The armed forces of the UAE were placed under a unified command in 1976, and the forces of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ra's al-Khaimah, and Sharjah were merged. In 2002, the combined forces totaled 41,500 personnel. The army had 35,000 soldiers including the Royal Guard. Equipment included 45 main battle tanks and 76 Scorpion light tanks. The navy was comprised of 2,500 personnel operating 16 patrol and coastal combatants. The air force had 4,000 personnel, 101 combat aircraft, and 49 armed helicopters.
Many military personnel are expatriates from Oman, Jordan, and other countries. The UAE provides support to the peacekeeping mission in Yugoslavia. The US air force maintains a military presence in the UAE. Defense spending in 2000 was about $1.6 billion or 3.1% of GDP.