Sabena and Lockheed to serve the Moroccan air defence industry

Sabena Aerospace (Blueberry Group) and the American Lockheed Martin have signed a new strategic partnership with Morocco that includes the opening of a plant for the maintenance of Moroccan aircraft

PHOTO/JOE GIDDENS  -   Apache Helicopters

Morocco is taking its first steps towards becoming a destination for aerospace companies. Three aerospace companies such as Sabca Maroc, Belgium's Sabena Aerospace (Blueberry Group) and US-based Lockhead Martin have announced that they will open in Morocco the first maintenance plant dedicated to Moroccan aircraft. Alongside this, the Alawi kingdom is reportedly supplying critical engine parts, technology and wiring harnesses to defence industry giants such as Airbus and Boeing.

Morocco's new aerospace venture does not stop there. The plant will serve as a maintenance centre for aircraft from countries that maintain good diplomatic relations with the kingdom, especially related to the maintenance of Lockheed Martin C-130s from Tunisia and other countries on the continent. The new factory will also be responsible for modernising both helicopters and military aircraft used by the Royal Armed Forces. 

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PHOTO/AFP - A Lockheed C-130J J transport aircraft at the 105th French air base in Evreux, north-west France.

This new plant represents the first private investment in the Moroccan defence industry. The new factory will be built at the Benslimane airport and is expected to create 300 new jobs. With this production, the Moroccan defence hopes to strengthen Moroccan capabilities, especially in advanced defence technologies, as well as in human resources. In addition, this new investment is intended to influence air defence maintenance with the aim of reducing its dependence on external maintenance.

The agreement between these companies represents a strategic partnership, as pointed out by the Minister Delegate of the Head of Government in charge of the National Defence Administration, Abdellatif Loudyi, after stating in a press release that "the strategic partnership promotes the international development of the Belgian group while supporting the maintenance needs of the Royal Moroccan Air Force and providing high-tech jobs and technical capabilities to the country".

PHOTO/ ARCHIVO - Moroccan brigades

The project thus represents the first achievement in one of the kingdom's new objectives: the development of military-industrial and defence activity in order to "seek both strategic and economic advantages".

Along these lines, Morocco has invested in the renovation of its own arsenal by investing in modern equipment. Moroccan media also report that Morocco is increasingly close to acquiring 22 129 ATAK helicopters worth $1.3 billion. This deal is to be followed by an order for 36 AH-64E Apache helicopters, valued at an estimated cost of $4.25 million. 

PHOTO/AP  - US Patriot missile defence system

With this acquisition, the Kingdom intends to reinforce the attack capabilities of the Royal Moroccan Air Force, which currently has 24 Aerospatiale SA342L Gazelle helicopters purchased in 1978 and which have significant shortfalls.

For this reason, and in line with its commitment to strengthen its air defence against new threats, Morocco has also ordered 25 additional F-16C/D Block 72 fighter jets, which would bring the total number of F-16s to 48.

AFP/JALAA MAREY  - An Israeli Iron Dome battery, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, has been designed to intercept and destroy incoming rockets and artillery shells.

New forms of warfare have also demonstrated the need for unmanned aircraft. This new version prompted Morocco to acquire Israeli drones last December for $22 million. The Hope drones, nicknamed 'kamikazes', have a flight time of seven hours and can travel a distance of more than 1,000 kilometres carrying a 20-kilogram payload of explosives.

Despite this recent acquisition, just after Trump proclaimed recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Sahara, Reuters reported that the US had sold four MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones and precision-guided weapons.