Morocco and Israel reach air defence deal

The two countries have signed a $500 million deal under which the Israeli state will supply the African country with an advanced air defence system

AFP/ISAAC BREKKEN  -   A fighter plane during an operation

The $500 million agreement signed by Morocco and Israel seals their collaboration in the field of air defence and security. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will be the company in charge of supplying the Moroccan government with the agreed arms shipment.

Boaz Levy, CEO of IAI, presented the various missile defence systems that the Hebrew country possesses and was responsible for concluding the agreement. Morocco became interested in these systems when Benny Gantz, Israel's Minister of Defence, met with Abdellatif Loudiyi, Morocco's Minister of Defence, in Rabat last November.

During the visit, Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on collaboration between the two countries. The minister, on his Twitter account, thanked Loudiyi and King Mohammed VI for "their efforts to expand relations between the two countries". 

Benny Gantz
Ministerio de Defensa de Israel vía REUTERS  -   Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Moroccan Defense Administration Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi sign a defense memorandum in Rabat, Morocco, November 24, 2021

Morocco presented its security and defence needs to Israel and several alternatives were soon proposed. In the end, the Barak MX system was chosen as it is highly capable of protecting against missiles and drones. In addition, it has a built-in radar and several launchers that allow for better coverage of fighter jets or helicopters.

Israeli media Globes notes that the Barak MX is a weapon capable of handling three types of Barak family interceptors: the MRDA, the LRAD and the ER. All three have the capabilities to intercept missiles at ranges of up to 75, 70 and 150 kilometres respectively.

Before reaching this million-dollar deal, the Moroccan government had already signed a contract with Skylock Systems, an Israeli company in charge of designing and producing mechanisms capable of detecting and neutralising illegal unmanned aerial vehicles. The system purchased is the Skylock Dome and was presented in February 2020 at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi.

Marruecos brigadas
PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   Moroccan brigades

Last December, Morocco held talks with IAI to acquire a batch of Harop drones worth $22 million. This is a so-called 'kamikaze' attack drone with a seven-hour manoeuvring range and a payload of up to 20 kilograms.

Another plan that the two countries are working on is the construction of two UAV factories in the North African region of Al-Aoula. These drones would be labelled Moroccan-made and would carry out not only offensive strikes, but also intelligence gathering.

In recent years, Morocco has acquired numerous military equipment to reinforce the operational capacity of its Royal Armed Forces (FAR). This is due to regional tensions and growing extremist or insurgent groups in Western Sahara.

Banderas Israel Marruecos
AP/MAYA ALLERUZZO  -   The national flags of Israel and Morocco are projected on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem

The FAR claims that "the Kingdom is stepping up its purchases of unmanned aerial systems, or drones, which have become a threat in terms of their inability to be detected or attacked given the difficulty of targeting them by conventional defence systems".

The normalisation of relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv began to take shape with the so-called Abraham Accords that were initially sealed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain under the mediation of the United States. Following in the wake of this pact promoted by Donald Trump's administration, in exchange for resuming diplomatic contacts with Israel, the North American giant recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Sahrawi territory.

Israel is one of the world's largest arms exporters and, since 2019, has supplied Morocco with military radar systems through third nations. Despite this, the US will remain Morocco's main military supplier.