Morocco continues its efforts to diversify its armaments while embarking on an ambitious plan to enhance the capabilities of its defense forces in a region characterized by continuing turmoil, with growing security challenges and the expansion of terrorist groups in the Sahel, and at a time when it aspires to become a regionally-weighted military power in the face of the continuation of its eastern neighbor (Algeria) in a massive arms policy.
Morocco is moving along two tracks: one focused on establishing effective diplomacy to resolve crises and deal with them realistically and calmly, and another aimed at building a strong military offensive and defensive force to fortify its national security, in an approach that highlights a balanced policy that has been firmly established by King Mohammed VI since he ascended the throne in 1999.
In the latest episode of strengthening its defense capabilities, the Kingdom of Morocco has started negotiations with the Chinese Defense Company for Space and Industrial Sciences to buy new and advanced weapons, according to a report published by Tactical Report and carried by the Moroccan news website Hespress.
According to the same source, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces is interested in missiles and precision-guided bombs from the Chinese factory, which has become one of the kingdom’s largest arms partners, while the United States is at the top of the list as Morocco’s biggest arms exporter.
In recent years, the Kingdom of Morocco has succeeded in strengthening its defense capabilities and developing its arsenal to be transformed according to the considered steps of a major military power in the region, while at the same time aspiring to enter the club of military industries, benefiting from extensive and solid relations with international actors in this field.
America is a major supplier of arms to Morocco, which imports 90 percent of its weapons from the United States. According to an earlier report by the Stockholm Institute for Security and Defense, U.S. shipments in 2020 to the Moroccan partner included 24 combat aircraft and 24 helicopter gunships.
But the kingdom is also working to diversify its partners in this sector and to take advantage of air, land and sea military systems from other sources of armaments, including China and Israel, while France is the second largest source of armaments for Rabat, which imports 9.2% of its total weapons and ammunition needs, the Moroccan news site reported.
“Morocco has become more visible on defense systems,” says the Tactical Report, referring to the steps it has taken to strengthen its armed forces’ capabilities on the one hand and diversify its sources of armaments on the other.
The FAR is not only interested in Chinese-supplied precision-guided missiles and bombs; it has also negotiated with Beijing for the purchase of advanced Wing Long 1 and 2 battle marches, while last year establishing a military air defense base to house modern defense systems from the Chinese partner.
In its latest issue, Defense and International Security magazine confirmed that Morocco acquired Chinese-made Wing Long-2 drones and Israeli marches, but did not specify the number of such drones.
In recent years, Morocco has stepped up efforts to enhance its defense capabilities while warning repeatedly of growing security challenges, including the growing influence of terrorist groups in the Sahel region.
The Kingdom of Morocco held several naval and land military maneuvers, including African Lion 2022 in its eighteenth edition last June, which is the largest of its kind on the African continent, with exercises in various regions of the country and the Al-Mahbas region in the desert, the closest point of the Tindouf camps in the Algerian territories, where the stronghold of the separatist Polisario Front.
The United States and other countries, including France, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, Tunisia, Ghana and some 7,500 troops from 18 countries participated in the exercise, with representatives from 30 countries attending as observers.
The Royal Air Force continues to develop its military arsenal by developing an F-16 fleet at a U.S. workshop, where fighter capabilities are enhanced and state-of-the-art technology is provided to respond to the needs of the Moroccan army, especially with regard to a new electronic warfare system on the aircraft.
Rabat and Washington signed a decade-old military agreement in October 2020 that includes a military defense roadmap between the two countries aimed at strengthening military cooperation against shared threats. The agreement also included a US pledge to help Morocco modernize and develop its military sector, according to Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.
In addition to plans to rehabilitate hawks and attack helicopters, Morocco is also preparing to build drones and rehabilitate fire-fighting helicopters.
The Moroccan website Hespress quoted Nabil Al Andalusi, head of the Maghrebi Center for Research and Strategic Studies, as saying that the first use of drones by the Kingdom dates back to 1989, noting that this explains “the interest that the Moroccan army pays to this multi-purpose mechanism, especially in terms of monitoring, information gathering, prevention, defense and the protection of the Kingdom’s national security.”
“In 2021, the Moroccan military strengthened its forces’ capabilities by acquiring the Skylock Dome surveillance and control system, while also enhancing its capabilities in this vital area through intelligence and military cooperation with Israel after the resumption of relations frozen due to the second Palestinian intifada 21 years ago.”
According to al-Andalusi, the size of Morocco’s budget for armaments and weapons arsenal modernization has increased significantly in recent years due to the increasing challenges and risks posed by the geostrategic changes that surround the kingdom, especially the eastern and southern borders.