April 1, 2023

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Morocco: The Maghreb’s New Military Power | Athalayar

The Alawite Kingdom strengthens its armed forces.

2021 will be a busy year for Moroccan military planners. The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) procurement list includes 1,000 anti-tank missiles and missiles, T-72M main battle tanks and ammunition for its brand new Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones, according to the UN Conventional Arms Register.

These new acquisitions complement Rabat’s efforts to modernize its FAR to weather the geopolitical storm in North Africa and its major regional rival, Algeria, in the Maghreb. To this end, The Alawite Kingdom has increased its military spending, acquiring increasingly modern equipment and increasing military exercises with partners such as the United States..

An increasingly modern military

Rabat, along with Algiers and Cairo, is Africa’s largest arms buyer and is considered the fifth best military on the continent and the second best in the Maghreb. In this domain, Rabat relied on many partners, but especially the United States and FranceBringing it closer to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) standards.

about this, Morocco received US designation as a “major non-NATO ally”.Washington offers it to countries outside the Atlantic alliance with which it has close security ties, and is one of only three countries on the continent to benefit from it (along with Tunisia and Egypt).

Also, normalizing relations with Israel in 2020, in addition to US Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and strengthening ties with Washington, opened the kingdom’s door to a powerful military career. Good relations with the United Arab Emirates, a country sometimes called “Little Sparta” because of its strong military capabilities. thereby, Rabat has acquired modern equipment in recent years aimed at making the kingdom a military power in various fields.s.

Photo/File – Rabat, along with Algiers and Cairo, is Africa’s largest arms buyer and is considered the continent’s fifth best army and the second best in the Maghreb.

In 2008, The FAR Air Force has made a major leap forward by acquiring more than twenty US F-16C/D Block 52+ fighter-bombers., received in 2011, have since been modernized and already used in the Saudi military intervention in Yemen and in the war as part of the international coalition against Daesh in Syria and Iraq. In addition, in 2019, the kingdom confirmed the purchase of another 25 F-16 Viper Block 70/72, the last model of this series, and in 2021, Washington will have approved the sale of powerful anti-aircraft missiles to the Arab country. Aircraft system MIM -104F (PAC-3) Patriot.

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As for the military, Rabat also purchased 222 M1A1 Abrams tanks in 2012, and 162 M1A2 Abrams tanks are expected to be available in the near future. This American tank is considered one of the most advanced in the world, and was successfully used by Washington during the two Gulf Wars, in desert conditions, the same conditions found across much of the border. Algeria-Morocco and Western Sahara, potential theaters of conflict for Rabat.

The kingdom has also acquired or will soon acquire other US weapons, such as AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and MQ-9B Sea Guardian naval drones (the latter sold under the Abraham contract). Recently, Rabat also acquired Franco-Israeli Harfand suicide drones and the popular Turkish Pyrector DB2, the latter of which played a key role in Azerbaijan’s victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020 and is now used by Ukraine to defend against Russian troops. The Kingdom will soon acquire 36 French Caesar 155 mm guns and an artillery system with a range of 40 kilometers.

At the same time, Rabat is committed to modernizing its naval forcesIt is moving from a “green water” navy (focused on coastal defense) to a “blue water” navy (with projectile capabilities), with the aim of making the North African country one of the major naval players in the western Mediterranean.

the king Mohammed VIIn his address to the FAR on the 66th anniversary of their formation, he emphasized the objective of rearmament of the country, Strengthening and modernizing the armed forces through the development of local military industry and cooperation with its partners. “We will continue to prioritize the equipment and development program of the Royal Armed Forces, in accordance with integrated plans, particularly in terms of building military industries and the development of scientific research. […] “With the aim of improving the self-equipment of our armed forces in various sectors,” the King said.

