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Royal Moroccan Army - Modernization

Forces Armes Royales In the decade of the Western Sahara war, the quantity and quality of army equipment had improved somewhat. Few of the 120 Soviet-made T-54 and T-55 tanks that had formerly constituted the core of Morocco's armored strength remained in inventory. Their place had been taken by a like number of reconditioned M-48A5 tanks delivered by the United States. These were supplemented by AMX-13 light tanks and a large number of armored reconnaissance vehicles, mainly of French design. The army also had taken delivery of a quantity of artillery, including modern self-propelled 155mm guns from France and the United States. Portable antitank missiles had entered the inventory in large numbers and had proved to be effective against Polisario vehicles.

Chaparral surface-to-air missiles delivered by the United States in 1979-80 for the antiaircraft group had been placed in storage. Given the lack of an immediate airborne threat, it appeared that FAR officials had decided it would be prudent to maintain the missiles while they were in storage rather than expose them to damage in the field.

An increased willingness to sell arms to Morocco on the part of President Ronald Reagan's administration was counterbalanced by a reduced Moroccan ability to pay for the imports. This was demonstrated after the new administration announced, shortly after it took office, that it would approve a Moroccan request for 108 M60A3 tanks and associated tank transporters. Because of Morocco's inability to pay for the equipment, however, less expensive M48A5 tanks an upgrade of the older M48 were later substituted for the M60s.

Although the king could field a well-equipped army in 1985, deliveries of new weapons had dropped to a trickle because of Morocco's inability to pay for them. Unless replaced, aging equipment would eventually depreciate the capabilities of the FAR.

From the beginning of 21st-century, the Moroccan army began a modernisation program that included the purchase of modern equipment and the transformation into a more professional army performing multiple exercises with allieds armies, as a Major non-NATO ally, member of the initiative 5+5 and other cooperation agreements. The armys modernisation program took shape with the acquisitions of weapons such as the Chinese VT-1A and MRLS AR2, American M1A1 Abrams, the HAWK air defense system or the M109A5 Self-Propelled Howitzer.

The U.S. Government has 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 are M48A5 tanks, Ml13 armored personnel carriers, 155mm howitzers, TOW anti-tank missile systems, 20mm Vulcan air defense weapons, Chaparral air defense missile systems, and shipboard electronics. 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. Since FY 1983, the security assistance funding levels had shrunk from $100 millionto less than $35 million in FMS credits in FY 1986, rebounding to a mix of $52 million in MAP grants and FMS credits in FY 1988, and $52 million in FMS grants in FY 1989. An additional $1 million to $1.5 million was provided annually for the International Military Education and Training Program.

The Steyr SK-105, nicknamed the Kurassier, was purchassed in 1978. a total of 110 tanks ere delivered in 1979 and 1980. Designated as a tank destroyer by Austrian army, this vehicle is widely considered as a light tank. The SK-105 Kurassier uses improved chassis of the 4K 4FA armored personnel carrier and mounts an improved French FL-12 turret of the AMX-13.

With the exception of the expedited delivery of 50 TOW anti-tank missile systems in 1987, the purchase of 100 M48A5 tanks in 1988 (paid mostly with cash), 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 Russians delivered 12 Tunguska-M1 air defence system for the protection of the infantry against low-flying aircraft or cruise missiles, 107 surface-to-air missiles, 338 Artillery with over 227 self-propelled and 40 multiple rocket launchers, and at least 13 types of small arms.viii They also supplied some 100 armoured vehicles T-72B (MBTs) from Belarus in 2000, and 125 T-90 tanks in 2008 as well as around 60 BMP-3 were ordered in 2015.

Much improved version than the T-72A and variants, the T-72B were all purchased from Belarus and received between 1999 and 2001. They were all refurbished and modernized by the Belarussian tank-repairing plant No. 140 in Borisov before shipment. Upgrades were done by the company Peleng JSC with a new FCS, sighting and targeting systems and some new elements of life support.

The rumors of a Chinese buy of Chinese VT1A tanks appeared in several places, including numerous Chinese sites. Some people in Morocco suggested that the combination of reports and pictures was a way to add pressure on the USA. In 2008 China made an offer for its new MBT2000, dubbed later VT1A as new export config; So Kanwa, the Chinese defense review, reported the sale of 1/2 battalions (33/66), and so did RAIDS, the french defense magazine late 2008. Separately China sold also a batalion of AR2 MLRS and HJ-8L ATGMs.

In July 2010, three VT1A tanks were seen coming from the Casablanca port, and observers made pictures that made it around the globe. According to the website, the Moroccan Army recently acquired 150 MBT2000 VT1-A from Norino.

