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Royal Moroccan Navy

Royal Moroccan NavyThe Royal Moroccan Navy, including a marine force, is deployed from five bases at Casablanca, Agadir, Al Hoceima, Dakhla, and Tangier. The navy inventory includes two frigates, four missile craft, 23 patrol craft, four amphibious vehicles, and four support craft. Naval aviation has two helicopters.

On 3 January 1976, the Moroccan Navy stopped a Soviet cargo ship off the SpanishSahara and found a cargo of arms. In response to the evidence of increased Soviet support for thePolisario rebels, U.S. Navy vessels made three port visits in Morocco during January 1976. The US Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Department of Defense, decided that awell-publicized U.S. Naval visit to Agadir would be desirable to send a signal to the Soviets inresponse to the positioning of three Soviet Navy ships in the region. A three-day visit by CG-20 Turner early in February followed.

The fishing conflicts between Spain and Morocco in 1982 were tending toward a genuine "naval war." The machine-gunning of two Lanzarote fishing boats and the boarding of a third boat by agroup of supposed Moroccans led to talk of intervention of Mauritanian pirates, led by an ex-mercenary nicknamed "the German;" of the existence of "intimidating" actions by boats belonging to "mixed" enterprises in order to remove the independent fishermen and also the excess of zeal of the Moroccan navy patrol boats. It was known the Moroccan Royal Navy used "camouflaged" boats on special checking missions on the fishing bank. There were occasions on which these "camouflaged" crews practiced a lesser grade piracy on their own, especially when they were not collecting their salary on time. They had also reported the fact that the Spanish fishermen were carrying money ready to bribe the commanders of the "motor-boats" in case they were surprised in prohibited waters.

During the Cold War the Royal Moroccan Navy (RMN) was the poor stepchild of the Moroccan Armed Forces. Until 1988, the RMA and RMAF received virtually all of the U.S. security assistance funds furnished to Morocco as well as the bulk of the Moroccan military budget. By 1990 most of the RMN fleet consisted of large patrol boats, some of which were missile equipped, with an additional six 50-meter patrol boats acquired from Spain. The RMN had only one corvette, which was Spanish built and was equipped with U.S.-origin electronics, a U.S. Navy MK 46 torpedo system, and a commercially procured Raytheon sonar.

The Moroccan Navy bought Selenia's Albatros air defence system for its Spanish-built corvette Colonel Errhamani, delivered in 1983. The ship is also armed with the Oto-Melara 76mm Compact and two single 40mm Bofors guns with Breda improved feed. The four Spanish-built missile boats, Commandant Al Khattabi, Cdt Boutouba, CdtEl Harti and Cdt Azouggarn are all armed witha 76mm Compact gun forward and a single Breda Bofors 40mm aft, as are the French-built gunboats Okba and Triki.

Two new frigates built for the Moroccan Navy in France, based on the French Floreal Class, were constructed at Chantiers de L'Atlantique in Saint Nazaire, will be fitted with BridgeMaster E military-spec tactical radar systems. The vessels were scheduled for delivery in 2003-2004. The Moroccan version of the Floréal design differs only slightly from the original French design. The most obvious difference is the installation of a 76mm Oto Melara gun, with a WM-25 fire control radar replacing the 100mm weapon and Sea Tiger radar used on the French versions. The WM-25 radar and 76mm gun on these ships are reconditioned units from scrapped Lazaga class fast attack craft. A less obvious change is the use of U.S. radar and navigational equipment. The helicopter on the Moroccan version is expected to be the Dauphin. The complement of the ships is 11 officers and 109 enlisted, a larger total than on the French ships.

The Royal Moroccan Navy signed a contract with Schelde Naval Shipbuilding on 06 February 2008, worth approximately €510 million ($816 million), for the design, build and delivery by 2012 of three surface combatants that the Moroccans are designating multimission frigates. The Moroccans came to Schelde in May 2007 after negotiations with France for new warships fell apart. The Sigma design uses standard, 7.2-meter-long (24-ft.) sections separated by bulkheads with watertight doors throughout the ship. By varying the number of sections, a ship can be stretched or shortened. Indonesian corvettes, for example, have 12 sections; two of the Moroccan ships have 13, and the third Moroccan ship has 14. The Morocco contract calls for one 2,300-ton ship (designated Sigma 10513) that will be 105 meters long, with a beam of 13 meters. The other two ships will have a displacement of 2,100 tons (Sigma 9813s) and a length of 98 meters.

In early 2008 the Royal Moroccan Navy ordered four new 70-meter offshore patrol vessels. Designed by Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie, the OPV 70 design is being built at Aker Yards in Lorient, France.

DCNS has completed the sale to Morocco of a multi-mission frigate FREMM for an amount estimated at 470 million euros. The Shipyard Group (since January 2008) and Rabat (march 2008) have initialed the agreement, which must be formally announced at a Franco-Moroccan scheduled 18 April 2008 in the presence of Prime Minister François Fillon. The Moroccan navy seemed to be moving toward a version Anti-submarine, like the first FREMM French, the "Aquitaine". This choice came shortly after that of Algiers, which has commissioned two submarines of the Russian Kilo class (Type 636) initiated in 2006 in St. Petersburg. These vessels will be added to both units of this class (Type 877) delivered to the Algerian navy in 1987, "Rais Hadj Mubarek" and "El Hadj Slimane", soon to be upgraded. The Moroccan FREMM could be "taken" on the order of French multimission frigates, the first being built at Lorient. This would allow delivery in 2012.

In March 2008 King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Supreme Commander and Chief of Staff of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), launched the construction works of a USD 186.8 Mn naval base in the northern city of Ksar Sghir. The new facility, which is expected to be operational by 2010, is meant to modernize the Royal Navy in terms of equipment and living conditions, and provides for building barracks and housing units for the Navy staff. This project, to be funded in partnership with the Administration of National Defence, the Ministry of Equipment and Transport and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, is the first military port of the Kingdom on the Mediterranean, according to a press release of the FAR press service. It will serve as a home base for the ships of the Royal Navy in charge of protecting Morocco's northern coasts, says the document, stressing that thanks to its strategic position, the naval base will have a central role in sea patrolling operations of the Royal Navy.

The Moroccan Navy has become a growing and important partner with the U.S. Navy in Europe and Africa and has been a major participant in the U.S. Navy led annual multi-country exercise Phoenix Express, as well as a joint maritime law enforcement operation held in July 2009.

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