Algeria hostage crisis: Unlocking secrets of Africa’s second-biggest armed force

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SECURITY experts note that the Algerian authorities are notoriously secretive about their country’s military capabilities.

But, according to the website, the People’s National Army (ANP) is the second largest army in north Africa, after Egypt’s.

Major army units include two armoured divisions, three mechanised divisions, one airborne division, one independent armoured brigade and five independent mechanised infantry brigades.

In addition, there are 20 independent infantry brigades, two artillery, five for air defence and six anti- aircraft artillery brigades.

The army is equipped with both older and more up-to-date Soviet armour and artillery.

According to the 2008 issue of The Military Balance, published annually by the International Institute for Security Studies, Algeria’s army has the following equipment: 920 main battle tanks, 139 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,084 armoured infantry fighting vehicles, 910 armoured personnel carriers, 375 towed artillery, 170 self-propelled artillery, 144 multiple rocket launchers, 330 mortars, an unspecified number of anti-tank guided weapons, 180 recoilless launchers, 300 anti-tank guns, at least 288 surface-to-air missiles, about 875 air defence guns and an unspecified number of surface-to-air missiles.

Up-to-date details on Algeria’s air force are more sketchy. According to, in late 1993, the air force had about 193 combat aircraft and more than 50 attack helicopters, flying from about 15 air bases. Traditionally, the air force has relied on Soviet-built MiGs.

Soviet-built vessels are the mainstay of the navy, which in 2010 consisted of 6,600 personnel. Records from 1993 suggest the largest vessels are three Soviet Koni-class frigates commissioned between 1980 and 1985.