Revolutionary Armed Forces
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (Spanish)
Emblem of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
Founded1868; 156 years ago (1868)
Current form1960; 64 years ago (1960)
Service branches
HeadquartersHavana, Cuba
First SecretaryMiguel Díaz-Canel
Commander-in-chief President Miguel Díaz-Canel
Minister of the FAR Corps Gen. Álvaro López Miera[1]
Chief of the General Staff Corps Gen. Álvaro López Miera
Military age17-28 years of age for compulsory military service
Conscription2-year service obligation for males
Available for
military service
3,134,622 males, age 15–49,
3,022,063 females, age 15–49
Fit for
military service
1,929,370 males, age 15–49,
1,888,498 females, age 15–49
Active personnel50,000 (2022 est.)[2]
Reserve personnel40,000
1,146,000 (paramilitary)[citation needed]
Percent of GDP2.9% (2018)[3]
Domestic suppliersUnion de Industrias Militares
Foreign suppliers Bulgaria
 North Korea
Related articles
HistoryEscambray rebellion
Bay of Pigs Invasion
Sand War
Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
War of Attrition
Yemenite War of 1972
Yom Kippur War
Angolan Civil War
Ogaden War
United States invasion of Grenada
RanksMilitary ranks of Cuba

The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias; FAR) are the military forces of Cuba. They include Revolutionary Army, Revolutionary Navy, Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force, and other paramilitary bodies including the Territorial Troops Militia (Milicias de Tropas Territoriales – MTT), Youth Labor Army (Ejército Juvenil del Trabajo – EJT), and the Defense and Production Brigades (Brigadas de Producción y Defensa – BPD), plus the Civil Defense Organization (Defensa Civil de Cuba – DCC) and the National Reserves Institution (Instituto Nacional de las Reservas Estatales – INRE). All these groups are subordinated to the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (Ministro de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias – MINFAR).

The armed forces have long been the most powerful institution in Cuba.[4] The military manages many enterprises in key economic sectors representing about 4% of the Cuban economy.[5][6][7] The military has also served as former Cuban Communist Party First Secretary, as well as former President of Cuba, Raúl Castro's base.[7] In numerous speeches, Raúl Castro emphasized the military's role as a "people's partner".[8]


Main article: Cuban National Army

Soldiers of the FAR

The Cuban Army in its original form was first established in 1868 by Cuban revolutionaries during the Ten Years' War. It joined the Allies in the World War I in April 1917 and supplied sugar to several countries, mainly the United States of America. Was involved in the Battle of the Caribbean during World War II when it was part of the Allies supported by the United States. After the Cuban Revolution had overthrown Fulgencio Batista's government, the Cuban Rebel Army under Fidel Castro's leadership was reorganized into the current armed forces of Cuba.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union granted both military and financial aid to Cuba. From 1966 until the late 1980s, Soviet Government military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities to number one in Latin America and project power abroad. The first Cuban military mission in Africa was established in Ghana in 1961. Cuba's military forces appeared in Algeria, in 1963, when a military medical brigade came to support the government.[9] Since the 1960s, Cuba sent military forces to African and Arab countries – Syria in 1973, Ethiopia in 1978, Angola from 1975 to 1989, and Nicaragua, El Salvador and reportedly Afghanistan during the 1980s. The tonnage of Soviet military deliveries to Cuba throughout most of the 1980s exceeded deliveries in any year since the military build-up during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. According to an Afghan Army defector and the Mujahideen, Cuban forces were present in 1981 during the Soviet–Afghan War and were described as "big and black and shout very loudly when they fight. Unlike the Russians, they were not afraid to attack us in the open."[10][11]

In 1989, the government instituted a clean-up of the armed forces and the Ministry of Interior, convicting army Major General and Hero of the Republic of Cuba Arnaldo Ochoa, Ministry of Interior Colonel Antonio de la Guardia (Tony la Guardia), and Ministry of Interior Brigadier General Patricio de la Guardia on charges of corruption and drug trafficking. This judgment is known in Cuba as "Causa 1" (Cause 1). Ochoa and Antonio de la Guardia were executed. Following the executions, the Army was drastically downsized, the Ministry of Interior was moved under the informal control of Revolutionary Armed Forces chief General Raúl Castro (Fidel Castro's brother), and large numbers of army officers were moved into the Ministry of Interior.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reported in 1998 that the country's paramilitary organizations, the Territorial Militia Troops, the Youth Labor Army, and the Naval Militia had suffered considerable morale and training degradation over the previous seven years but still retained the potential to "make an enemy invasion costly."[12] Cuba also adopted a "war of the people" strategy that highlights the defensive nature of its capabilities.[13]

