Military Wiki
Sudanese Armed Forces
Flag of Sudan.svg
Flag of Sudan
Founded 1925 (as the Sudan Defence Force)
Service branches Land Forces
Navy (including Marines)[1]
Air Force
Popular Defence Force
Headquarters Khartoum
Commander-in-Chief President Field Marshal Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir
Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein[2]
Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General. Mustafa Osman Obeid Salim
Military age 18
Active personnel 109,300, with paramilitary forces of an estimated 17,500 (IISS 2011, p.443)
Reserve personnel 85,000. Equipment= 370 m.b.t.'s, 396 i.f.v.'s & a.p.c.'s, 778 + artillery
Budget $4 Billion (2001 est.)
Percent of GDP 3.0% (2005 est.)
Domestic suppliers Military Industry Corporation
Foreign suppliers  China
Related articles
History Military history of Sudan:
First Sudanese Civil War
Second Sudanese Civil War
War in Darfur
Sudan–SPLM-N War
Heglig Crisis

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) are the armed forces of the Republic of Sudan. They number, according to 2011 IISS estimates, 109,300. They comprises Land Forces, a Navy, an Air Force, and the Popular Defence Force. They also previously had Joint Integrated Units formed together with its rebel enemies the Sudan People's Liberation Army. The Armed Forces operate under the authority of the People's Armed Forces Act 1986.[3] In 1991, the Library of Congress used the term 'Sudan People's Armed Forces' to refer to the entire armed forces, but by the late 2000s (decade), the 'Sudanese Armed Forces' term was most widespread. In 2004, the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress estimated that the Popular Defence Force, the military wing of the National Islamic Front, consists of 10,000 active members, with 85,000 reserves.[4] It has been deployed alongside regular army units against various rebel groups.

Sudan now receives most of its military equipment from the People's Republic of China and Russia. Sudan has a weapons production company called the Military Industry Corporation.

Sudanese Army[]

The origins of the Sudanese Army date to Sudanese soldiers recruited by the British during the reconquest of Sudan in 1898.[5] Sudan officially became the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1899. The highest-ranking British officer in Egypt, known as the Sirdar, also served as Governor General of the Sudan. In 1922, after nationalist riots stimulated by Egyptian leader Saad Zaghloul, Egypt was granted independence by the United Kingdom. The Egyptians wanted more oversight in the Sudan and created specialized units of Sudanese auxiliaries within the Egyptian Army called Al-Awtirah. This became the nucleus of the modern Sudanese Army.

The British Army formed the Sudan Defence Force (SDF) as local auxiliaries in 1925. The SDF consisted of a number of separate regiments. Most were made up of Muslim soldiers and stationed in the north, but the Equatoria Corps in the south was composed of Christians.[6] During World War II, the SDF augmented allied forces engaging Italians in Ethiopia. They also served during the Western Desert Campaign, supporting Free French and Long Range Desert Group operations at Kufra and Jalo oases in the Libyan Desert. "In 1947, the Sudanese military schools were closed, and the number of Sudanese troops was reduced to 7,570.[7] In 1948, the first Arab-Israeli War broke out. Sudanese Colonel Harold Saleh Al-Malik selected 250 combat-seasoned soldiers who had seen action in World War II. They arrived in Cairo to participate in a parade and were then dispatched to various units of the Egyptian army. This was a grave mistake, for the Sudanese had fought together in World War II and this broke unit cohesion. The decision was indicative of Egyptian military planners of the period. Forty-three Sudanese were killed in action in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In 1953, the British and the new Egyptian government reached an agreement that Sudan was to be put on the path of independence. General Ahmed Mohammed became Sudan's first army chief in August 1954. This is significant for the Sudanese, for it was the first time it had an independent army that was not governed by Britain or Egypt."

In March 1954 British Troops in the Sudan consisted of one battalion stationed in Khartoum, reporting ultimately to the Governor-General.[8] The Governor-General's military commander was the Major-General Commanding British Troops in the Sudan, who was also Commandant of the Sudan Defence Force. In this post from 1950 onward was Major General Reginald 'Cully' Scoons.[9] The last British troops, 1st Battalion Royal Leicestershire Regiment, left the country on 16 August 1955.[10] All of the British troops were gone by the end of August 1955.[11]

