Morocco has requested the sale of 25 M88A2 combat recovery vehicles at a cost of $239.35 million, with the US State Department approving the possible military sale.
The State Department on 3 March announced that Morocco’s request covers 25 M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift and Evacuation System (HERCULES) vehicles and/or refurbished M88A1 HERCULES vehicles and related equipment, which includes 25 M2 12.7 mm machineguns, 25 SINCGARS air and ground radios, 25 GPS systems, 30 AN/VAS-5B Driver Vision Enhancer (DVE) kits, 25 M239 or M250 smoke grenade launchers, 1 800 M76 (G826) or L8A1/L8A3 (G815) smoke grenade rounds as well as spares, training and support.
Additionally, the following recommended basic load ammunition may be included upon request from Morocco: 25 000 12.7 mm cartridges, 300 G815 smoke grenades, 2 500 armour piercing incendiary 12.7 mm tracer rounds, 91 800 4 ball/1 tracer linked 12.7 mm rounds and 54 000 12.7 mm blank rounds.
“The proposed sale will improve Morocco’s capability to meet current and future combat vehicle recovery requirements. Morocco will use the enhanced capability to enable armoured forces training to strengthen its homeland defence and deter regional threats. Morocco intends to use these defence articles and services to modernize its armed forces by updating their combat vehicle recovery capability in pace with their armoured unit upgrades,” the State Department said.
The principal contractor will be BAE Systems of York, Pennsylvania.
According to BAE Systems, the M88A2 is ideally suited to recovering 70-ton combat vehicles. The original M88, the BMY-manufactured M88A1, originated in the early 1960s based on the chassis of the M60 Patton tank. The heavier M88A2 was developed in the 1990s in part due to a need to tow the M1 Abrams tank and entered service in 1997. The M88A2 was developed to give 55% more winching power, 40% more lifting strength and 25% extra towing muscle. The HERCULES was the primary 70-ton recovery system during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The M88A2 HERCULES features overlay armour protection, ballistic skirts, a longer 35-ton boom, a 63 504 kg constant pull main winch with 280 feet of cable, and an auxiliary three-ton winch to aid main winch cable deployment.
HERCULES recovery vehicles have also been acquired by Iraq and Egypt. Morocco is almost certainly acquiring the HERCULES for its growing M1 Abrams fleet.
Morocco has been acquiring Abrams tanks from the United States over a number of years. Between 2016 and 2018 Morocco took delivery of 222 second hand Abrams tanks refurbished to M1A1SA standard before delivery at a cost of over $1 billion. The first upgraded Abrams were seen in Casablanca in July 2016 and were accepted into the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces that same month.
In November 2018 the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said it had approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to Morocco of “enhancements” to 162 Abrams tanks for an estimated cost of $1.259 billion. These 162 vehicles are second hand but rebuilt to M1A1SA standard before delivery.
Morocco’s tank inventory is estimated to includes some 48 T-72s, 320 M60s (including 120 M60A3TTS), 184 M-48A5s (in storage) and 116 Austrian SK-105 Kürassier light tanks (also in storage).