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Photo / Distance - Rabat has purchased 25 new F-16 fighter jets and will modernize its existing fleet of 23 in a deal worth $4,747.2 million, the country's largest military purchase.
Photo/Distance – Rabat bought new F-16 fighter jets

“We have advocated strengthening cooperation between our state armed forces and their counterparts in fraternal and allied countries, which has yielded commendable results and contributed to strengthening the influence of our military and its international presence,” the president added. Incentives to strengthen Rabat based on cooperation with its partners.

Military exercises are worth mentioning here African lion, organized every year in the Alawite Kingdom with the participation of many countries, especially the United States, which allows Morocco to continue the modernization of its armed forces in the image of Western forces. During the last edition, which ended on June 30, around 7,500 soldiers from the Kingdom and several partners participated in the continent’s most important exercises, which included joint land, air and sea maneuvers. In a sign of the close ties between Washington and Rabat, the maneuvers took place for the second time in their history near the Western Sahara, and 50 kilometers from the refugee camps of Tintouf (in Algeria), the seat of the Polisario Front.

AFP/ WILLIAM WEST - An M1A1 Abrams main battle tank fires at a target during a live fire demonstration.  Rabat recently acquired 200 of them
AFP/William West – An M1A1 Abrams main battle tank fires at a target during a live-fire demonstration. Rabat recently acquired 200 of them

Closer and closer to Algeria

With this rapid modernization, Rabat aims to approach the capabilities of its Algerian rival, traditionally considered the leading military power in the Maghreb. Bilateral relations between the two countries have been strained since independence, when they experienced a brief conflict known as the “Sand War”. Since then, Rabat and Algiers have competed for regional priority, Western Sahara being one of the hot spots in their bilateral relations, and the border has been closed since 1994.

Although the two countries have tried in the past to ease their bilateral relations, these have deteriorated rapidly in recent months after Algeria cut off gas supplies to the Alayut Kingdom and severed diplomatic ties. Polisario leading in Western Sahara and gaining support from many countries, e.g USA, Spain, UAE and IsraelFor Rabat’s autonomy proposal.

Mohammad V
Photo/File – King Mohammed VI

In terms of military power, Morocco rose to 56th place in the global firepower ranking, which measures the military power of 142 forces around the world.. Rabat has benefited from Western arms and cooperation, but Algiers has benefited from Moscow, which has a deep and historic security relationship with the Eurasian power. Additionally, the Arab Republic is rapidly increasing rearmament, leading to a growing arms race in the Maghreb.

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If Morocco now has powerful F-16s, Algeria has Sukhoi Su-30s (and Algeria reportedly bought Sukhoi Su-34s), Moroccan Abrams are facing Algerian T-90s, and the Patriot anti-aircraft system is being contested. S-400 Triumph.

Leon Africano
Photo/File – Morocco cooperates militarily with the US through African Lion exercises.

Additionally, Algiers has an advantage in the maritime domainFor example, up to six submarines have been deployed, while Morocco has none (rumors indicate that the Alawite Kingdom plans to acquire such vessels soon), and in terms of size, it generally uses more equipment. than its neighbor.

However, qualitatively, Rabat has made significant progress in many areas, reducing the gap between the two countries year by year. At the same time, after the Abraham Accords, the Kingdom’s diplomatic situation has clearly improved, and the strengthening of relations with the United States, by modernizing the Kingdom’s military, will promote the FAR’s progress towards Western standards, while possibly weakening it. Russia may play against Algeria following Ukraine invasion.

REUTERS/ABDELAZIZ BOUMZ - Algerian soldiers stand for protection
REUTERS/Abdelaziz Boumz – Algerian soldiers stand for protection

According to a report by the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies, a French think tank, the Moroccan armed forces are already well-prepared for regional defense and counter-attack in the key Algerian region, and while they receive all the weapons that are sent to them, “They will have strong capabilities in the naval and air domains, particularly in deep strikes, force projection and access denial.”.

In the coming years, as Rabat continues to strengthen its ties with Washington and Tel Aviv, and as Algeria continues to destabilize relations, the FAR will continue to be developed and modernized. Making Morocco a military power in the western Mediterranean.