The Equatoria Corps mutinied at Torit on 18 August 1955, just before independence, prompting the formation of the Anyanya guerilla movement and the First Sudanese Civil War.[12] A company of the Equatoria Corps had been ordered to make ready to move to the north, but instead of obeying, the troops mutinied, along with other Southern soldiers across the South in Juba, Yei, Yombo, and Maridi.[13] "At independence in 1956, Sudan's 5,000-man army was regarded as a highly trained, competent, and apolitical force, but its character changed in succeeding years. To deal with the southern insurgency, the army expanded steadily to 12,000 personnel in 1959 and it leveled off at about 50,000 in 1972. After independence, the military -particularly the educated officer corps- lost much of its former apolitical attitude; soldiers associated themselves with parties and movements across the political spectrum."[5] On November 17, 1958, the army's two senior generals, Major General Ibrahim Abboud, the armed forces commander, and Ahmad Abd al Wahab, seized power in a military coup. Abboud was forced to step down in 1964.

During 1969 the Sudanese Army consisted of about 26,500 men, four infantry brigades of four battalions each, three independent infantry battalions, one armoured regiment, a parachute regiment, an armoured regiment and three artillery regiments.[14] There were 50 Alvis Saladins, 60 Ferret armoured cars, and 45 Commando armoured cars, about 50 25-pounders, 40 105-mm howitzers, 20 120-mm mortars, and 80 Bofors 40-mm guns.

On May 25, 1969, several young officers, led by Colonel Jaafar an Nimeiri, seized power, thus bringing the army into political control for the second time. From 1969 until 1971, a military government - the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), composed of nine young officers and one civilian - exercised authority over a largely civilian cabinet.[15] The RCC represented only a faction within the military establishment. From 1971 Nimeiri led a more civilian-based government. The first civil war ended in a negotiated settlement in 1973. Sudan sent at least one infantry brigade to the Sinai peninsula as a reinforcement to the Egyptian forces during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It arrived too late, on October 28, 1973 and saw no fighting. The Second Sudanese Civil War broke out again in 1982 and continued until 2005. The Land Forces were "basically a light infantry force in 1991, supported by specialized elements. Operational control extended from the headquarters of the general staff in Khartoum to the six regional commands (central, eastern, western, northern, southern, and Khartoum). Each regional command was organized along divisional lines. Thus, the Fifth Division was at Al-Ubayyid in Kurdufan (Central Command), the Second Division was at Khashm El Girba (Eastern Command), the Sixth Division was assigned to Al-Fashir in Darfur (Western Command), the First Division was at Juba (Southern Command), and the Seventh [Armoured] Division was at As Shajarah just south of Khartoum (Khartoum Command). The Airborne Division was based at Khartoum International Airport. The Third Division was located in the north, although no major troop units were assigned to it. Each division had a liaison officer attached to general headquarters in Khartoum to facilitate the division's communication with various command elements. This organisational structure did not provide an accurate picture of actual troop deployments. All of the divisions were understrength. The Sixth Division in Darfur was a reorganised brigade with only 2,500 personnel. Unit strengths varied widely. Most brigades were composed of 1,000 to 1,500 troops."[16] Keegan, writing in 1983, indicated that the northern command was located at Shendi.

To reduce the pressure on the regular armed forces, the Sudanese government made extensive use of militias, such as the South Sudan Defence Forces. This largely symbolic coalition of seven groups was formed with the signing of the Khartoum Peace Agreement with the NIF in 1997. The SSDF was led by former Garang lieutenant Riek Machar.[17] In 2007 the IISS estimated that the SAF had 104,800 personnel supported by 17,500 paramilitary personnel.[18]

Jane's Information Group said in May 2009 that 'There are a number of infantry divisions, divided among [the six] regional commands. The commander of each military region traditionally commanded the divisional and brigade commanders within his territory. It is understood that there are six infantry divisions and seven independent infantry brigades; a mechanised division and an independent mechanised infantry brigade; and an armoured division. Other elements are understood to include a Special Forces battalion with five companies; an airborne division and a border guard brigade. Support elements include an engineer division.' Jane's reported the army's strength as 100,000 plus militias.[19] Afdevinfo has reported that the 1st Division at Juba has been disbanded.

Jane's Sentinel reports that there are two engineer brigades supporting the 9th Airborne Division. Jane's Amphibious and Special Forces, 2010, lists the 9th Airborne Division headquartered in Khartoum which includes two airborne brigades and the 144th Special Forces Battalion, an anti-terrorist unit.[20] It also mentions the two engineer brigades for special forces support.

