Morocco, US explore prospects for cooperation in defense industries
This came during the 11th session of the Morocco-US Defense Consultative Committee (DCC) held this week in Rabat under the co-chairmanship of minister delegate in charge of defense Abdellatif Loudiyi and US Defense Under Secretary Anthony Tata.
The US is the Moroccan army’s main supplier with cutting-edge weapons including F 16 fighter jets and Abram tanks and Morocco has ordered Apache helicopters and state-of-the-art weaponry from Washington as it continues a push to modernize its army.
The two parties expressed satisfaction at the close military-to-military cooperation. The US and Morocco, in addition to friendly states, combine one of the region’s largest military drills, the African Lion, on Moroccan soil annually.
The talks are also a follow up of a strategic military pact signed between the two countries that runs until 2030.
The Royal Armed Forces have placed a $9 billion order for the acquisition of 25 F16 jets and 36 Apache helicopters that will help it boost its defensive and attack capabilities.
By 2028, Morocco plans to have 48 F16 jets in total equipped with fifth generation radars and 36 Apache helicopters, according to FAR Maroc, a military portal specialized in the Moroccan army.
Besides aircrafts, the recent acquisition by Morocco of different types of frigates, Abram tanks, missile launchers as well as interest to purchase Patriot Air Defense Systems, show that the Royal Armed Forces remain consistent in their efforts to modernize weaponry.
Morocco’s recent US purchases would significantly tip the balance in the regional arms race with Algeria, a country whose chief of staff has trained and armed the Polisario separatist and has described the north African kingdom as “the enemy”.
A report issued by the Strategic Defense Intelligence (SDI) said Morocco is poised to become Africa’s leading army in 2022 thanks to its advanced procurements. A prophecy that is set to become true as Morocco is on way to unseat an Algeria plagued by internal strife and dwindling revenues.
Morocco “consistently imports advanced arms and munitions such as fighter and training aircraft, ships, missiles, tanks and frigates to strengthen its armed forces; a trend expected to continue over the forecast period,” reads the report dubbed The Future of the Moroccan Defense Industry- Market Attractiveness, Competitive landscape and Forecasts to 2022.
Morocco has taken one step ahead to lay the legal foundation for the launch of its domestic military industry after the government council chaired by King Mohammed VI last year approved a draft decree to that end.
The decree enables licenses for the setting up of plants to manufacture weapons, ammunition, and military and security equipment to be used for the Royal Armed Forces and exports as well.
The bill includes provisions governing trade, transport and transit of military equipment as well as tracking systems.
The move is part of Morocco’s plan to modernize its army and reduce reliance on imports.
As an island in a north African ocean of instability, Morocco has given foremost importance to bolstering its defense with state of the art technology raising by 29% its defense spending under the 2020 budget.
“Morocco is about to become a weapons (producing) country within the coming years…at least, it will host foreign factories, starting in the year 2025,” US research and consulting firm, Frost and Sullivan group, said in a report.
“Our permanent interest in the modernization and equipment of your units stems from our constant desire to develop your defense capabilities and to provide you with the necessary means and equipment, according to a global and integrated plan for the next decade. We have given our high guidelines for the implementation of this Plan, which will make it possible to finalize what has been achieved over the last two decades, so that our Armed Forces remain the protective shield and the impassable rampart for the defense of the Nation and its sacred values,” King Mohammed VI said in an Order of the Day to the Royal Armed Forces in May 2020.
Morocco has also sealed partnerships and cooperation ties with arms manufacturers in France, UK, Pakistan, Brazil and Belgium to ensure technology transfer that would offer a basis for a domestic military industry to reduce dependence on imports.