The United States Security Assistance Command (USASAC) says it has dispatched three refurbished ex-US Army CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters to the Moroccan military, which will arrive in Morocco next month.
The transfer follows the completion of a seven month refurbishment. The work was done by US maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company Columbia Helicopters at its facility which is located at the Aurora State Airport in the State of 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 all valued at $78.9 million.
“The helicopters, which will arrive in August, were requested for humanitarian services but can be used as transport vehicles, if needed. The fleet delivery will provide modernized vehicles to replace existing equipment which has become outdated,” the USASAC Public Affairs directorate said.
Country program 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 army colours.
US Africa Command division chief of Regional Operations at USASAC Scott Huther said “Three very capable aircraft are being provided under budget to the Moroccans. Providing these helicopters will enable Morocco to use them for a variety of purposes and have inter-operability with the U.S. military and its equipment in future missions.”
Huther said the case has been in development since 2010, but due to Morocco budget constraints the delivery could not be expedited.
The Royal Moroccan Air Force 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.