President Sheikh Khalifa said supporting the UAE's Armed Forces and its defence industry is a strategic priority for the country.
In a speech to mark the 45th anniversary of Armed Forces Unification Day on Thursday, Sheikh Khalifa paid tribute to those who contributed "with loyalty and devotion, to establishing the foundations of our Armed Forces".
He also praised those who lost their lives in service and reserved a special mention for Emirati servicewomen.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Rulers of the emirates joined the President in the tributes.
In remarks carried by the Nation Shield journal and reported by state news agency Wam, Sheikh Khalifa said the decision to unify the Armed Forces in 1976 underlined the vision of the country's founders to establish a strong federal nation able to maintain its security and defend its interests.
He said the UAE Armed Forces were now recognised for their local and global achievements and this was down to Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, and the work carried on since then by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Rulers of the other emirates.
The 45th anniversary, Sheikh Khalifa said, "coincides with a new era as the country is foreseeing new horizons and establishing a new comprehensive development goal for the next 50 years, through proactive, long-term plans and visions".
"Since its establishment in 1976, the military has been a key driver of the national development process and has defended the country and created a safe environment for maintaining this process.
"Over the past 45 years, our Armed Forces have trained the Emirati youth, promoted the values of patriotism, loyalty and sacrifice, and reinforced the national identity among them."
The President emphasised that the army also plays a vital role in tackling extremism and terrorism. It also provides aid, resolves conflicts, performs peacekeeping roles, preserves alliances and carries out rescue operations, Sheikh Khalifa said.
Sheikh Khalifa paid tribute to those soldiers who died, whether on duty or after serving, and he reserved a special mention for Emirati women.
"A special salutation to Emirati women who are performing their roles and duties with devotion and efficiency in all areas of work as key partners in the education process. We solemnly commemorate our martyrs who passed away while defending the country, its gains and capabilities," Sheikh Khalifa said.
"Our Armed Forces are the nation's shield and protector of its gains. Supporting and advancing the Armed Forces and defence industries remain a strategic priority."
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid also paid tribute to the "historic achievement" of unifying the Armed Forces.
"As we celebrate the anniversary of our Armed Forces Unification Day and appreciate their efficiency and capabilities, we should highlight a major achievement of our Armed Forces, which is the establishment of Emirati military industries," Sheikh Mohammed said.
"Today, our factories produce and export armoured vehicles, military transport vehicles, missiles of all types and categories, individual weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles, training aircraft and airships, light stealth aircraft, ships, cruisers and warships, aerial surveillance and information-gathering equipment."
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said unification was one of the "crucial and decisive decisions in the history of the country".
"Our Armed Forces have supported regional and global peace and stability through participation in peace-keeping operations around the world, combating terrorism and actively engaging in international efforts to address the dangers of terrorist groups," Sheikh Mohamed said.
The Rulers of Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Ajman also paid tributes to the Armed Forces.