UAE leaders prioritise defence on Armed Forces Unification Day

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The UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has said that supporting and advancing the national Armed Forces and defence industries will remain a strategic priority.

In a statement to mark the 45th anniversary of the Armed Forces Unification Day, published by the 'Nation Shield' journal, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa paid tribute to the officers and soldiers "who have contributed, with loyalty and devotion, to establishing the foundations of our Armed Forces."

Also in the publication, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, stated 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.

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".

Meanwhile, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has affirmed that the decision to unify the UAE Armed Forces reflected the wisdom of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his brothers the founding leaders, their deep awareness, farsightedness, and their belief in unity as a path towards progress and pride for the nation.

The full text of the President's statement follows:

"My sons, the officers and soldiers of our gallant Armed Forces, peace be upon you.

On the 45th anniversary of our Armed Forces Unification Day, we salute you with much appreciation, as you are performing your duties with efficiency, capacity and devotion in creating a military force that can defend the country, its gains and capabilities and build the federal union, whose Golden Jubilee will be celebrated by end of this year.

The decision to unify the Armed Forces under one flag and one central leadership was a wise one and underscored the vision of our Founding Fathers to establish the foundations of a strong federal nation capable of maintaining its security and defending its interests. The Armed Forces have reached an advanced stature and a high level of readiness while being recognised for their local and global achievements, which were all the outcomes of a development plan adopted by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and continued by my brothers, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai; His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; and Their Highnesses Supreme Council Members and Rulers of the Emirates.

Emirati citizens and the nation’s defenders, this year, the 45th anniversary of the unification of our Armed Forces, coincides with a new era as the country is foreseeing new horizons and establishing a new comprehensive development goal for the next 50 years, through proactive long-term plans and visions.

Since its establishment in 1976, the military has been a key driver of the national development process and has defended the country and created a safe environment for maintaining this process. Over the past 45 years, our Armed Forces have trained the Emirati youth, promoted the values of patriotism, loyalty and sacrifice, and reinforced the national identity among them.

The Armed Forces also play key roles in combatting extremism and terrorism, taking part in regional and international alliances, rescuing victims, providing aid, resolving conflicts and peacekeeping.

Emirati citizens, on this glorious day, we salute our officers and soldiers who have contributed, with loyalty and devotion, to establishing the foundations of our Armed Forces. I pray to Allah Almighty to have mercy upon those who have passed away and grant those who are still among us health and wellness. A special salutation to Emirati women, who are performing their roles and duties with devotion and efficiency in all areas of work as key partners in the education process. We solemnly commemorate our martyrs who passed away while defending the country, its gains and capabilities.

Our Armed Forces are the nation's shield and protector of its gains. Supporting and advancing the Armed Forces and defence industries remain a strategic priority.

May Allah Almighty protect you for our nation and protect our nation for you. Peace be upon you."

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed 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 Mohammed’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.

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?"

On 2nd December, 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.

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 6th 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 percent. 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 amongst 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 timeframes, 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."

Sheikh Mohamed's statement in full:

My sons, officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers ... children of the valiant Armed Forces, The unification of our Armed Forces on 6th May, 1976, is the most important and influential national event in our modern history, after the decision to establish the Union on 2nd December, 1971. On this glorious day, our union set out towards the future, and its pillars were strengthened by one of the most important elements of its strength, success and prevention, which is the unity of its armed forces. It sent a clear message to the whole world that the UAE is well-established, based on solid foundations, and capable of facing challenges under one banner and with a single national spirit.

We are fully confident that, during the next five decades, our Armed Forces will be a symbol of heroism, courage and sacrifice without limits, and will be up to the national responsibility entrusted to them, because what governs their work is their love for the nation and their willingness to defend it at any cost.

My sons, officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and children of the valiant Armed Forces, On this day, we proudly recall the major national roles that our Armed Forces have played over the past five decades and through the various stages that our dear nation has gone through. They have and still are preserving the national security, defending development gains, preserving our sovereignty and our capabilities. They have also supported other nations and stood by them in times of crises, adversity and tribulations, and strengthened the pillars of the Arab national security system in facing the dangers that threaten it.

Our Armed Forces have supported regional and global peace and stability through participation in peace-keeping operations around the world, combating terrorism and actively engaging in international efforts to address the dangers of terrorist groups, foremost of which are "Al Qaeda" and "Daesh", in addition to the great sacrifices of its affiliates, their love for their country, and their responsibilities with sincerity and devotion in all the tasks entrusted to them, whether at home or abroad.

On this dear national occasion, I must commend the active role of Emirati women in our Armed Forces and their influential presence within their ranks for many years, and their ability to prove themselves within one of the most important areas of national work, which is the military field, embodying their outstanding participation in the development system.

My sons, officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and children of the valiant Armed Forces, The UAE’s organisation of the international defence exhibitions "IDEX" and "NAVDEX" - despite the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances in February 2021 - and the large global participation in them is evidence of the world's confidence in the UAE and in our Armed Forces and their role in serving peace, security and stability on the regional and international arenas.

Over the past years, the UAE defence industries became one of the most important tributaries of the national economy based on knowledge, capable of establishing fruitful partnerships with the largest defence industry companies in the world.

The development of a modern national defence industry remains one of the main mechanism to strengthen and support our Armed Forces during the coming years.

My sons, officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and children of the valiant Armed Forces, The development and modernisation of our Armed Forces have been a fundamental priority within our national priorities system, since the unification of the Armed Forces in 1976, and will remain so in the coming decades, to provide everything that would continuously improve the efficiency of human resources.

Our courageous Armed Forces have become a symbol of strength, and one of the modern armies with qualitative capabilities that can carry out national tasks efficiently and professionally, at home and abroad, thanks to the great support they have received since the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, followed by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, out of the belief that strong and capable Armed Forces are a guarantee of security, stability and development in a world full of dangers at all levels.

My sons, officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and children of the valiant Armed Forces, We will remain indebted to those great leaders who laid the foundation for our renaissance and left us with a strong home with its people and Armed Forces.

May Allah have mercy on our Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan and his brothers, praying to Allah Almighty to rest their souls in Paradise, and grant us strength and determination to continue their march.

My sons, officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and children of the valiant Armed Forces, On this glorious day in the history of the nation, I would like to congratulate President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai; and their brothers, Their Highnesses, Members of the Supreme Council and Rulers of the Emirates; and to all the sons of our valiant Armed Forces, and people of the UAE.

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