The Chinese VT1A vehicles are all improved T-72s. The key to calling it a T-72 derivative was based on the chassis, suspension, glacis and layout. They look similar to the Type 90/Al Khalid (a Type 90 variant developed by China and Pakistan for Pakistani service). There are not many details about this tank deal, due to Chinese and Moroccan hermetism in military matters, but its known that its armed with a 125mm smoothbore gun, 7.62mm parallel machine guns, 12.7mm antiaircraft machine gun. The prototype of the upgraded version of the VT-1A has been promulgated by the Armed Forces of Peru, which have been promissored to make the VT-1A to meet their strict demands. The VT1A MBT is a scaled down Type98/99 MBT built for export and similar to rest of the Type98/99 series of MBT. The enhanced VT-1A features an entirely new arrow-shaped turret armor and reactive tiles on the glazes, while internally, it has all the most modern firecontrol, night-fighting and C3I systems. Even the driver has an LCD displays and GPS map for better situational awareness.

The combination of reports and pictures seems to have been an information operation that inflated a test & trials shipment into something larger.

Some 300 Ex-US M60A1 were purchased from 1991 to 1994, 120 M60A3TTS and 7 M60A1 in 1997. Armys M60A1 tanks purchassed in the 90s were all upgraded to M60A3s as these became available, and 140 upgraded to M60A3TTS in 2009.

On May 10, 1996 the Department of Defense notified Congress that the government of Morocco has requested the purchase of 26 M198 155mm towed howitzers, 280,000 rounds of miscellaneous ammunition and other related items of program support. The estimated cost is $31 million. Morocco needed these howitzers to standardize equipment within the Moroccan Army, fully equip existing units and retire older artillery pieces in order to modernize the Army's defensive fire support capability. Morocco will have no difficulty absorbing these howitzers into its armed forces.

As of 2006 the army was equipped with 744 main battle tanks, 100 light tanks, 324 reconnaissance vehicles, 115 armored infantry fighter vehicles, 740 armored personnel carriers, 185 towed artillery, 227 self-propelled artillery, 40 multiple rocket launchers, 1,470 mortars, 720 antitank guided weapons, an unspecified number of rocket launchers, 350 recoilless launchers, 36 antitank guns, 477 air defense guns, 107 surface-to-air missiles, and unspecified numbers of surveillance and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Spanish electronic systems were also under consideration and after the reorganisation of the Spanish army, Morocco took delivery of Spanish military surplus vehicles and 50 second hand Leopardo tanks. Morocco also signed in 2006 for the purchase of 1200 Tactical High Mobility Vehicles as well as 800 different types of lorry and 10 troop carriers.

In April 2009 the Moroccan army received delivery of 70 Belgian-made armored vehicles, as well as another 102 armoured cars in a secret deal with Morocco. The armed forces' general command was studying deals to acquire Russian armored vehicles and Spanish electronic systems. The Royal Armed Forces recently acquired 102 Belgian-made armored cars, as part of a secret military deal made between the two countries. There were also new deliveries in 2011 of 26 advanced M198 155mm towed guns.

A new contract was agreed in September 2015 to supply 250 Abrams tanks, 22 of which will be delivered in 2016 and the rest by the end of 2018. On September 30, 2015 the U.S. Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command awarded General Dynamics Land Systems a $358 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract to refurbish and upgrade 150 M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks to the M1A1 SA (situational awareness) configuration for sale to the Kingdom of Morocco. General Dynamics Land Systems is a business unit of General Dynamics. Under the M1A1 SA program, the main battle tanks are completely disassembled and overhauled to a like-new, zero-mile condition. Refurbished tanks incur lower operational and support costs and report higher operational readiness rates. M1A1s are configured with armor upgrades and additional mission-critical technologies to bolster crew situational awareness.

Morocco received 60 second hand M109A5s from the United States in 2012, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, as well as 43 M109A1s from Belgium in 2008 and 40 M109A1s from Switzerland in 2005 (in a sale financed by the UAE). According to the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA), three M109A3s and a single M109A4 were delivered from the United States in 2013. According to the US Excess Defense Articles database, Morocco requested 70 surplus M109A5 howitzers and these were authorised to be transferred in January 2016. Total acquisitoin over thi speriod was 227 units, though some were apparently replacements for older units.

More defense equipment may be on the way for Morocco, as the Excess Defense Articles database showed that by 2016 the US Army had been authorised to supply 600 excess M113A3 armored personnel carriers, and 150 M557A2 command post carriers.

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Page last modified: 09-08-2018 00:05:57 ZULU