Cuban military power was sharply reduced by the loss of Soviet subsidies following the end of the Cold War, and today the Revolutionary Armed Forces number 39,000 regular troops.[2]

In April 2021, longtime Chief of Staff Álvaro López Miera took over as the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.[14]


See also: Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (Cuba) § Ministers

First Deputy Minister, Chief of General Staff
No. Portrait Name
Term of office Ref.
Took office Left office Time in office
Major general
Senén Casas Regueiro
19 April 1972 April 1982 9 years, 11 months [15]
Major general
Ulises Rosales del Toro
(born 1942)
April 1982 11 October 1997 15 years, 6 months [16]
Corps general
Álvaro López Miera
(born 1943)
11 October 1997 15 April 2021 23 years, 6 months [17][18]
Major general
Roberto Legrá Sotolongo
(born 1955)
19 April 2021 Incumbent 3 years, 49 days [19]

Revolutionary Army

Guards at the Mausoleum of José Marti, Santiago de Cuba
Soldiers of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias on a motorbike

The Central Intelligence Agency wrote in May 1979 that when "the economy took a downturn in 1970, the Castro regime, partly at Soviet urging, reduced its forces by some 60 per cent, eventually freeing more than 150,000 people for full-time civilian employment. All branches of the armed services except the Air Force were affected noticeably. The Air Defence Force shrank from six brigades and 24 occupied SA-2 surface-to-air missile sites to three brigades and 18 sites, leaving eastern Cuba unprotected by surface-to-air missiles. The Navy lost a number of radar surveillance posts, again to the detriment of eastern Cuba. The Army was more than halved in size and reorganised."[20] (PA79-10173D)

In 1984, according to Jane's Military Review, there were three major geographical commands, Western, Central, and Eastern.[21] There were a reported 130,000 all ranks, and each command was garrisoned by an army comprising a single armored division, a mechanized division, and a corps of three infantry divisions, though the Eastern Command had two corps totaling six divisions. There was also an independent military region, with a single infantry division, which garrisoned the Isle of Youth.

A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment in the first half of 1998 said that the army's armor and artillery units were at low readiness levels due to 'severely reduced' training, generally incapable of mounting effective operations above the battalion level, and that equipment was mostly in storage and unavailable at short notice.[12] The same report said that Cuban special operations forces continue to train but on a smaller scale than beforehand, and that while the lack of replacement parts for its existing equipment and the current severe shortage of fuel were increasingly affecting operational capabilities, Cuba remained able to offer considerable resistance to any regional power.[22]

Revolutionary Air and Air Defence Force

Main article: Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defense Force

Cuban MiG-21MF from the 1970s

The Cuban Revolutionary Air and Air Defence Force (DAAFAR) was used in the 1980s with the help of the Soviet Union to be able to project power abroad, especially in Africa. During that time Cuba sent jet fighters and transports for deployment in conflict zones such as Angola and Ethiopia.

In 1990, Cuba's Air Force was the best equipped in Latin America. In all, the modern Cuban Air Force had approximately 230 fixed-wing aircraft. Although there is no exact figure available, Western analysts estimate that at least 130 (with only 25 operational[23]) of these planes are still in service spread out among the thirteen military airbases on the island.

