Moroccan CH-47 Chinooks arrive home


The Royal Moroccan Air Force’s three new refurbished CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters arrived in Morocco on Saturday, after being transported from the United States by sea.

They arrived at the port of Tanger-Med, Tangier, aboard the US registered cargo vessel MV Liberty Pride. They were also unloaded on 15 August.

The first of the three helicopters was reflown in April after a seven month refurbishment by US maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company Columbia Helicopters at its facility at Aurora State Airport in Oregon.

The $6 million contract involved complete interior and exterior refurbishment, airframe touch-ups and engine overhauls. In addition to the aircraft, the foreign military sale included training for Moroccan crews, tools, publications and spare parts.

The United States Security Assistance Command (USASAC) country programme manager for Morocco Tom Brown said the refurbishment work included a 100 percent inspection, overhaul of all major components and painting the aircraft in Moroccan colours.

US Africa Command division chief of Regional Operations at USASAC Scott Huther said the Moroccan case has been in development since 2010, but due to Morocco budget constraints the delivery could not be expedited.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) is believed to operate between three and eight surviving CH-47Cs. In the 1970s Morocco ordered 12 CH-47Cs, which were delivered from Italy’s Elicotteri Meridonali in two batches of six in 1979 and 1982. In October 2009 the North African country put in an official request for three CH-47Ds, worth around $134 million.

The RMAF operates a large fleet of helicopters which includes 19 Aerospatiale SA-342 Gazelles, between 10 and 12 Agusta-Bell AB-206 (Bell 206)Jet Rangers, 25 AB-205As, two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks and 24 SA-330 Pumas.

Morocco is a staunch ally and one of the biggest recipients of US military aid in North Africa. The RMAF regularly conducts annual training exercises with the USAF. It recently supported the US-led airstrikes on Islamic State In Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria and Iraq with the deployment of six F-16 fighter jets.

The RMAF also took part in the Saudi-led bombing against the Houthi rebels advance in Yemen. An F-16 was lost over the war-torn country in May.