Morocco fishing for Piranha?

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A high-ranking Swiss delegation visited Morocco earlier this month. Its members, led by Guy Parmelin, the equivalent of the Swiss Minister of the Economy, met with his counterpart Ryad Mezzour.

For the occasion, they visited a factory of Sabca, a Belgian aerospace company active in the country. The latter signed an agreement with Pilatus in 2021 to assemble the robust and powerful Pilatus PC-12 single-engined turboprop aircraft in its Moroccan factory, therefore increasing the importance of the Kingdom in the wider, global aerospace supply-chain.

Morocco and Switzerland currently exchange goods worth roughly $900 million to $1 billion a year. As the Swiss-developed PC-12 is purely civil, very few, if any, arms exports have been agreed between Rabat and Bern. The last major agreement between the two countries dates back to 2005, when Switzerland exported 40 of its old M109 artillery guns to Morocco, reportedly paid for by the United Arab Emirates. The Royal Moroccan Navy’s special forces also use the Brügger & Thomet MP9 selective-fire submachine gun, designed and built in Switzerland.

Switzerland has a competitive defence industry that could be of interest to Morocco. Rabat has been modernizing its armed forces, notably driven by on-going tensions with Algeria. In particular, the Moroccan Army could be interested in the Mowag Piranha infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). Such a vehicle could adequately replace the decades-old IFVs currently present in the Moroccan forces, which comprise a mix of South African Ratel, French AMX-10P and VAB VCI or even Dutch YPR-765.

Rabat does need a new-generation piece of equipment, which could well be the Piranha, probably built under license if a deal goes ahead. As the Piranha V comes in three variants – IFV with 30 mm cannon, anti-tank with missile launcher and artillery with 120 mm cannon – a single family of platforms would meet the different needs of the Moroccan army.

But such an agreement would have to pass through Switzerland’s arms export controls, which might consider the Western Sahara issue to be a problem, even if this was not the case for the M109s. As Morocco asserts itself as a military, economic and diplomatic power, it is highly likely that exchanges between the two countries will increase, and it is only a matter of time before an export deal is reached between the two countries.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.