Dubai: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has said that Armed Forces unification was a historic achievement that underscored the perseverance of the Founding Fathers and their determination to advance and establish the Union’s foundations.
In a statement to the Nation Shield, the official journal of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed said that “the decision was a historic achievement that underscored the perseverance of the Founding Fathers and their determination to advance and establish the Union’s foundations.”
His Highness also spoke of the importance of establishing our national military industry explaining how it helps “reinforce the independence of the UAE’s political decision-making process, support its economic diversification efforts, and supply the Emirati scientific community with citizen expertise and capacities.”
Sheikh Mohamed’s statement in full:
Officers and soldiers of our gallant Armed Forces, my sons and daughters,
Today, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Armed Forces Unification Day during the Holy Month of Ramadan, and we express our gratitude to Allah Almighty for our blessings, achievements and successful process of national sustainable development.
Year of the 50th
This year, our celebration of this precious occasion has acquired exceptional importance, as it falls on the “Year of the 50th”, which was announced by my brother, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to celebrate our unique journey over the first 50 years of our nation’s history, as well as to prepare for our sustainable transformation over the next 50 years. “Year of the 50th” requires us to think about our journey and ask ourselves, “Where were we? What have we achieved? and what were the outcomes of the wisdom, perseverance and visions of the Founding Fathers for building our country and making it one of the world’s fastest-growing, developing and progressing countries in record time?”
Best possible outcome
On December 2, 1972, our Founding Fathers achieved the best possible outcomes, given the local, regional and international situations back then. They were aware that they were establishing an unprecedented federal model in the Arab region, and patience and resilience are required to establish a nation made up of several emirates. They were also aware of the fact that their historic achievement in establishing the Union and its institutions and reinforcing its regional and global presence was the first step and will be followed by further steps to strengthen its foundations. The unification of the Armed Forces 45 years ago was at the forefront of these steps, and I was honoured to play a part in this event and the subsequent journey.
How it happened
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan formed a committee to study and propose the unification procedures, which submitted its recommendations to the Supreme Council of the Union for approval. Sheikh Zayed chaired the meeting of the Supreme Council of Defence, which included the country’s Vice President, Prime Minister and ministers of defence, foreign affairs, interior and finance, as well as the Supreme Commander and Chief of Staff. During the meeting, Sheikh Zayed drafted a plan to assemble the “Union Defence Force”, which was later known as the “Federal Armed Forces”, to improve the capacities of recruits and supply them with adequate armaments. On 6 May, 1976, the Supreme Council of Defence held a meeting, which was chaired by Sheikh Zayed, and issued the Armed Forces Unification decision.
The decision was a historic achievement that underscored the perseverance of the Founding Fathers and their determination to advance and establish the Union’s foundations. The related implementation procedures also highlighted our ability to address a difficult challenge, considering our limited military resources. We suffered from a significant shortage of qualified personnel and there was an insufficient number of available personnel to be unified. I would not imagine the modern army of our country to not include citizens among its leaders and officers. Therefore, the gradual unification of our Armed Forces was inevitable.
The training of military leaders and cadres constituted a significant challenge. However, we have addressed this challenge, and due to the leadership of the late Sheikh Zayed, my brother, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and my brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, we succeeded, in only a few years, in Emiratising our Armed Forces’ ranks, and we are proud of their capacities, performance and abilities, as well as their success in using advanced weapons.
The young generations who are proud of their Armed Forces are required to contemplate the story of the establishment of our national military cadres, which accurately summarises the process of national social development. This story proves that developing Emirati human resources was not just a slogan, but rather a well-planned process that produced qualified cadres and leaders who assumed significant responsibilities in all areas of national action, including in the government, the private sector, civil and military industries, space sciences and industries, the clean energy sector, and the nuclear energy sector and its peaceful deployment.
History is a great teacher, and our history over the past 50 years is full of lessons, and our prosperous present is the outcome of the significant efforts started by our Founding Fathers. If our achievements in urban development are obvious, our greatest achievement is in the areas of social development and Emirati human resources. Our intellectuals and journalists are required to exert significant efforts to highlight this fact to future generations. In this regard, we need to analyse the progress of one of the key drivers of our social development, which is education, and compare it to the current situation.