In 1996, fighters from the DAAFAR shot down two Cessna aircraft based in Florida which were incorrectly suspected of dropping leaflets into Cuban airspace. The air force was criticised for not giving the pilots of the aircraft options other than being shot down. One aircraft escaped.[24]

In 1998, according to the same DIA report mentioned above, the air force had "fewer than 24 operational Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) fighters; pilot training barely adequate to maintain proficiency; a declining number of fighter sorties, surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns to respond to attacking air forces."[25]

By 2007 the International Institute for Strategic Studies assessed the force as 8,000 strong with 41 combat capable aircraft and a further 188 stored. DAAFAR is known now to have acquired another MiG-29 and a few MiG-23s, giving it 58 combat aircraft in active service. These are listed as 6 MiG-29s, 40 MiG-23s, and 12 MiG-21s. IISS also estimated DAAFAR had 12 operational transport aircraft, plus trainers which include 8 L-39C, and helicopters, mainly Mil Mi-8, Mil Mi-17, and Mil Mi-24 Hind. Raúl Castro ordered in 2010 that all MiG-29 pilots had to have full training, they now have from 200–250 hours of flight annually together with real dogfight training and exercises. Up to 20 MiG-23 units also have this kind of training but the other 16 MiG-23 units spend more time in simulators than real flight. MiG-21 units have limited time in these training exercises and spend more time in simulators and maintain their skills flying with Aerogaviota, the commercial brand of the air force.

Revolutionary Navy

The helicopter carrier patrol vessel Rio Damuji n° 390 in Havana (July 2011)

In 1988, the Cuban Navy boasted 12,000 men, three submarines, two modern guided-missile frigates, one intelligence vessel, and a large number of patrol craft and minesweepers.[26] However, most of the Soviet-made vessels have been decommissioned or sunk to make reefs. By 2007, the Cuban Navy was assessed as being 3,000 strong (including up to 550+ Navy Infantry) by the IISS with six Osa-II missile boats and one Pauk-class corvette. The Cuban Navy also includes a small marine battalion called the Desembarco de Granma. It once numbered 550 men, though its present size is not known.

After the old Soviet submarines were put out of service, Cuba searched for help from North Korea's experience in midget submarines. North Korean defectors claimed to have seen Cubans in mid to late 1990s in a secret submarine base. Years later, a single picture became public of a small black native submarine in Havana harbor. It is rumored to be called 'Delfin' and is to be armed with two torpedoes. Only a single boat is in service and the design appears original, even if influenced both by North Korea and Soviet designs.[27][28]

The Cuban Navy rebuilt one, large ex-Spanish Rio Damuji fishing boat. BP-390 is now armed with two C-201W missiles, one twin 57 mm gun mount, two twin 25 mm gun mounts and on 14.5 mm machine gun. This vessel is larger than the Koni class, and it is used as a helicopter carrier patrol vessel. A second unit (BP-391) was converted and entered service in 2016.[29]

The Cuban Navy today operates its own missile systems, the made-in-Cuba Bandera (a copy of the dated Styx Soviet missiles) and Remulgadas anti-ship missile systems, as well as the nationally produced Frontera self-propelled coastal defence multiple rocket launcher. The navy's principal threats are drug smuggling and illegal immigration. The country's geographical position and limited naval presence has enabled traffickers to utilise Cuban territorial waters and airspace.[30]

The Cuban Navy's air wing is an ASW helicopter operator only and is equipped with 2 Mi-14 Haze helicopters.[31]

Air and Naval air bases

CIA map showing the estimated range of Cuban MiG-29 Fulcrum jets.

Active bases

Inactive bases

Special Forces

Main article: Black Wasp (special forces)

The Avispas Negras (English: Black Wasps), also known formally as the Mobile Brigade of Special Troops (BMTE) is a special forces unit in the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. It is often identified as Military Unit 4895 Desembarco de Granma is a small marine battalion with Marines like role.

Paramilitary forces

Territorial Troops Militia

The Territorial Troops Militia is composed exclusively of civilian volunteers, under the command of MINFAR. It reinforced the notion of the popular will to defend the Revolution.[32] In general, the militia is a part-time force with only light arms that are issued only on occasion.[33]

Youth Labor Army

The Youth Labor Army (Ejercito Juvenil del Trabajo – EJT) is, by law, a paramilitary organization under the direct control of MINFAR. It was formally established on 3 August 1973 by combining the Centennial Youth Column (CJC) and the Permanent Infantry Divisions (DIP). Cuba's compulsory service laws require all male citizens to serve for three years in the EJT. The formation of the EJT allowed the army to devote itself full time to military matters. The EJT served as a reserve force in its first 20 years. In 1993, it was assigned the responsibility of managing the state farms.[34]

Border Troops

The Border Troops of the Republic of Cuba (Spanish: Tropas Guardafronteras, TGF) is a branch that ensures the protection of the state borders and territorial waters. They are subordinate to the Interior Ministry (MININT). The official date of the establishment of this service was on September 23, 1970.[35] In the second half of the 1970s, several agreements were signed, according to which some changes were made to border protection, including a 1976 agreement was signed between Cuba and Mexico on the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone in the sector of the Cuban-Mexican maritime border and a 1977 agreement was signed on the maritime border between Cuba and Haiti. The Border Troops are de facto both a border guard and a coast guard force, and all new officers are commissioned from the Granma Naval Academy.

