Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces

Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
Revolutionary Armed Forces
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias
Founded 1960
Service branches Army
Air and Air Defense Force
Revolutionary Navy
paramilitary units
Commander-in-Chief Pres. Raúl Castro
Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Corps Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro
Conscription 3 years active duty
Available for
military service
Men (17–49): 3,134,622
Women (17–49): 3,022,063, age 15–49
Fit for
military service
Men (17–49): 1,929,370
Women (17–49): 1,888,498, age 15–49
Active personnel 85,000 (2011 est.)
Percent of GDP 3.8% (2006)
Domestic suppliers Flag of Cuba.svg Union of Military Industry
Related articles
History Military history of Cuba
Ranks Ranks of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces

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 (Milicias de Tropas Territoriales—MTT), Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias—FAR), and Youth Labor Army (Ejército Juvenil del Trabajo—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.[1] The military controls 60 percent of the economy through the management of hundreds of enterprises in key economic sectors.[2][3] The military is also Raúl Castro's base.[3] In numerous speeches, Raúl Castro has emphasized the military's role as a people's partner.[4]



From 1966 until the late 1980s, massive Soviet Government military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities up to number 1 in Latin America and project power abroad. The first Cuban military mission in Africa was established in Ghana in. Cuba's military forces appeared in Algeria, in 1963, when a distinctly military "medical brigade" came over from Havana to support a moribund regime.[5] Since the 1960s, Cuba sent military forces to African and Arab countries; Syria in 1973, Ethiopia in 1978, the Cuban intervention in Angola from 1975–1989, 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 1994, Cuba's armed forces were estimated to have 235,000 active duty personnel and now reduced to 80,000 as of.[citation needed]

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, 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 79,000 regular troops.[6] 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.

The Cuban military has held high-level talk with the Pakistan military. 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.[citation needed]


Guards at the Mausoleum of José Marti, Santiago de Cuba

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.[8] 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.[9]

2002 Organisation

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 included 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[10].

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 Organisation

There are estimated to be 38,000 army personnel.[6] As of 1996, according to Jane's Information Group, the army is organized into three Territorial Military Commands with three Armies, one army for each command.[12]

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[13]
  • An anti-aircraft artillery regiment[13]

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

  • 1st Armored Training Division
  • 70th Mechanised Division
  • 78th Armored Division

2nd (Pinar del Río) 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, Guantánamo, Granma, Holguín, Las Tunas, Camagüey 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 (Holguín) Army Corps:

  • 50th Mechanised Division
  • 52nd Infantry Division
  • 54th Infantry Division
  • 56th Infantry Division
  • 58th Infantry Division

6th (Camagüey) Army Corps:

  • 60th Mechanised Division
  • 63rd Infantry Division
  • 65th Infantry Division
  • 69th Infantry Division


Infantry weapons

Light tanks

Medium Tanks (300) Some were modernized with 122mm artillery pieces.

Main battle tanks (1,550)

Reconnaissance armoured vehicles (100)

Infantry fighting vehicles (400)

Armoured personnel carriers (700)

Towed artillery (620)

Self-propelled artillery (100)

  • Soviet Union 2S1 Gvozdika
  • Soviet Union 2S3 Akatsiya
  • Cuba UNKNOWN NAME ( with a D-30 122mm)
  • Cuba T-34/85 with a D-30 122mm mounted
  • Cuba T-55 with M-46 130mm mounted

Multi rocket launchers (200)

Mortars (2,000)

Anti-tank weapons

Anti-aircraft guns (+1000)

Ballistic missiles

  • Soviet Union 9K52 Luna-M - 65
  • North Korea Hwasong-5 / 6 (330 – 550 km range)


Self-propelled SAM

  • Soviet Union SA-2 - 25 (On T-55 chassis)
  • Soviet Union S-125 Neva/Pechora (On T-55 chassis) Lots of this missiles were seen in the Cuban Military Parade of 2006.

Special Forces

Special Forces units include the Black Wasps of the army, and Desembarco de Granma a Special marine unit of the Navy. The Ministry of interior also has a special paramilitary unit.

Air and Air Defense Force (DAAFAR)

Cuban Revolutionary Air Force
Active 1960-present
Country  Cuba
Branch Air Force
Roundel Roundel of the Cuban Air Force 1928-1955 and 1962-today.svg
Former roundels Roundel of the Cuban Air Force 1959-1962.svg

Roundel of the Cuban Air Force 1955-1959.svg

Fin flash Cuba Air force fin flash.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack L-39, Mi-24
Fighter MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-29
Trainer L-39
Transport Mi-8, Mi-17, An-24
Cuban MiG-21 over Florida, circa 1970

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 to fight in countries such as Angola (against UNITA / 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[16]) 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.[17]

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-23 which makes it 57 combat aircraft in service which are listed as 6 MiG-29s, 40 MiG-23s, and 11 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 has 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.