Fifty years ago, the illiteracy rate was more than 80 per cent. During the 1970-1971 academic year, the total number of school students was only 16,400, with 11,000 being in primary education, 4,500 in preparatory education and 900 in secondary education. These figures did not discourage us, as this was the reality in our country. However, our response to this challenge consisted of launching and implementing plans aimed at promoting education, building schools, dispatching educational missions abroad and establishing universities. Today, the national illiteracy rate is among the lowest globally, and the quality of our education is among the best in the world.
In terms of military education, before the Union came into existence, there was only one military school in the country that prepared its students to serve in the British Scout Forces. Their main mission was to protect oil facilities and British interests and citizens. We addressed the military education challenge by establishing military schools and colleges, which became the best in the world and supplied our Armed Forces with citizen cadres in all branches of the military. Our national system was completed by the establishment of the National Service Training Programme, which instils the values of patriotism and loyalty among our youth and promotes discipline and sacrifice, so that can serve their country with dedication and devotion. Officers and soldiers, Emirati citizens, as we celebrate the anniversary of our Armed Forces Unification Day and appreciate their efficiency and capabilities, we should highlight a major achievement of our Armed Forces, which is the establishment of Emirati military industries.
Upon the issuance of the decision to unify our Armed Forces, the Founding Fathers thought about military industries, but that was just a dream back then. However, the wise vision of the country’s leadership and its plans and efforts, as well as the determination of our country’s citizens, have made this dream come true. Today, our military industries constitute a key element of our strength. We were well aware of the importance of establishing our national military industry, not only to meet the needs of our Armed Forces, but also to reinforce the independence of our political decision-making process, support our efforts to diversify our economy, and supply the Emirati scientific community with citizen expertise and capacities. Military industries in advanced countries are key platforms for research, development, inventions and innovations in military and civil areas.
In addition to successfully addressing the scarcity of human resources 50 years ago, our plans for establishing military industries in the country have solved the challenge of acquiring expertise and transferring and Emiratising technology, through linking arms programmes to manufacturing and transfer of knowledge programmes, as well as by organising specialist exhibitions, most notably the Dubai Airshow and International Defence Exhibition & Conference (IDEX). Our local military industries have enabled our sons and daughters to directly interact with the best expertise and utilise the latest technologies, strengthening our national scientific capacities and accelerating the process of transferring and Emiratising technology.
Today, our factories produce and export armoured vehicles, military transport vehicles, missiles of all types and categories, individual weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles, training aircraft and airships, light stealth aircraft, ships, cruisers and warships, aerial surveillance and information-gathering equipment. Officers and soldiers, Emirati citizens, over the past 50 years, we have accomplished significant achievements recognised by everyone. The Emirati model has become a leading benchmark enabling us to advance steadily towards a more prosperous future.
Since my brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, and I declared 2020 as the Year of Preparations for the Next 50 Years, and despite the repercussions of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on our country and the entire world, our government organised key workshops that engaged the community in establishing a strategic framework for our work over the next 50 years, as well as in drafting a development plan with clear objectives, priorities and time frames, and a vision for the government action system to ensure its readiness for the future and its ability to foresee international challenges and developments, to make our government the fastest and most flexible and adaptable.
The ability of our Armed Forces to foresee the future and keep pace with changes is part of its culture. Its role over the next fifty years will naturally be to continue its work since its inception as our nation’s shield and protector, ensuring our security, stability, sovereignty and independence.
As we celebrate the journey of the establishment and advancement of our Armed Forces, I am confident that they will continue to develop and strengthen their capabilities, under the leadership of my brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.
On the anniversary of the Armed Forces Unification Day, we salute its recruits and cherish their courage, loyalty and patriotism, and we solemnly honour our martyrs who passed away while defending our country, and we pray to Allah Almighty to grant us further success and inspire us to continue our journey, as well as to bless our nation and people and maintain our security, stability and prosperity.