Following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended the second civil war, the Sudanese Armed Forces formed joint military units with the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. These units, the Joint Integrated Units, were commanded by Major General Thomas Cirillo Swaka. With the probable dissolution of the JIUs following the Southern Sudanese independence referendum, 2011, the SPLA components are expected to be either integrated back into the SPLA or be demobilised. The SPLA components however are a lesser concern than the SAF components. Many of the SAF JIU personnel are former militia ('Other Armed Groups' or OAGs) who were 'aligned' rather than being formally 'incorporated' within the northern army.[21] 'Aside from regular SAF units in locations such as Malakal and Bor, many of the SAF elements of the JIUs hail from the areas where they are serving and have strong family ties in these locations. As with the SPLA components, integration into the SPLA or increased incentives to demobilize are the only options the SAF components are likely to consider—movement north being out of the question.'

The military and allied militias have fought in the Sudanese Civil War, the Darfur Conflict, the Sudan–SPLM-N conflict and the 2012 South Sudan-Sudan border conflict.

Education and Training[]

The Military College at Wadi Sayyidna, near Omdurman, had been Sudan's primary source of officer training since it opened in 1948. A two-year program, emphasizing study in political and military science and physical training, led to a commission as a second lieutenant in the SPAF. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an average of 120 to 150 officers were graduated from the academy each year. In the late 1950s, roughly 60 graduated each year, peaking to more than 500 in early 1972 as a result of mobilisation brought on by the first southern rebellion. Students from other Arab and African countries were also trained at the Military College, and in 1982 sixty Ugandans were graduated as part of a Sudanese contribution to rebuilding the Ugandan army after Amin's removal from power.


The modern Sudanese Armed Forces is equipped mainly with Soviet, Russian, Chinese, Ukrainian, Iranian, and Sudanese manufactured weaponry. Significant data has been made available by the UN Experts' Groups on the Sudan on arms supplies to Sudanese forces. The standard issue assault rifle is now an H&K G3 variant that is domestically manufactured.

The IISS reported in 2007 that the SAF had 200 T-54/55 main battle tanks and 70 Type 62 light tanks. [18] By 2011 the total that the IISS listed was 360: 20 M-60, 60 Type 59, 270 T-54/55, and 10 'Al Bashier' (Type-85-IIM).[22] The 'Al-Bashier' is a licensed version of the Type 85M-II tank.[23] In addition, the 'Digna'a modernisation programme for the T-55 has been reported.[24] Chinese Type 96 tanks have also been known to serve in the Sudanese Army. These are by far and away Sudan's most modern and powerful tanks.[25][26][27]

The IISS reported 218 armoured cars (6 AML-90, 60 BRDM-1/2, 80 Ferret, 20 Rakhsh APC[28] and 30 Alvis Saladin) in 2007, alongside 15 BMP-2.[29] Also reported were 42 M-113, 19 LAV-150/V-100 Commando, BTR-152/BTR-50, 20 OT-62/OT-64. 104 Egyptian Walid were ordered in 1981-1986.[29]

The IISS estimated in 2011 that Sudan had 778+ artillery pieces, including 20 M-101, 16 D-30, D-74, M-30, and 75 130mm M-46/Type-59-I.[22] The IISS estimated in 2011 that the Army had 20 pieces of self-propelled artillery, including 10 2S1 Gvozdika and 10 (AMX) Mk F3.[22] Multiple rocket launchers include 122mm BM-21 Grad and Type-81. Also reported were M43 mortars (120mm). Anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons reported included a number of Swingfire. 54 9K32 Strela-2 (SA-7 Grail) were reported, and many anti-aircraft guns. According to a UN official document, Sudan also allegedly has 10 T-72s provided by Ukraine.[30]

Air Force[]

The Sudanese Air Force runs a mixture of planes, including Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters, Chengdu J-7 fighters, MiG-29 fighters, Su-25 close air support aircraft, and Q-5 'Fantan' ground attack aircraft, and Antonov medium and long transport aircraft.

There are reports of Iranian support to the Air Force and the rest of the armed forces.[31]

A long-established training centre and airbase is at Wadi Sayyidna, where No. 2 Fighter-Attack Squadron SuAF operated J-7s for a period.[32] The Military Balance 2009 said that in addition to Wadi Sayyidna (north of Omdurman), the other main air base was at Khartoum International Airport. The Military Balance also said that El Geneina, Nyala and El Fasher have been used for Darfur operations, and that aircrew training had been reported at Dezful-Ardestani air base (Dezful Airport?), in southern Iran.[33]

The Armed Forces have suffered significant numbers of senior personnel killed in several aircraft crashes, in 2001, and in August 2012.


