  Soviet Union Light machine gun
SG-43  Soviet Union Medium machine gun
KPV  Soviet Union Heavy machine gun
PKM  Soviet Union General-purpose machine gun
Dragunov SVD  Soviet Union Semi-automatic sniper rifle
Alejandro Sniper Rifle  Cuba Bolt-action sniper rifle
Mambi  Cuba Anti-material rifle
RPG-7  Soviet Union Rocket-propelled grenade
SPG-9  Soviet Union Recoilless gun
AGS-17  Soviet Union Automatic grenade launcher
LPO-50  Soviet Union Flamethrower
RGD-5  Soviet Union Hand grenade
F1 grenade (Russia)  Soviet Union Hand grenade

Light and medium tanks

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
PT-76  Soviet Union 50 [15]

Main battle tanks

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
T-54/55  Soviet Union
800 Modernized active, others used as Self-Propelled Artillery with D-30 mounted; 300+ in storage[15]
T-62  Soviet Union 380 T-62Ms active[15]

Reconnaissance armoured vehicles

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
BRDM-2  Soviet Union 100

Infantry fighting vehicles

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
BMP-1  Soviet Union
BMD-1  Soviet Union

Armoured personnel carriers

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
BTR-152  Soviet Union
BTR-40  Soviet Union
BTR-50  Soviet Union
BTR-60  Soviet Union Various versions of this vehicle. Including one with a 100mm gun and a modified T-55 turret.
BTR-70  Soviet Union

Towed artillery

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
ZIS-3  Soviet Union
D-30  Soviet Union Mostly used as guns for Self-Propelled Artillery together with modernized A-19 122mm.
M-46  Soviet Union This 130mm long range gun is used also as a Self-Propelled Artillery Piece in 6x6 truck called Jupiter-V and there is also a version mounted on a T-34 chassis.
M-30  Soviet Union

Self-propelled artillery

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
2S1 Gvozdika  Soviet Union 60
2S3 Akatsiya  Soviet Union 40
T-55  Soviet Union
With M-46 130mm mounted

Multi rocket launchers

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
BM-14  Soviet Union
BM-21  Soviet Union
P-15 Termit  Soviet Union


Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
M-41/43  Soviet Union
M-38/43  Soviet Union

Anti-tank weapons

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
AT-3 Sagger  Soviet Union Mounted on the BTR-60s and some.
9K111 Fagot  Soviet Union
D-44  Soviet Union
T-12  Soviet Union

Anti-aircraft guns

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
ZU-23-2  Soviet Union 400
ZPU-4  Soviet Union 200
ZSU-23-4  Soviet Union 36
ZSU-57-2  Soviet Union 25
S-60  Soviet Union 200
M-1939  Soviet Union 300


Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
SA-6 Gainful  Soviet Union 12
SA-7 Grail  Soviet Union
SA-8 Gecko  Soviet Union 16
SA-9 Gaskin  Soviet Union 60
SA-13 Gopher  Soviet Union 42
SA-14 Gremlin  Soviet Union
SA-16 Gimlet  Soviet Union
S-75 Dvina  Soviet Union 144
S-125 Neva/Pechora  Soviet Union 60

Self-propelled SAM

Name Country of origin Quantity Notes
S-75 Dvina  Soviet Union
25 On T-55 chassis.
S-125 Neva/Pechora  Soviet Union
On T-55 chassis. This missile was seen in the Cuban Military Parade of 2006.

Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force

Cuban MiG-21MF from the 1970s
CIA map showing the estimated range of Cuban Mig-29 Fulcrum jets.

The Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force (Spanish: Defensa Anti-Aérea Y Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria) commonly abbreviated to DAAFAR in both Spanish and English, is the air force of Cuba.

Former aircraft include: MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, North American B-25 Mitchell, North American P-51 Mustang, and the Hawker Sea Fury

In the 1980s, Cuba with the help of the Soviet Union was able to project power abroad, using its air force, especially in Africa. During that time Cuba sent jet fighters and transports for deployment in conflict zones such as Angola and Ethiopia.

In 1990, Cuba's Air Force was the best equipped in Latin America. In all, the modern Cuban Air Force imported approximately 230 fixed-wing aircraft. Although there is no exact figure available, Western analysts estimate that at least 130 (with only 25 operational[17]) of these planes are still in service spread out among the thirteen military airbases on the island.

In 1996, fighters from the DAAFAR shot down two Cessna aircraft based in Florida which were incorrectly suspected of dropping leaflets into Cuban airspace. The air force was criticised for not giving the pilots of the aircraft options other than being shot down. One aircraft escaped.[18]

In 1998, according to the same DIA report mentioned above, the air force had 'fewer than 24 operational MIG fighters; pilot training barely adequate to maintain proficiency; a declining number of fighter sorties, surface-to-air missiles and air-defense artillery to respond to attacking air forces.[19]

By 2007 the International Institute for Strategic Studies assessed the force as 8,000 strong with 41 combat capable aircraft and a further 188 stored. DAAFAR is known now to have integrated another Mig-29 and a few MiG-23s which makes it 58 combat aircraft in active service which are listed as 6 MiG-29s, 40 MiG-23s, and 12 MiG-21s. There were also assessed to be 12 operational transport aircraft plus trainers which include 8 L-39C and helicopters which are mainly Mil Mi-8, Mil Mi-17 and Mil Mi-24 Hind. Raúl Castro ordered in 2010 that all MiG-29 pilots had to have full training, they now have from 200–250 hours of flight annually together with real dogfight training and exercises. Up to 20 MiG-23 units also have this kind of training but the other 16 MiG-23 units spend more time in simulators than real flight. MiG-21 units have limited time in this exercises and spend more time in simulators and maintain their skills flying with the commercial brand of the air force Aerogaviota.

