Speaking to mark the 46th Armed Forces Unification Day that falls on Friday, Sheikh Khalifa said the UAE would continue to develop its national defence industries in the years ahead.
In remarks carried by the Nation Shield magazine and reported on Thursday by state news agency Wam, Sheikh Khalifa also paid tribute to all those who served and especially those who made the supreme sacrifice.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, along with other UAE rulers, leaders and military chiefs, also paid tribute to the Armed Forces.
“The challenges and risks threatening our region and our regional environment and the ongoing tensions facing the world require us, the leaders of this country, to maintain our readiness, harness all capacities, upgrade our capabilities and acquire the most advanced military equipment, to ensure the safety and stability of our country,” said Sheikh Khalifa.
“[This enables] us to proceed with our ambitious projects, help protect global peace and security, combat terrorism and provide aid in areas torn by disasters and conflicts.
“To boost our political and military vision, we shall continue to strengthen our military cooperation with fraternal and friendly countries and upgrade our armed forces, diversify their weapons and develop our national defence industries.”
UAE Founding Father the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan unified the UAE military on May 6, 1976. Before that, the defence forces existed across the seven emirates. Sheikh Khalifa said this decision marked a critical turning point in the nation's journey.
“On this historic day, the decision to unify the UAE Armed Forces under one flag and one leadership was issued, embodying the aspirations of our people to have a modern and advanced military force that safeguards the country's sovereignty and independence, strengthens its security and stability, and reinforces the values of patriotism,” said Sheikh Khalifa.
Sheikh Khalifa said the UAE Armed Forces were a “trusted guardian” of the country's gains and he paid tribute to the commanders, officers and soldiers and all those who made the “ultimate sacrifice” to protect the UAE.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid lauded the Emiratisation efforts in the Armed Forces and the role played by women. He also praised Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, saying he was the “driving force” behind the introduction of national service in 2014.
“While establishing our Armed Forces, we have successfully enhanced its stature, reputation, and expertise and reinforced everyone's sense of patriotism,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “The core foundation of this journey consisted of the Emiratisation and training of all ranks in record time.
“The Emiratisation efforts did not overlook the role of women in our Armed Forces. Rather they have been provided with adequate military training, and in return, Emirati women have proven their efficiency in civilian fields and their capabilities in all military areas, including participation in military operations.”
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said in a “turbulent and rapidly changing regional and international environment, which poses numerous threats and risks to the national security of countries”, it was important the UAE was ready and capable of addressing fast-paced developments.
“I am confident that our valiant Armed Forces, with its national military approach, sense of patriotism and expertise and awareness of regional and international situations, can keep pace with recent developments due to efficient vision and strategies to address various risks,” he said.
Lt Gen Hamad Al Rumaithi, Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces, praised the proud history of the military and those who fell in the line of duty.
“On this special national occasion, we proudly commemorate the martyrs of our Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our country and its noble values and principles and protecting regional and global peace and security,” he said.
“We also extend our thanks and gratitude to the heroes of the Armed Forces and laud their patriotism and loyalty.”
Mohammed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence, told Wam that the military was fully prepared to confront all security threats.
"There is no doubt that the geopolitical scene in the Middle East has been the most entangled and complex over the past five decades, which required keeping pace and preparation," said Mr Al Bowardi. "This is what inspired the UAE leadership's keenness on building armed forces capable of defending the country with high efficiency, protecting its security, interests and gains, as well as supporting efforts to maintain regional and global security."
The UAE has participated in many missions abroad dedicated to safeguarding peace and stability.
In the same year as the forces were unified, the UAE took part in an Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
The UAE Armed Forces also participated in key deployments to Kuwait, Somalia and Kosovo over the years.