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The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces consist of ground forces, naval forces, air and air defence forces, and other paramilitary bodies including the Territorial Troops Militia (MTT), Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), and Youth Labor Army (EJT).

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. The military controls 60 percent of the economy through the management of hundreds of enterprises in key economic sectors. The military is also Raúl Castro's base. In numerous speeches, Raúl Castro has emphasized the military’s role as a party vassal.After military, the most important "legs" of the regime are the Communist Party of Cuba and the security apparatus. Both are increasingly subordinate to the military and serve to control, mobilize, socialize, and indoctrinate the population under increased military supervision.


From 1966 until the late 1980s, massive Soviet Union military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities and project power abroad. The Soviet Unionmarker 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 missile crisis. In 1994, Cuba's armed forces were estimated to have 235,000 active duty personnel.

In 1989, the government instituted a purge 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 and 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 49,000 regular troops. 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.". Cuba also adopted a "war of the people" strategy that highlights the defensive nature of its capabilities.

The Cuban military is currently being re-trained by Pakistanmarker. The Pakistani military stressed to Cuba that it has strong defence infrastructure both in defence production and in shape of military academies to provide the necessary help and cooperation to turn the Cuban military into a modern and effective "blitzkrieg" military.


In 1985, according to Jane's Military Review (Fourth Year of Issue), 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. The same report said that Cuban special operations forces, comprising a battalion-sized airborne unit and a number of smaller units, continue to train but on a smaller scale than beforehand. While the lack of replacement parts for its existing equipment and the current severe shortage of fuel have increasingly affected operational capabilities, Cuba remains able to offer considerable resistance to any regional power.

Organization in 1996

There is estimated to be 38,000 army personnel organized into three Territorial Military Commands with three Armies; one army for each command.

Revolutionary Army Command:
  • Airborne brigade consisting of 2 battalions (at Havana and its immediate environs)
  • Artillery division (at Havana and its immediate environs)
  • SAM Brigade
  • An anti-aircraft artillery regiment

Western Army (deployed in the capital and the provinces of Havana and Pinar del Rio)
  • 1st Armored Training Division
  • 70th Mechanized Division
  • 78th Armored Division

2nd (Pinar del Rio) Army Corps:
  • 24th Infantry Division
  • 27th Infantry Division
  • 28th Infantry Division

Central Army (Provinces of Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus)
  • 81st Infantry Division
  • 84th Infantry Division
  • 86th Infantry Division
  • 89th Infantry Division
  • 12th Armored Regiment/1st Armored Division
  • 242nd Infantry Regiment/24th Infantry Division

4th (Las Villas) Army Corps:
  • 41st Infantry Division
  • 43rd Infantry Division
  • 48th Infantry Division

Eastern Army (Provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Granma, Holguin, Las Tunas, Camaguy and Ciego de Avila)
  • 3rd Armored Division
  • 6th Armored Division
  • 9th Armored Division
  • 31st Infantry Division
  • 32nd Infantry Division
  • 38th Infantry Division
  • 84th Infantry Division
  • 90th Infantry Division
  • 95th Infantry Division
  • 97th Infantry Division
  • Guantanamo Frontier Brigade
  • 123rd Infantry Division/former 12th Infantry Division
  • 281st Infantry Regiment/28th Infantry Division

6th (Holguin) Army Corps:
  • 50th Mechanized Division
  • 52nd Infantry Division
  • 54th Infantry Division
  • 56th Infantry Division
  • 58th Infantry Division

6th (Camaguey) Army Corps:
  • 60th Mechanized Division
  • 63rd Infantry Division
  • 65th Infantry Division
  • 69th Infantry Division


Infantry Weapons

Light Tanks (50) Medium Tanks (300) Main Battle Tanks (1,550) Reconnaissance Armoured Vehicles (100) Infantry Fighting Vehicles (400) Armoured Personnel Carriers (700) Towed Artillery (500) Self-Propelled Artillery (40) Multi Rocket Launchers (175) Mortars (1000)
  • M-41/43
  • M-38/43
Anti-Tank Weapons Anti-Aircraft Guns (400)

Ballistic missiles
  • FROG-7 (70 km range) - 65 launchers
  • Hwasong-5 / 6 (330 - 550 km range), unconfirmed

Air and Air Defense Force (DAAFAR)

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 to fight in countries such as Angola (against South Africa) and Ethiopia (against Somalia)

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) of these planes are still in service spread out among the thirteen military airbases on the Island.

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.

By 2007 the IISS assessed the force as 8,000 strong with 31 combat capable aircraft and a further 179 stored. The 31 combat capable aircraft were listed as 3 MiG-29s, 24 MiG-23s, and 4 MiG-21s. There were also assessed to be 12 operational transport aircraft plus trainers and helicopters.