A look at Google Earth 22*52'28.40" N 82*30'26.04" W[18] at San Antonio de los Banos military air field, south west of Havana, will reveal what appear to be 8 MiG-21s, 19 MiG-23s, 2 MiG-29s and an Mi-8 left out to rust in the tropical sun. It looks like the jungle is overtaking some of these aircraft as well.

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

Revolutionary Navy (Marina de Guerra Revolucionaria, MGR)

In 1998, according to a CIA report, the navy had no functioning submarines, around 12 surface vessels that were 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 being 3,000 strong (including up to 550+ Navy Infantry) by the IISS with six Osa-II and one Pauk-class fast attack craft.

Almost all of the ships of the Navy have been decommissioned and the three Koni class frigates were either expended as targets or sunk to build reefs. Cuba has constructed rolling platforms with Soviet P-15 Termit missile 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.

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

There are reports of new naval projects under the Raúl Castro government, including the building of a class of 4 enlarged Sang-O submarines with the help of North Koreans, with reports that at least one unit having been built. There is also a single picture of a small black native submarine in Havana harbour, it is rumored to be called Delfin and to be armed with two torpedoes.

The Cuban Navy are also rebuilding one, maybe two large ex-Spanish fishing boats. One, the Rio Damuji n° 390, has been seen with guns and Stynx missiles on the deck. These vessels are larger than the Koni class, and it is rumored that they can be used in the amphibious role or as frigates.

Air and Naval Air Bases

List of active bases:

  • Havana – José Martí Airport (MUHA)


  • Mariel – Mariel Airfield (MUML) – now container terminal
    • former anti-submarine helicopter squadron (Ka-32 and Mil Mi-14PL)
  • Campo Teniente Brihuega
  • Playa Baracoa – Playa Baracoa Airfield (MUPB)
    • 22nd Regiment
  • Punta Movida
    • Soviet built base
  • San Antonio de los Baños Airport (MUSA)
    • 21st Regiment (Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21B)
    • 1724 Regiment
    • 3 Runways
      • Rwy 01/19 2400 m (7873 ft)
      • Rwy 05/23 3596 m (11799 ft)
      • Rwy 12/30 2482 m (8144 ft)
  • Sancti Spíritus – Sancti Spiritus Airport (MUSS)



  • 1 to 4 improved Sang-O class, North Korean-Cuban submarine
  • 1 to 6 Delfin class, Cuban submarine


  • 2  Cuba Rio Damuji class Frigates, 1 x 57mm gun, 2 Styx surface to surface missiles, 1 x 12.7mm machine gun, 2 x 25mm machine guns.
  • 1  Soviet Union Pauk II Fast Patrol Craft, Coastal with 1 x 76 mm gun, 4 Anti-Submarine Torpedo Tube, 2 Anti-Submarine Weapon Rocket Launcher - 495 tons full load - commissioned 1990
  • 6  Soviet Union Former Soviet Union (FSU) Osa II PFM missile boats; 13 Type II transferred
  • 3  Soviet Union ex-Soviet Union (FSU) Sonya Mine Sweeper Coastal; 4 transferred
  • 5  Soviet Union Former Soviet Union (FSU) Yevgenya Mine Sweeper Inshore; 11 transferred
  • 1 Intelligence Collection Vessel
  • 2 amphibious assault battalion
  • 122 mm artillery
  •  Soviet Union M-1931/3 artillery
  •  Soviet Union 130 mm: M-46 artillery
  •  Soviet Union 152 mm: M-1937 artillery
  • 10  Soviet Union SSC-3 surface to surface missile systems, 12 more are movil (reported)

The border guards have: 2 Stenka patrol boats and 30/48 Zhuk patrol craft. Cuba makes Zhuk patrol crafts and some are seen with an SPG-9 mounted on front of the twin 30mm guns.


See also

  • Cuban military ranks


  1. ^ "The Cuban military and transition dynamics". 
  2. ^ "Challenges to a Post-Castro Cuba". Harvard International Review. 
  3. ^ a b Carl Gershman and Orlando Gutierrez. "Can Cuba Change?". Journal of Democracy January 2009, Volume 20, Number 1. 
  4. ^ Claudia Zilla. "The Outlook for Cuba and What International Actors Should Avoid". 
  5. ^ John Williams, Cuba: Havana's Military Machine, The Atlantic, August 1988
  6. ^ a b IISS Military Balance 2007, p.70
  7. ^ Bryan Bender, 'DIA expresses cconcern over Cuban intelligence activity,' Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998, p.7
  8. ^ Bryan Bender, 'DIA expresses concern over Cuban intelligence activity', Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998, p.7
  9. ^ "
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ a b c d e "Cuban Tanks"
  15. ^ * Użycki, D., Begier, T., Sobala, S. Współczesne Gąsiennicowe Wozy Bojowe. Wydawnictwo Lampart. ISBN 1-892848-01-5
  16. ^ Cuban Armed Forces Review: Air Force
  17. ^ Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998
  18. ^,-82.506809&spn=0.004557,0.006899&t=h&z=17 Google Earth imagery of San Antonio de los Banos airfield

Further reading

External links

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