Procurement: The Guard Gets ReLAVed


December 31, 2009: Saudi Arabia is spending $2.2 billion to buy its National Guard 724 8x8 LAV II wheeled armored vehicles. These will replace older, but similar, models. The LAV IIs will come in ten configurations, and the average cost per vehicle will be $3 million. Average vehicle weight will be 14-15 tons. The price includes technical, training and maintenance services. An earlier model of this LAV is used by the U.S. Marine Corps, and the Canadian Army.

This purchase is part of Saudi Arabian program to upgrade the equipment and training of the National Guard, which is sort of, part of, the armed forces. Actually, there are two, separate, armed forces in Saudi Arabia. Overall, the Saudi military has about 200,000 troops. But 75,000 of those belong to a separate force, the National Guard. These are organized into eight brigades (three mechanized and five infantry, for a total of 32 battalions.) There are also another 24 battalions of National Guard reservists. The National Guard is well armed and trained, all of them.

The National Guard were originally, a century ago, the Ikwhan. These were truly holy warriors, being Bedouin fighters dedicated to the strict Wahhabi form of Islam, and killing enemies of Islam. The founder of Saudi Arabia used the Ikwhan as his shock troops. In the 1930s, the new kingdom of Saudi Arabia had to crack down on the Ikwhan , who were continuing to raid outside the kingdom, since there were no more enemies inside the kingdom to fight. The Ikwhan was shut down (with some bloodshed), and some of its members helped form the National Guard.

Nearly all the National Guardsmen troops are Bedouins, usually from tribes that have been historical allies of the al Saud family. The king considers the Guardsmen his boys, and takes good care of them. If a Saudi needs a favor from the king, he's much more likely to get it if he is, or was a National Guardsman.

The National Guard has been using wheeled armored vehicles for years, and likes them. So when they asked for more, the king obliged. An American firm will supply the LAVs.


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