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Royal Moroccan Air Force

When Morocco attained independence from France in 1956, a small air arm was one of the early requirements of the armed forces. However, the Royal Moroccan Air Force was not created as a separate service until 1964. Since that time it has gradually grown in size and capability with help primarily from France and the United States. Although Morocco obtained some Soviet aircraft during the 1960s (for example, MiG-17s, MiG-15s, MiG-21s, and AN-12s), none of those aircraft were operational by the end of the Cold War. Moreover, that Soviet assistance did not extend to organizational and tactical experiences of a lasting nature.

The key event affecting the growth of the Moroccan air force occurred on 16 August 1972 when six pilots from the F-5 squadron intercept the King's Boeing 727 and try to shoot it down. Following the 1972 coup attempt, Mohammed Kabbej, the King's pilot, became inspector of the air force, equivalent to the chief of staff of the US Air Force. The appointment of Kabbej as its commander had a positive impact, and the RMAF was really reborn in 1972 under Kabbej's dynamic leadership.

The United States has been a player in the Morocco-Polisario war as the source of much of Morocco's war material, especially the weapons used by the Royal Moroccan Air Force. Help from the United States was especially important when the Polisario deployed Soviet-built SA-6 surface-to-air missiles to counter the growing effectiveness of the Royal Moroccan Air Force.

Most of the purchases made during the 1970s were designed to modernize the Moroccan military and were not related to the Saharan conflict. In 1977, however, Rabat asked Washington for OV-10 and F-5E fixed-wing aircraft and Cobra attack helicopters for use in Western Sahara. Previous US- Moroccan agreements stipulated that US-supplied weapons could be used only for internal security and self-defense. Morocco had been using previously obtained F-5A and B aircraft in the Sahara since 1976, a fact used by the Carter administration to justify its rejection of the Hassan regime's request for additional arms.

The Reagan administration dropped any conditions in supporting the Moroccans, as the need for staging bases in North Africa for the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force made access to Morocco's airfields important. The U.S. Government provided an extensive quantity of military equipment and services to Morocco through FMS credit purchases and the Military Assistance Program (MAP). The major end items were F-5 fighters and C-130 transport aircraft. The majority of these end items were financed by FMS credit and third country funds, and were delivered in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With the exception of the delivery of 10 F-5 fighters in 1989, the focus of the U.S. security assistance effort in Morocco shifted from procurement and was directed at sustaining and maintaining U.S.-origin equipment in the Moroccan Armed Forces.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force had 95 combat aircraft and 24 armed helicopters in 2006. On December 18, 2007 the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Morocco of F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $2.4 billion. The Government of Morocco has requested a possible sale of 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft with either the F100-PW-229 or F110-GE-129 Increased Performance Engines (IPE) and APG-68(V)9 radars. The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by enhancing Morocco's capacity to support U.S. efforts in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), as well as supporting Morocco's legitimate need for its own self-defense. Morocco is one of the most stable and pro-Western of the Arab states, and the U.S. remains committed to a long-term relationship with Morocco. The proposed sale will allow the Moroccan Air Force to modernize its aging fighter inventory, thereby enabling Morocco to support both its own air defense needs and coalition operations. Morocco is a Major Non-NATO ally. Delivery of this weapon system will greatly enhance Morocco's interoperability with the U.S. and other NATO nations, making it a more valuable partner in an increasingly important area of the world. The country will have no difficulty absorbing this new capability into its armed forces.

On June 6, 2008 the United States government awarded Lockheed Martin an Undefinitized Contract Authorization (UCA) for the production of 24 Advanced F-16 Block 52 aircraft for Morocco, making the Kingdom of Morocco the 25th nation to select the F-16. Morocco will acquire a Block 52 configuration of the F-16C/D aircraft tailored to meet the specific requirements of the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF). The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine was selected by the Royal Moroccan Air Force to power their new fleet of F-16 Block 52 aircraft. The engine program, sold through the U.S. Government's Foreign Military Sales program, is valued at approximately $170 million and is scheduled for delivery in 2010 and 2011.

On September 9, 2009 the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Morocco of F-16 C/D Block 50/52 aircraft support equipment and weapons at an estimated cost of $187 million. The Government of Morocco has requested a possible sale of 40 LAU-129A Launchers; 20 AGM-65D MAVERICK Missiles; four AGM-65D MAVERICK Training Missiles; four AGM-65H MAVERICK Training Missiles; 60 Enhanced GBU-12 PAVEWAY II Kits; 28 M61 20mm Vulcan Cannons; 28 AN/ARC-238 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radios with HAVEQUICK I/II or SATURN I/II.

Lockheed Martin was awarded an $841.9 million contract 22 December 2009 to complete production of 24 new F-16 fighters for Morocco, as well as for electronic-warfare gear and support equipment. The contract builds on an initial $233 million award the company received in June 2008 to begin production of the aircraft. Morocco selected the F-16 in 2007, picking the U.S. aircraft over the Rafale. Morocco is the 25th nation to buy the F-16, the world's most widely flown jet fighter.

On October 13, 2009 Hawker Beechcraft sold 24 Beechcraft T-6C trainers to the Royal Moroccan Air Force. The $185.3 million contract includes the aircraft, technical and logistics support and other services. The Royal Moroccan Air Force is the launch customer for the T-6C aircraft, an improved version of the T-6A Texan II. The T-6C will replace Morocco's T-34 basic trainers and Cessna T-37 jet trainers.

The Royal Moroccan Air Force has operational bases in Rabat-Salé, Meknès, Kenitra, and Sidi Slimane and a training base in Marrakech. In the 1980s the main operating bases for fighters were at Meknes (F-5 unit) and Sidi Slimane (Mirage F-1 unit). Both bases were well maintained ; both had unused flightline and maintenance capacities. And Sidi Slimane had 24 hardened aircraft shelters that rival those of any air force in the world. The RMAF's command center at Sald, built by Westinghouse Corporation at a cost of about $240 million, is the hub of a very modern air defense system that blankets all of Morocco. Radar stations throughout the country feed into the Sal6 center where operators track air movements throughout the nation. All the equipment at the center is operated by Moroccans (but some Westinghouse technicians remain as advisors and troubleshooters).

Although Presidents Truman and Eisenhower supported the concept of Moroccan independence, they were both much more concerned with the emergence of the Cold War and the necessity for maintaining a good relationship with France which had reasserted its political control in the region. In 1951, the U.S. signed an agreement with the French to establish four U.S. Strategic Air Command bases in Morocco. The U.S. strongly supported Morocco's independence which came in 1956, but the bases agreement between the U.S. and France remained a sore point between the U.S. and Morocco until a 1959 agreement between the two countries led to the evacuation of the four bases in the early sixties and several smaller communications sites in the late seventies.

The Reagan administration, in need of secure air base facilities to support possible Mideast operations, courted King Hassan and has sent an ambassador to Rabat to assure the monarch that "he can count on us." In 1987 the Moroccan government agreed to the use of an old abandoned U.S. Strategic Air Command Base at Ben Guérir as a transoceanic abort landing (TAL) site for NASA's space shuttle during emergencies. On the military side, Morocco signed agreements with the U.S. government allowing U.S. forces access and transit rights at several Moroccan Air Force bases. This agreement included various military construction projects toupgrade and develop facilities for possible contingencies.

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