Global Insider: With Gulf Tensions High, GCC Naval Capabilities Remain Limited

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s Joint Peninsula Shield regional security alliance held a joint naval exercise Sunday and Monday in the Persian Gulf, amid heightened tensions over the recent visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Abu Masa, one of three disputed islands in the Gulf claimed by both Iran and the United Arab Emirates. In an email interview, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the London School of Economics, discussed the naval capabilities of the GCC countries.

WPR: What are the relative naval capabilities, in terms of fleet makeup, training and preparedness, of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries?

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen: The GCC states possess significant military resources but struggle to translate these into real-world effectiveness. Their naval capabilities are concentrated on patrol and coastal ships and craft that can protect their offshore oil and gas assets as well as maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf. They have a relatively limited maritime capacity beyond coastal vessels. Saudi Arabia is currently the only GCC state with the naval assets to potentially contribute to maritime security operations beyond its own waters. Major new procurements may change this, as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently purchased six French-built multimission corvettes, 24 amphibious assault ships and 70 transport and attack helicopters, while Oman has invested in three offshore vessels and 36 naval helicopters.

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