Morocco has requested the purchase of 24 new Apache attack helicopters in a $1.5 billion deal, the US Government has revealed.
In a country profile posted to the Export.gov website, which is aimed at helping US companies export around the world, it is noted that “Morocco purchased this year 25 new F-16 aircraft while launching an overhaul for its current fleet for a total budget of $4.8 billion, as well as requested 24 new Apache attack helicopters at $1.5 billion.”
This is the first official mention that Morocco has requested Apaches, and the first time the quantity has been specified.
Earlier this year reports emerged that Morocco had selected the AH-64 Apache over the T-129 ATAK and Bell AH-1Z. In April 2018, Chief of Staff of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces General Abdelfattah Louarak visited the United States, where he is believed to have been briefed on the Apache. The deal is expected to be finalised within two years.
Morocco’s military has no dedicated attack helicopter, instead relying on two dozen Gazelles, which are flown by both Army Aviation and the Royal Moroccan Air Force. The Army also flies several A109s and Alouette IIs, whilst the Air Force flies a dozen CH-47 Chinooks, two dozen SA330 Pumas, two dozen Bell 205s (AB-205As), a dozen AB-206 Jet Rangers, and several AB-212s and Dauphins.
The Export.gov website noted that Morocco is the largest buyer of US weapons in Africa, with recent sales worth billions of dollars. For example, the Moroccan army received 222 M1 Abrams main battle tanks, which had been delivered by 2018, and signed a technical support agreement in 2019.
Other significant purchases include 162 new M1A1 tanks at $.75 billion, 300 TOW missile launchers with 1 800 missiles at $180 million, and significant interest in purchasing High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), PATRIOT air defence systems, and G550 reconnaissance aircraft.
Over the last decade, Morocco has strengthened its navy and equipped its army with sophisticated vehicles, the Export.gov website noted. “The Moroccan defence budget is expected to grow to $3.9 billion by 2022. Morocco’s military expenditures totalled about $48 billion between 2005 and 2015.”
Morocco’s geographic location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East exposes it to transnational threats, including illegal immigration and the trafficking of humans and narcotics. Under its customs and port security agreements with the United States and other countries, Morocco has committed to implementing major upgrades and maintaining strict security standards at its airports, seaports, and border crossings. It provides similar security protections to certain government facilities, according to Export.gov.
The National Airports Office (Office National des Aeroports, ONDA) is responsible for all aspects of airport security and purchasing related to its projects. ONDA intends to invest $27 million in airport safety and security equipment and air traffic, in addition to billions of dollars of infrastructure upgrades.