Morocco looking at buying Avante vessels as it orders more French arms


Morocco is currently in negotiations with Spain’s Navantia over the acquisition of two Avante class offshore patrol vessels. The North African country is also set to take delivery of self-propelled artillery and surface-to-air missiles from France.

Spain’s El Pais reported in December that the deal with Navantia was at the advanced stage and awaiting the approval of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. The two vessels would cost around 260 million euros, including a maintenance agreement. It is believed that France’s Kership was offering Gowind offshore patrol vessels to Morocco. It is not clear how Morocco’s plans to expand its borders into Spanish territorial waters will affect the deal.

The Avante vessels for Morocco would be similar to those built for Venezuela, at around 80 metres in length with a displacement of 1 500 tons. They have a crew of around 35 and space for about 30 extra people plus a helicopter.

Navantia initially built four Avante vessels for the Spanish Navy (Avante 3000) and four of each class for the Venezuelan Navy (Avante 2200 and Avante 1400). The ships are able to carry out a wide variety of missions such as coastal surveillance and protection, protection of maritime traffic, health assistance to other ships, external firefighting, the fight and control of marine pollution, transport of personnel and provisions, search and rescue operations, rapid intervention, frogmen support, surface defence and passive electronic warfare.

The Avante and systems are specially designed to operate in environmental conditions of high air and seawater temperatures and humidity nearing 100%, according to Navantia.

Meanwhile, Morocco is acquiring military hardware from France. La Tribune recently reported that Morocco has ordered 40 Caesar 155 mm artillery systems for 170 million euros and ammunition worth 30 million euros from Nexter as well as four MICA VL surface-to-air missile batteries for 200 million euros from MBDA.

La Tribune also reported Morocco was interested in a naval maintenance contract from France’s Naval Group that would see it maintain its three Sigma corvettes and a multi-mission FREMM frigate.

The deals are due to be made public next month when French President Emmanuel Macron visits Morocco on 12 February. The visit will be Macron’s third official trip to Morocco since his election in May 2017.

France and Morocco enjoy close economic and defence ties – between 2008 and 2018, France sold Morocco some 1.8 billion euros worth of military equipment, including two satellites.

Morocco is meanwhile acquiring large amounts of military hardware from the United States and in November 2019 requested the sale of 36 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters (24 new with 12 options) in a deal worth $4.25 billion.

Morocco is one of the largest buyers 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 recent 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.

In September 2019, Morocco requested the sale of F-16 weapons and ammunition worth $209 million as well as 2 401 TOW-2A anti-tank missiles for $776 million. In March the North African country requested an additional batch of 25 F-16C/D Block 72 aircraft and equipment for $3.787 billion. In mid-2019 Morocco also requested the transfer of two excess C-130H Hercules transports from the United States.