Morocco is strengthening the air defence posture of its capital city, Rabat. Recent satellite images shows that Morocco has built an air defense base in Sidi Yahya El- Gharb, which is located northeast of the capital Rabat.
According to satellite images taken via Google Earth, the base is located at approximately 34.29753301432181, -6.283922702669312.
The construction of the base began in 2017 and was likely completed around August 2020.
Sidi Yahia el-Gharb base area is located in the middle of the major Moroccan metropolises, an area that contains several sensitive and strategic areas.
The new base will operate air defense systems acquired from several countries, and also house air defense units, a maintenance center, military housing, and other administrative buildings.
Since the past few years, Morocco has acquired several medium- and long-range air defense systems of Chinese, French, and American origin, and the government is in negotiations for more.
In 2017 and 2021, China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (commonly referred to as NORINCO) delivered 24 Sky Dragon 50 medium-range surface-to-air missiles, the DK-9 short-range air defense system, and a number of long range FD-2000B air defence systems to Morocco.
Morocco subsequently procured the French short-range missile defense system, VL Mica for €200 million (U.S. $226 million) after securing an export loan agreement with French PNB Paribas.
The VL MICA system in its land-based configuration consists of a series of truck-mounted elements, including a tactical operations centre, Sagem SIGMA 30 radar, and launcher vehicles that can carry between three and six multi-round launchers with the missiles in clusters of four rounds.
Rabat is also set to receive American-made MIM-104 Patriot air defence system. The US State Department cleared Morocco to buy the Patriot air defence missile systems in January last year.
It is part of Morocco’s comprehensive military modernization plan.
It is not yet certain if these new air defence systems will be integrated with Morocco’s Thales Ground Masters 400 radar which was recently delivered under a contract signed in 2019.
Although, Morocco remains heavily reliant on U.S. military technology, with American weapons making up about 62 percent of its inventory, it recently expressed interest in Turkey’s T129 Atak helicopters and has considered buying the Russian S-400 air defense system as well as Chinese tanks and rocket launchers.
Morocco is also interested in the Israeli Barak 8 system, which may be one of the new systems that may enter service with the Royal Moroccan Air Force.
Sources in Morocco understand that this air defence posturing is mainly targeted at European countries like Spain, particularly after Rabat studied the 2011 military operation against Libya in which aviation forces played a leading role throughout the campaign.