Morocco cleared to acquire attack helicopters worth $4.25 bln

Morocco is filling the gap in terms of offensive air capabilities with the acquisition of  36 mighty Apache helicopters and related equipment for a total cost of 4.25 billion dollars.

Previously announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 20 November, the deal was green lighted by the US Department of state describing Morocco as a major non-NATO ally.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major Non-NATO ally that is an important force for political stability and economic progress in North Africa,” the DSCA said in a statement.

The equipment covered by the deal include Lockheed Martin AGM-114L/R Hellfire air-to-surface missiles; BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rocket kits and over 5,000 70 mm rockets; and Raytheon AIM-92H Stinger air-to-air missiles. Defensive countermeasures will also be provided for the helicopters, as will Manned-Unmanned Teaming-2 (MUMT-2) equipment for the on-board control of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), according to DSCA.

The acquisition will bolster the attack capabilities of Morocco’s Royal Air Force which currently operates 24 Aerospatiale SA342L Gazelle helicopters procured from 1978 that need replacing.

The Apache remains one of the best performing attack helicopter since it was first launched in 1989.

The twin-engine army attack helicopter, developed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), is used by Egypt, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the UK.

The AH-64D Longbow was deployed by the US Army in Afghanistan as part of Operation Anaconda, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and, from June 2003, in South Korea.

The acquisition would seriously tip the balance in favor of Morocco in the regional arms race with Algeria. Morocco operates F16 fighter jets while Algeria relies on Russia’s SU-30.

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