Jane's Fighting Ships for 1999-2000 stated that the Sudanese navy was established in 1962 to operate on the Red Sea coast and the River Nile.[34] In 1999, estimated naval strength was 1,300 officers and men. Reported bases were at Port Sudan and Flamingo Bay on the Red Sea and at Khartoum. The navy had two 70-ton, 75-foot, coastal patrol craft, Kadir (129) and Karari (130), both transferred from the Iranian Coast Guard to Sudan in 1975, as well as sixteen inshore patrol craft and two supply ships.

The navy, according to 2004 estimates from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, now has 1,800 personnel, and a base at Marsa Gwayawi on the Red Sea.[35]


  1. CIA - The World Factbook -- Military of Sudan
  2. "World Defence Almanac". Bonn, Germany: Monch Publishing Group. 2008. p. 290. ISSN 0722-3226. 
  3. UNMIS, Joint Integrated Units Act
  4. Library of Congress Country Profile Sudan, December 2004
  5. 5.0 5.1 Development of the Armed Forces, Library of Congress Country Studies, 1991
  6. Maj Gen L G Whistler, The Sudan Defence Force, British Army Review, Issue 6, July 1951 - state at that point four infantry/camel units, signals regiment, AA artillery regiment, other units
  7. Youssef Aboul-Enein, The Sudanese Army: a historical analysis and discussion on religious politicization, U.S. Army Infantry magazine, July–August 2004
  8. British Parliament House of Lords Debate, 10 March 1954
  9. Sir Reginald-Cully-Scoones
  10. British Troops in the Sudan
  11. O'Ballance, 1977, p.42
  12. Robert O. Collins, Civil wars and revolution in the Sudan: essays on the Sudan, 2005, p.140
  13. O'Ballance, 1977, p.41
  14. IISS, Adelphi Paper No. 67, The Armed Forces of African States, May 1970, via O'Ballance, 1977, p.118
  15. Library of Congress Country Studies, Sudan, 1991
  16. Library of Congress Country Studies, 1991
  17. Claire Mc Evoy and Emile LeBrun, Uncertain Future: Armed Violence in Southern Sudan, HSBA Working Paper No. 20, April 2010, p.13
  18. 18.0 18.1 Military Balance 2007, 293.
  19. Jane's World Armies, May 2009
  20. accessed June 2010
  21. Richard Rands, In Need of Review: SPLA Transformation in 2006–10 and Beyond, HSBA-Small Arms Survey, Working Paper 23, November 2010, p.23
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 IISS Military Balance 2011, 443.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Arms Trade Register". SIPRI. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  32. Tom Cooper, Sudan, Civil War since 1955 Air Combat Information Group, Feb 10, 2008
  33. Military Balance 2009, p.321
  34. Captain Richard Sharpe RN (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships 1999-2000; Coulsdon, Surry: Jane's Information Group, pages 657-658.
  35. Library of Congress Country Profile Sudan, December 2004, p.14

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2007 edition".


  • Tom Cooper, Sudan, Civil War since 1955 Air Combat Information Group, Feb 10, 2008
  • Library of Congress Country Studies, Sudan, 1991
  • O'Ballance, Edgar. The Secret War in the Sudan: 1955-1972, Faber and Faber, 1977, ISBN 0-571-10768-0
  • Richard Rands, In Need of Review: SPLA Transformation in 2006–10 and Beyond, HSBA-Small Arms Survey, Working Paper 23, November 2010

Further reading[]

  • Bienen, H.S., and J. Moore, 'The Sudan Military Economic Corporations,' Armed Forces and Society Vol. 13, No. 4, 1987, pp. 489–516
  • Mohamed Ahmed Karar's book, Al-Jaysh Al-Sudani Wa Al-Inqaaz "The popular army and the NRC" translated as 'The Sudanese Army and National Salvation' (Khartoum, Sudan: Dar Al-Balad Publisher, 1990)
  • Jago Salmon, A Paramilitary Revolution: The Popular Defence Forces, Small Arms Survey HSBA Working Paper No.10, December 2007
  • Small Arms Survey, Joint Integrated Units
  • US Army Area Handbook for the Republic of Sudan, Dept of the Army Pamphlet No 550-27, Second Edition, 1964
  • ‘New War, Old Enemies: Conflict Dynamics in South Kordofan’, by Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana, now available for downloading at

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