Two North African countries and rivals; Morocco and Algeria are gearing up to acquire advance 5th generation stealth fighter aircraft from to significantly boost their air power capacity.
Israeli Minister of Defence, Benny Gantz made it known earlier this January that his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi, the Moroccan Minister of Defence, asked for Israel’s help in ‘convincing the Biden administration to authorize the sale of F-35 to Morocco and in obtaining more advanced weaponry’.
This is in response to reports of Algeria negotiating with Russia for the Su-57 Felon, and in 2018, the Algerian Air Force placed an order for 14 Su-57 and 18 Su-35 fighter jets to supplement its existing fleet of Su-30MKA fighters, with the entrance of both jets into Algerian Air Force service set for this year.
Last year, CEO of Russia’s Rosoboronexport Alexander Mikheyev stated at the MAKS 2021 international aerospace show that “Rosoboronexport is currently considering the requests for the fifth-generation Su-57E fighter from five countries of the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and Europe.”
Although the Russian weapons manufacturer declined to name the particular customer, he did say that countries of the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and Europe have shown interest in fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet.
Morocco’s F-16V outmatched
For Morocco, the United States approved a possible foreign military sale of 25 F-16V Block 72 aircraft to the country for an estimated cost of $3.8 billion in 2019.
Morocco is concern that it’s new F-16V would be greatly outclassed by Algeria’s Su-57s, which prompted the lobbying for the next-generation F-35 fighter jet.
Although, the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF), Morocco is said to have not yet submitted any formal request to the U.S. for the F-35s, however, It is not yet certain if the United States will allow Morocco obtain it’s prized F-35 fighter jet especially as it’ll constitute a major escalation in the already tremendously costly arms race between Algeria and Morocco.
UAE to cover cost of F-35s for Morocco
This past few years, tensions in the region have been steadily rising due to conflicting interest in Western Sahara, with Algeria showing support to the Polisario Front.
Israeli media reports that the UAE has offered to “cover the cost” of the F-35 jets if the United States were to approve the sale.
The latest generation of the F-35 multirole fighter is estimated to cost, at a minimum, roughly $78 million per unit.
Experts believe that Morocco may be able to acquire the F-35, owing to the improved ties with the US and Israel. For instance, in a surprising move, the US government approved the sale of four sophisticated MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones after much lobbying by Morocco.
F-35; a major deterrent
Even though the Su-57 and F-35 aircraft were designed for different missions, Russia claims that the Su-57 outperforms the F-35, an assertion disputed by the Pentagon.
Jafaj concludes that the F-35 could serve as a “major deterrent” against a war caused by the “bravado” of Algeria’s pseudo-military leadership.
“Israeli Moroccan military cooperation should be considered a major deterrent,” Jafaj reports, “not because Morocco could not defend itself, but rather because Algeria’s Generals now know that Israeli support for Morocco will make any confrontation with it a very costly one.”
Algeria could be the first country outside Russia to buy the Su-57 jets, giving it a clear aerial superiority over its North African neighbors including Egypt. Algerian Air Force current fleet comprises MiG-25s, MiG-29s, and Su-30s fighter jets.
Enter Su-75 Checkmate stealth aircraft
Meanwhile, Russia is currently marketing it’s new Su-75 stealth “Checkmate” fighter jet which Sukhoi unveiled on July 20 during the MAKS 2021 aviation show, to African and Asian countries.
“The Checkmate”, is designed to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightening II and Chinese Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon, and capable of unparalleled war fighting capabilities.
Russia is hoping the Checkmate stealth fighter jet will bag customers from North Africa particularly Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria. As the aircraft is touted as a cheaper alternative to it’s competitors.
The estimated cost of a new Su-75 Checkmate is between $25 million and $30 million, while an F-35 costs about $78-90 million for the conventional-takeoff F-35A model, and Shenyang FC-31 on the other hand costs around $70 million apiece.
The competitive price tag is a far better value proposition than the two nearest competitors, and superior to the French Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin F-16, and Sukhoi Su-30 – all fourth-generation aircraft in use by countries in the region.