Morocco acquiring Javelin anti-tank missiles

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Morocco is boosting its anti-tank missile capability with the acquisition of more than 600 Javelins, which are being acquired at a cost of $260 million.

The US State Department announced on 19 March that it made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Morocco of Javelin missiles and related equipment, and notified Congress of the possible sale.

Morocco has requested to buy 612 Javelin FGM-148F missiles (includes twelve fly-to-buy missiles) and two hundred Javelin Lightweight Command Launch Units (LWCLUs). Also included are missile simulation rounds; Javelin support equipment; tools; training; and other related elements of logistics and programme support.

“The proposed sale will improve Morocco’s long-term defence capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and to meet its national defense requirements,” the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency said.

The prime contractors will be the Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) between Lockheed Martin in Orlando, Florid, and RTX Corporation in Tucson, Arizona.

The Javelin was originally developed and produced for the US Army and Marine Corps by the Javelin Joint Venture – 50 000 missiles had been delivered to the US and international customers by 2021 since production began in 1994.

The Javelin is a fire-and-forget weapon with automatic infrared guidance, allowing the user to seek cover immediately after launch. Its high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead can defeat modern tanks by top-down attack, hitting them from above, where their armour is thinnest, and is also useful against fortifications in a direct attack flight.

To fire, the gunner places a cursor over the selected target. The Javelin command launch unit then sends a lock-on-before-launch signal to the missile. With its soft launch design, Javelin can be safely fired from inside buildings or bunkers. The Javelin’s time of flight is approximately 14 seconds for 2 kilometres.

The Javelin made its combat debut in Iraq in 2003 – in Afghanistan and Iraq it was used in more than 5 000 engagements – and rose to prominence in the Russo-Ukrainian War, where it has seen extensive use in destroying Russian armoured vehicles. Over a dozen European countries now use the Javelin, and global demand has been so strong that the Javelin Joint Venture is working to nearly double its production rate of 2 100 Javelins per year to 3 960 per year by 2026.

In the Middle East and North Africa, customers include Jordan, Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.

Morocco has been ordering other weapons systems from the United States as it continues to modernise its military. In April 2023, the US approved a $250 million sale of 40 Raytheon Joint Stand Off Weapons and related equipment to Morocco for its F-16 multi-role fighter aircraft, and 18 M142 HIMARS launchers along with nine M1152A1 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), practice rocket pods, radios, 18 FMTV resupply vehicles, three FMTV wrecker trucks, 18 M1095 trailers and other equipment. Along with ammunition, the HIMARS sale value is $524 million.

Morocco’s two main equipment suppliers are France and the United States, with the latter now accounting for the majority of imported military hardware. In recent years this has included F-16V Viper combat aircraft, AH-64E Apache combat helicopters, M1A1SA Abrams tanks, M113 armoured personnel carriers, TOW anti-tank missiles, M109 howitzers and various other weapons.