Revolutionary Navy (Marina de Guerra Revolucionaria, MGR)

Almost all of the ships of the Navy have been decommissioned and the three Koni class frigateswere either expended as targets or sunk to build reefs. Cuba has constructed rolling platforms with Soviet P-15 Termitmissile batteries taken from its warships and placed them near beaches where hostile amphibious assaults may occur. Most patrol boats are non-operational due to lack of fuel and spares.

In 1998, according to the same CIA report, the navy had no functioning submarines, around 12 surface vessels that are combat ready, a 'weak' anti-surface warfare capability, primarily SS-N-2 Styx SSM equipped fast attack boats, and an 'extremely weak' anti-submarine warfare capability.

By 2007 the Navy was assessed as 3,000 strong by the IISS with six Osa-II and one Pauk-class fast attack craft.

The Navy also includes a small marinebattalion called the Desembarco de Granma. It once numbered 550 men and its present size is not known.

Current manpower is estimated at 3,000 (includes 550+ Navy Infantry).

Air and Naval Air Bases

List of active bases:

  • Cabañas (HQ Western Command) – San Julian Air Base (MUSJ)
    • 23rd Regiment (Mig-23ML)
    • Rwy 01/19 2041 m (6695 ft)
    • Rwy 08/26 2584 m (8479 ft)

  • Holguinmarker (HQ Eastern Command) – Frank País Airportmarker (MUHG)
    • 1724 Interceptor Regiment (Mig-23BN)
    • 3710 Interceptor Squadron and Training
    • 34th Tactical Regiment

  • Havana – José Martí Airportmarker (MUHA)
    • 25th Transport Regiment (Il-76 and An-32)
    • Rwy 06/24, Size: 4001 m (13125 ft)


  • CienfuegosmarkerCienfuegos Airportmarker (Jaime González Air Station) (MUCF)
    • single 2/20 runway (4954 ft)‎
    • 15th Transport Regiment (An-2 and An-26)
    • 16th Helicopter Regiment (Mi-8, Mi-14, Mi-17)

  • Güinesmarker
    • 24 Tactical Regiment (Mig-23BN)

  • Santiago de CubamarkerAntonio Maceo Airportmarker (MUCU)
    • 35th Transport Regiment (An-2 and An-26)
    • 36 Helicopter Regiment (Mi-8 and Mi-24)
    • Rwy 09/27 4000 m (13123 ft)
    • Rwy 18/36 1296 m (4252 ft)



The border guards have: 2 Stenka patrol boats and 18 Zhuk patrol craft


  • 1 Soviet Foxtrot class submarine with 533 mm and 406 mm Torpedo Tube (non-operational); 3 transferred
  • 2 Soviet Koni corvettes with 2 Anti-Submarine Weapon Rocket Launcher (non-operational); 3 transferred
  • 4 Soviet Osa I/II missile boats with 4 SS-N-2 Styx Surface-to-Surface Missile+
  • 1 Soviet Pauk II Fast Patrol Craft, Coastal with 2 Anti-Submarine Weapon Rocket Launcher, 4 Anti-Submarine Torpedo Tube
  • 1 Soviet Polnocny LSM (medium landing ship), capacity 180 tps, 6tk (non-operational)

See also


  1. IISS Military Balance 2007, p.70
  2. Bryan Bender, 'DIA expresses cconcern over Cuban intelligence activity,' Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998, p.7
  4. Bryan Bender, 'DIA expresses concern over Cuban intelligence activity', Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998, p.7
  5. [1]
  8. "Cuban Tanks"
  9. * Użycki, D. , Begier, T. , Sobala, S. Współczesne Gąsiennicowe Wozy Bojowe. Wydawnictwo Lampart. ISBN 1-892848-01-5
  11. Cuban Armed Forces Review: Air Force
  12. Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998

Further reading

  • Piero Gleijeses: Kuba in Afrika 1975-1991. In: Bernd Greiner /Christian Th. Müller / Dierk Walter (Hrsg.): Heiße Kriege im Kalten Krieg. Hamburg, 2006, ISBN 3-936096-61-9, S. 469-510. ( Review by H. Hoff, Review by I. Küpeli)

External links

Total Del'd
Total Now
Combat Aircraft
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed fighter
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger fighter
multirole fighter
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter
multirole fighter
Mil Mi-8 Hip transport/attack helicopter Mi-8T
Mil Mi-17 Hip-H transport/attack helicopter Mi-17 16 8
Mil Mi-24 Hind attack Mi-24D 20 4
Antonov An-24 Coke / cargo An-24 20 4
Antonov An-26 Curl cargo An-26 17 3
Yakovlev Yak-40 Codling VIP Yak-40 8 3
Ilyushin Il-62 VIP Il-62 1 1
Ilyushin Il-96 VIP Il-96 2 2
Aero L-39 Albatros trainer/attack L-39C 30 7
Zlin Z-326 trainer Z-326T 60 20

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