Morocco is making far-reaching efforts to acquire the U.S. top military hardware, the F-35 multirole fighter jet, according to Israeli outlet Jafaj. In a December 8 article, the defense-oriented outlet alleges Morocco is in the midst of a clock-and-dagger game to convince the US to sell its most wanted jet fighter.
A new arms race is brewing in North Africa, as both Morocco and Algeria look to procure the most advanced fighter jets available. In response to the reports that Algeria rejected Su-35 fighter jets to purchase 14 Su-57E fighter jets without an AESA radar, Morocco has been making overtures to expand its Air Force and acquire the F-35.
Tensions with Algeria
Jafaj quotes an Israeli source who claims that King Mohammed VI met in secret with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz during the Israeli official’s recent trip to Morocco. The piece alleges that Gantz’ trip came at the personal request of Morocco’s monarch, and that the two met over lunch in Rabat.
During this lunch, Jafaj writes, the king raised the issue of ongoing tensions with Algeria.
The outlet further claims to know of Moroccan intelligence that “confirm” that Algeria is “planning hostilities on the Moroccan borders.” Jafaj writes that in order to counter these maneuvers, Morocco is seeking to purchase “Israeli drones with very high surveillance and combat powers which Morocco is less likely to be able to secure from the US.”
Jafaj quotes an anonymous European source as saying “the Moroccans want the Israelis to assist Morocco on the deployment of militiamen or Algerian troops across the border with Morocco as they are very concerned about Algeria-backed Islamists who may target Morocco.”
Israel, Morocco defense deal
Morocco, Israel and the United States on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the US-sponsored resumption of diplomatic relations between the North African kingdom and the Jewish state.
During a video conference, the foreign ministers of the three countries — Nasser Bourita, Yair Lapid and Antony Blinken — welcomed a partnership aimed at establishing what the US secretary of state called “an achievement that has deepened ties, partnerships and avenues to pursue shared goals”.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz made an unprecedented visit last month that saw the signing of a security pact that angered Algeria and the Palestinians. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met Moroccan King Mohammed VI at one of the monarch’s mansions in Morocco and discussed the possible acquisition of the American F-35 to counter Islamist threat from Algeria.
Media in both countries have since reported on the Moroccan acquisition of Israeli defense technology.
Israel’s Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai is also expected to visit early next year, media in the kingdom have reported.
According to the Times of Israel, a possible Morocco-US arms deal that includes the advanced stealth fighter would constitute a major escalation in the already tremendously costly arms race between Algeria and Morocco. Algeria in January announced it had ordered 14 Russian Su-57 jets to counter Morocco’s current fleet of F-16C and F-16V Block 72.
In 2019, the US approved a possible FMS of 25 F-16V Block 72 aircraft to Morocco for an estimated cost of $3.8 billion.
The F-35 as a deterrent to war
According to Jafaj’s European source, Morocco’s Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi discussed possible upgrades to the Moroccan air force with Gantz. “Morocco needs more planes with a serious potential for war raising with its Algerian neighbors,” the source stated, adding that the US’ stealthy F-35 multirole fighter is Morocco’s desired solution.
The Israeli outlet claims that the UAE has offered to “cover the cost” of the expensive jets if Morocco was able to gain US approval for an eventual sale of the fifth-generation fighters. Minister Loudiyi asked Gantz for Israeli assistance in convincing Washington to sell its F-35 and other advanced military hardware to Rabat, according to Jafaj’s sources.
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