Military schools


Main article: List of equipment of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces

See also


  1. ^ "Álvaro López Miera sustituye a Leopoldo Cintra Frías en el Ministerio de las FAR cubanas".
  2. ^ a b International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2015, p. 392
  3. ^ "Cuba - the World Factbook". 30 March 2022.
  4. ^ "The Cuban military and transition dynamics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  5. ^ "Does the Cuban Military Really Control Sixty Percent of the Economy?". Huffington Post. 2017-06-28.
  6. ^ "Challenges to a Post-Castro Cuba" (PDF). Harvard International Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-10. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  7. ^ a b Carl Gershman and Orlando Gutierrez (January 2009). "Can Cuba Change?" (PDF). Journal of Democracy. 20 (1).[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Claudia Zilla. "The Outlook for Cuba and What International Actors Should Avoid" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  9. ^ John Williams, "Cuba: Havana's Military Machine", The Atlantic Monthly, August 1988
  10. ^ "Afghanistan : a country study |". Retrieved 2024-06-07.
  11. ^ "Afghanistan : a country study, by Donald M. Seekins et al. | The Online Books Page". Retrieved 2024-06-07.
  12. ^ a b Bryan Bender, "DIA expresses concern over Cuban intelligence activity", Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998, p. 7
  13. ^ "Cuba and China strengthen military cooperation"., September 16, 2012
  14. ^ "Designan al general Álvaro López Miera como nuevo Ministro de las fuerzas armadas de Cuba", WTOP, 2021.
  15. ^ Directory of Personalities of the Cuban Government, Official Organizations, and Mass Organizations. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 1974. p. 117. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  16. ^ Directory of officials of the Republic of Cuba. Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence. May 1983. p. 113. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  17. ^ "Partido Comunista de Cuba". 2010-09-25. Archived from the original on 2010-09-25. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  18. ^ "Designan al general Álvaro López Miera como nuevo ministro de las Fuerzas Armadas de Cuba". Archived from the original on 2021-04-22. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  19. ^ de Granma, Tomado (19 April 2021). "Nuevo Buró Político, Secretariado y miembros del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba". (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 11 October 2021. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  21. ^ English, Adrian J., "The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces," in Ian V. Hogg (Ed.), Jane's Military Review. Jane's Publishing Company, 1985.
  22. ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  23. ^ Cuban Armed Forces Review: Air Force Archived 2009-02-10 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Sections 3.18, 3.19 and 3.20 of the Resolution on the Cuban Government's Shootdown of Brothers to the Rescue Adopted by the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at the Twentieth Meeting of its 148th Session on 27 June 1996 [1]
  25. ^ Jane's Defence Weekly, 13 May 1998
  26. ^ "Cuba: Havana's Military Machine". The Atlantic. August 1988.
  27. ^ "Delfin". 10 October 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  28. ^ Sutton, H. I. "New Photo Reveals Cuban Navy's Secret Submarine". Forbes. Archived from the original on March 1, 2020. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  29. ^ = Un baluarte sobre el mar "Un baluarte sobre el mar". granma. 28 August 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2018. ((cite web)): Check |url= value (help)
  30. ^ "Global Security on Cuban Navy".
  31. ^ Cuban Armed Forces Review: Air Force Archived 2009-02-10 at the Wayback Machine Archived 2009-02-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  32. ^ "About this Collection - Country Studies - Digital Collections - Library of Congress" (PDF). Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  33. ^ Pike, John. "Territorial Militia Troops". Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  34. ^ "Youth Labor Army [Ejercito Juvenil del Trabajo]". Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  35. ^ "Guardianes de nuestras costas".

Further reading