DUBAI — Transnational threats and the conflict in Yemen have spurred land force developments across the Middle East, especially in the last nine months.

Countries in the region are expected to spend upwards of US $344 million by 2016 on guided munitions alone and are also driving the , as well as driving the armored vehicle market along with Asia, according to Texas-based research and consultancy Markets and Markets.

The two lead countries in the fight for Yemen -- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- are leading the surge in purchases. Iraq is also acquiring new and used equipment from its partners and allies in its fight against the the so called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL terror group, or ISIL.

The fight against Islamic State extremists in Iraq is driving massive procurements, according to reports from Baghdad. And the fall of oil prices will not derail some major armament projects, the reports stated.

Sources have stated that the Iraqi Defense Ministry has tendered to buy 500 four-wheel-drive military vehicles this year to make up for the losses against the Islamic State group.

Since the beginning of operations against ISIL, Iraq has petitioned the United States to buy 1,000 M1151A1 up-armored Humvees, 1,000 M2 .50 caliber machine guns, 1,000 MK-19 40mm grenade launchers, commercial radios, communication equipment and spare parts and training estimated at $579 million, according to the US Defense and Security Cooperation Agency.

Iraq also requested the sale of 175 full track M1A1 Abrams tanks with the upgraded 120mm gun, 15 M88A2 improved tank recovery vehicles and 175 .50 caliber M2 machine guns., communication systems and ammunition valued at $2.4 billion.

Iraq also requested in November spare parts to support the Abrams tanks and M1070 heavy equipment tactical trucks.

Within the last year, the two gulf countries, United Arab Emirates and Qatar have introduced mandatory military service to increase readiness and manpower.

Operations in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia, which include the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, have resulted in many casualties for the land forces that have been deployed since July. Approximately 10,000 men have been deployed recently in addition to the initial 4,000 that were involved in the operations to retake the southern port city of Aden.

Although each Arab gulf state in the GCC pursues its own approach to developing land forces, the nominal effort to create a gulf rapid reaction force is very limited in size and of uncertain effectiveness, according to Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh Burke Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Saudi Arabia has the largest ground force in the Arab gulf forces, and they are equipped with modern and highly capable weapons. Its land forces is expanding and estimates of its size differ," Cordesman stated in his report, "The Arab-U.S. Strategic Partnership and the Changing Security Balance in the Gulf."

Though they have not had major combat experience in recent years other than extensive combat experience in the first gulf war in 1991, the Saudi forces have fought in various small counterterrorism actions since 2003 and have been sporadically engaged on the Yemeni border since 2009, he added.

The March 2015 coalition of 10ten Arab states against the Houthis in Yemen has provided extensive experience for gulf Arab troops involved, analysts agreed.

"This coalition has allowed the Saudi Arabian military to improve and manage its command-and-control system," said Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi expert at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

According to the armored vehicle market analysis, wheeled vehicle acquisition is clearly on the rise as more governments look at six- and eight-wheel-drive vehicles to cope with the terrain, and because of their lower maintenance costs.

During the conflict in Yemen, Oshkosh vehicles were deployed by the UAE and Saudi forces to support the Yemeni forces

At the beginning of operations in July, a coalition official told Defense News that Saudi Arabia has deployed 45 mine-resistant, ambush-protected Oshkosh M-ATVs, while the United Arab Emirates has deployed 50 Emirati-made Nimr four-wheel-drive multipurpose armored vehicles as well as 25 Emirati-made Enigma eight-wheel-drive infantry fighting vehicles.

This is the first deployment of the 8x8 Enigma as the vehicle was first unveiled at the Abu Dhabi International Defence Exhibition in February.

The vehicle, produced by Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Defense Technology, was set to undergo trials this summer with the UAE armed forces, company CEO Mohamed al-Suwaidi told Defense News during IDEX 2015.

The vehicle, al-Suwaidi said, was designed based on rigid UAE armed forces requirements to fulfill tasks including being able to carry BAE Systems' variant of the M777 howitzer artillery gun.

More recently, Nimr proprietor Emirates Defence Industries Corporation (EDIC) has unveiled new vehicles in September. The N35 Multi-Role Protected Vehicle with 4x4 and 6x6 wheeled armored variations were based on designs from South African Denel Vehicle Systems' RG35, which is under full ownership of NIMR.

The vehicle features include a steel-armoured monocoque hull, which can be provided with scalable levels of ballistic, mine blast and IED protection.

"This highly protected, modular platform provides exceptional performance across all terrains and in all conditions to cater for a wide range of mission requirements. The 4x4 and 6x6 variants complement our existing range, allowing NIMR to expand beyond our traditional light-medium weight vehicle category into the more highly protected, higher payload categories," . Initial production and trials have already begun with series production scheduled from Q4 2016." said Nimr CEO Fahad Saif Harhara at the time of launch.

No information has been provided on the vehicles' field deployment in Yemen.


Awad Mustafa was a Middle East and Africa correspondent for Defense News.

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