Morocco is gradually becoming a regional and global military power. The Moroccan kingdom now has a modern air force that is a deterrent to almost any army in the world. In a context of tensions in the region, the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA), in a paper signed by researcher Francesco Macci, highlights new acquisitions and ongoing orders. The strengthening of the Royal Air Armed Forces through the acquisition of new weapons and technologies is explained in part by economic reasons, but above all by strategic ones, whose character is defensive and linked to the maintenance of stability and military balance in the region.
The Moroccan air force - as of the date of publication of this article - has 23 F-16 fighter jets whose software will be upgraded by next year. Last year, the US State Department approved the sale of 25 F-16C/D Block72 fighter jets. The procurement of F-100 installation engines from Raytheon Technologies is also underway. These engines will be used on F-16 fighters. Following the 12 Boeing optionals ordered in 2020 in a $4.25 billion deal, 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters will be delivered to Morocco starting in 2024. According to the latter, the North African country tends to expand its drone fleet for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and "potential combat" purposes, while developing its own capabilities to develop similar systems.
Other ongoing acquisitions noted in the MIPA document include: four MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, equipped with laser-guided munitions and GPS; the Barak MX anti-missile system, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of which a prototype was received as early as January; Harop kamikaze drones should be delivered to Morocco by the end of February; and Mirage 2000-9 aircraft are also expected to be received from the United Arab Emirates. Morocco has also purchased thirteen Bayraktar TB2 combat drones from Turkey, from whom it has ordered six more. The Alawi kingdom has also ordered the VL MICA surface-to-air defence system from the French company MBDA under a $192 million contract.
The increase in armaments entails an increase in the cost of maintaining this equipment. To this end, Morocco intends to strengthen the aircraft maintenance, repair and production sector, including drones, in order to reduce its dependence on imports and possibly exports. Military spending since COVID's emergence has only increased, rising by 4.3% year-on-year since 2020. However, it is not enough to match the spending of its neighbouring country, Algeria, which invests around 5.5% of its gross domestic product. For Francisco Macci, researcher at MIPA, the Kingdom can play an important role in the Middle East, thus detracting from the capital invested by other neighbouring nations such as Libya and Algeria.
This would be possible thanks to Morocco's long-standing relations with the US and Israel and its peaceful diplomatic approach, which has allowed it to strengthen its ties with Israel while maintaining its decades-long stance on the Palestinian cause. The strengthening of Morocco's military capabilities is also linked to the US foreign military sales policy, which aims to enhance national security by increasing allied capabilities. The two countries work together to support each other in terms of national security and engage in joint military training with other countries, such as the African Lion.
That being said, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that the United States is Morocco's largest arms supplier, accounting for 76% of its total arms imports during the period 2017-2021. According to the same source, the United States is the only country from which Morocco has purchased arms annually since 2009. In 2021, Morocco procured arms worth a total of $203 million out of a total expenditure of $225 million. The researcher concludes his study on the analysis of Morocco's air forces by stressing that they are highly deterrent forces with a strategy prepared for the defence of the area.
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.