As such, the Army is one of the three branches that constitute the Ecuadorian Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Ecuatorianas), the other two being the Ecuadorian Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Ecuatoriana, FAE), and the Ecuadorian Navy (Armada Ecuatoriana, ARE).
Organizationally, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy form up the Comando Conjunto de las Fuerzas Armadas (Joint Command of the Armed Forces), where the Amy is referred to as Fuerza Terrestre (Land Forces).
According to the Ecuadorian Law of National Security (Ley de Seguridad Nacional), the Joint Command, along with the Ministry of National Defense, constitute the Military Front (Frente Militar). It is the duty of the Military Front to give advice to the President of the Republic and the National Security Council in everything related to military and warmaking policies.
The army's principal operational units consist of twelve brigades, all odd-numbered, in Spanish, running in sequence from the first to the twenty-third. The first brigade, "El Oro", third brigade, "Portete", fifth brigade, "Guayas", seventh brigade "Loja", and the thirteenth brigade, "Pichincha", are infantry brigades with headquarters at Machala, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Loja, and Quito. The army deployed two jungle brigades in the Oriente (eastern region): the seventeenth brigade, "Pastaza" ,based at Mera, and the nineteenth brigade, "Napo", based at Francisco de Orellana (more commonly known as Coca). The ninth Special Forces brigade, "Patria",--an outgrowth of a special paratroop detachment formed in 1960 to combat leftist guerrillas in the Oriente--is based at Latacunga. The eleventh armored brigade, "Galápagos", deployed from Riobamba. Three other specialized brigades, the twenty-first (logistics brigade), the twenty-third (engineer corps), and the fifteenth (army aviation), operate outside of Quito. Originally confined to transport, communications, training, and geographic survey duties, the fifteenth brigade expanded into battlefield logistic support following the delivery in 1981 of French Puma, Super Puma, and Gazelle helicopters.
Combat brigades generally consist of three battalions. Although not all brigades are at full strength, key units such as the Loja brigade near the Peruvian border have full complements or even additional reinforcements. States of readiness vary because personnel primarily consists of one-year conscripts, some of whom receive only minimal training. Brigade commanding officers generally hold brigadier general rank, although some were led by senior colonels. The commanders of the Pichincha, Guayas, Portete, and Pastaza brigades serve concurrently as commanders of their respective theaters of operation.
The army's standard infantry weapons are the Belgian FN FAL 7.62mm rifle and the Israeli Uzi 9mm submachine gun, the latter employed for counterinsurgency operations. The FN MAG 7.62mm is the standard machine gun, although the army still has .30- and .50-caliber machine guns of United States of America origin and 81mm mortars in its inventory. Armored vehicles include French-origin light tanks and four-wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, as well as Cascavel armored cars from Brazil (see table 20, Appendix). Most of the army's approximately 100 armored personnel carriers are French and Brazilian wheeled models, although it also has some tracked M-113s from the United States. A large order for obsolete medium tanks and armored personnel carriers from Argentina had to be cancelled in 1988 because of the deepening financial crisis.
Prior to World War II, Italy supplied a substantial amount of military matériel to Ecuador. During and after World War II, the United States became the predominant supplier, although by the 1950s Ecuador had also turned to World War II-vintage weapons from European countries, notably aircraft from Britain. During the 1960s and 1970s, France became a leading supplier of tanks and aircraft. Ecuador purchased submarine and patrol boats from West Germany and rifles and machine guns from Belgium.
Ecuador became a substantial customer for Israeli arms in the 1970s, purchasing Arava aircraft, Gabriel missiles for arming naval patrol craft, Uzi submachine guns, and other munitions. Under technical assistance contracts, Israel serviced Israeli planes in the air force inventory as well as Boeing civilian aircraft flown by TAME and Ecuatoriana Airlines. Ecuador reportedly also employed Israeli security specialists as consultants in the fight against terrorism.
In 1976 Ecuador became the first foreign country to order the Kfir, an advanced jet fighter equipped with the General Electric J-79 engine produced in Israel under license. The transaction, which required United States government approval because of the engine technology, was rejected by the administration of President Jimmy Carter in order to discourage the proliferation of sophisticated military equipment in the Third World. The action caused an uproar in Israel where the sale was regarded as an important breakthrough in Israel's efforts to develop international markets for the Kfir. In 1981, after the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, Washington removed its objection to the sale. Although the contract called for the purchase of twelve Kfirs and an option to purchase an additional twelve, Ecuador acquired only the original group, at a price estimated at US$196 million.
According to ACDA, Ecuador was a relatively heavy importer of arms in the late 1970s and early 1980s, averaging US$150 million annually and reaching a peak of US$280 million in 1982. These imports declined sharply to an average of only US$50 million annually between 1985 and 1987, presumably as a result of a dramatic reduction in oil revenues and the precipitous drop in the value of the sucre, which made imported arms extremely expensive. Between 1983 and 1987, Ecuador imported an estimated US$460 million of arms, primarily from Italy, France, the United States, and Britain. Ecuador did not receive military equipment from the Soviet Union or other communist countries.