At San Antonio de los Baños military air field, south west of Havana, several aircraft are visible using Google Earth.[20]

Cuban Revolutionary Navy (Marina de Guerra Revolucionaria, MGR)

Naval Jack of Cuba
Naval Jack of Cuba
The Rio Damuji n° 390 helicopter carrier patrol vessel in Havana (July 2011)

In 1988, the Cuban navy boasted 12,000 men, three submarines, two modern guided-missile frigates, and a large number of patrol craft and minesweepers.[21] However, most of the Soviet-made vessels have been decommissioned or sunk to make reefs. By 2007, the Cuban Navy was assessed as being 3,000 strong (including up to 550+ Navy Infantry) by the IISS with six Osa-II and one Pauk class corvette. The Cuban Navy also includes a small marine battalion called the Desembarco de Granma. It once numbered 550 men though its present size is not known.

After the old Soviet submarines were put out of service, Cuba searched for help from North Korea's experience in midget submarines. North Korean defectors claimed to have seen Cubans in mid to late 1990s into a secret submarine base and appeared in public view years later a single picture of a small black native submarine in Havana harbour. It is rumored to be called 'Delfin' and is to be armed with two torpedoes. Further analysis confirmed it to be a derived from the North Korean Yugo class submarine and up to 6 units are rumoured to be in service, even if 2 of them are used for civilian meteorologic studies.

The Cuban Navy rebuilt one, large ex-Spanish fishing boat. The BPH-390 Rio Damuji is now armed with 2 C-201W missiles, 1 x 2-57mm guns, 2 x 2-25mm guns and 1 x14.5mm machine gun. This vessel is larger than the Koni class, and it is used as a helicopter carrier patrol vessel. A second unit (n°392) is under construction at Cienfuegos and is expected to enter into service as a military ship also.

The Cuban Navy today operates its own missile systems, the made-in-Cuba Bandera (a copy of the dated Styx Soviet missiles) and Remulgadas anti-ship missile systems, as well as the nationally produced Frontera self-propelled coastal defence multiple rocket launcher. The navy's principle threats are drug smuggling and illegal immigration. The country's geographical position and limited naval presence has enabled traffickers to utilise Cuban territorial waters and airspace.[22]

Air and Naval Air Bases

List of active bases:




Fleet equipment
Ground forces organization
Ground forces equipment

The border guards have: 2 Stenka class patrol boats and as of 2007 approximately a dozen, down from 30/48, Zhuk patrol craft. Cuba makes Zhuk patrol craft and some are seen with an SPG-9 mounted on front of the twin 30mm guns.[23][24] [25]


Military Schools

See also


  1. 1 2 3 International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2015, p.392
  2. "The Cuban military and transition dynamics" (PDF).
  3. "Challenges to a Post-Castro Cuba" (PDF). Harvard International Review.
  4. 1 2 Carl Gershman and Orlando Gutierrez. "Can Cuba Change?" (PDF). Journal of Democracy January 2009. 20 (1).
  5. Claudia Zilla. "The Outlook for Cuba and What International Actors Should Avoid" (PDF).
  6. John Williams, Cuba: Havana's Military Machine, The Atlantic, August 1988
  7. Bryan Bender, 'DIA expresses concern over Cuban intelligence activity,' Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998, p.7
  8. Cuba and China strengthen military cooperation –, September 16, 2012
  9. Bryan Bender, 'DIA expresses concern over Cuban intelligence activity', Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998, p.7
  10. " "The World Factbook". Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  11. 1 2 "About this Collection" (PDF). The Library of Congress. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  12. "Cuban Armed Forces Review: Territorial Military Commands". Archived from the original on 12 January 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  13. IISS Military Balance 2007, p.70
  14. 1 2 "Armies of the world Arsenal". Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  15. 1 2 3 "Cuban Tanks". Cuban Aviation • Rubén Urribarres. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  16. International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2015, p.393
  17. Cuban Armed Forces Review: Air Force
  18. Sections 3.18, 3.19 and 3.20 of the Resolution on the Cuban Government's Shootdown of Brothers to the Rescue Adopted by the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at the Twentieth Meeting of its 148th Session on 27 June 1996
  19. Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998
  20.,-82.506809&spn=0.004557,0.006899&t=h&z=17 Google Earth imagery of San Antonio de los Baños airfield
  22. "Global Security on Cuban Navy".
  23. "PC Project 1400M Grif ('Zhuk') class". Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  24. "Zhuk class". Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  25. "Cuban Border Guard". Retrieved 9 December 2012.

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/3/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.