Morocco, a country located in North Africa, has been actively seeking to enhance its military capabilities in recent years. As part of its efforts to modernize its armed forces, Morocco has expressed interest in purchasing advanced weaponry from the United States, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW). These potential acquisitions have drawn attention due to their strategic implications for Morocco’s defence posture in the region.
“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Morocco of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and related equipment for an estimated cost of $524.2 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today,” according to a statement from the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency.
The statement specifies that the Moroccan government requested to purchase 18 M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, 40 M57 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), and 36 M31A2 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) Unitary.
The extensive list of equipment also includes 36 M30A2 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) Alternative Warheads, 9 M1152A1 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), and 18 International Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems (IFATDS).
Also on the list are a host of radio systems, tactical and supply vehicles, and GPS systems..
The shipment also features camouflage screen and support systems, support equipment, communications equipment, spare and repair parts, test sets, and laptop computers among other equipment.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO Ally that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in North Africa.”
“The proposed sale will improve Morocco’s capability to meet current and future threats and will contribute to Morocco’s ability to detect threats and control its borders, contributing to the maintenance of regional stability and security. It will also enhance the interoperability of the Royal Armed Forces (FAR), which routinely exercises with U.S. forces, focusing on countering terrorism and Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs) in the Maghreb and Sahel region. Morocco will have no difficulty absorbing these articles into its armed forces.”
HIMARS, a versatile and mobile rocket artillery system, and JSOW, a precision-guided standoff weapon, are considered cutting-edge military technologies that can significantly enhance a country’s military capabilities. The potential acquisition of these advanced weapons by Morocco would mark a significant development in the country’s military modernization efforts and could have geopolitical implications in North Africa and beyond.
One of the key reasons behind Morocco’s interest in acquiring HIMARS and JSOW is to enhance its ability to counter regional security threats, particularly from non-state actors and terrorist groups. Morocco has been actively engaged in counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region and faces challenges from extremist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The HIMARS system, with its long-range rocket artillery capabilities, can provide Morocco with enhanced firepower and precision strike capabilities to effectively target and neutralize such threats.
Similarly, the JSOW, with its precision-guided capabilities, can enable Morocco to conduct stand-off strikes against targets with reduced risk to its pilots and aircraft. This can provide Morocco with increased operational flexibility and the ability to project power at extended ranges, which could be particularly useful in addressing threats in remote or inaccessible areas.
Another important factor driving Morocco’s interest in acquiring HIMARS and JSOW is its desire to strengthen its defense capabilities vis-à-vis its regional adversaries. Morocco has long-standing territorial disputes, particularly in Western Sahara, and has faced security challenges from militant groups operating in the region. Acquiring advanced military technologies such as HIMARS and JSOW can provide Morocco with a strategic advantage in dealing with potential threats and maintaining its sovereignty.
Furthermore, Morocco’s interest in acquiring HIMARS and JSOW can be seen in the context of its broader efforts to strengthen its strategic partnership with the United States. Morocco has historically maintained close diplomatic and military ties with the U.S., and both countries have cooperated on various defence and security initiatives. Morocco has been a major non-NATO ally of the U.S. in North Africa, and the potential acquisition of advanced U.S. military equipment can further cement this partnership and deepen defence cooperation between the two countries.
However, there are also concerns and challenges associated with Morocco’s potential acquisition of HIMARS and JSOW. One of the main concerns is the potential impact on regional stability and arms race dynamics. Morocco’s neighbours, particularly Algeria, have expressed concerns over the potential acquisition of advanced military equipment by Morocco, as it could potentially disrupt the regional balance of power and lead to an arms race in the region. Algeria has its own long-standing territorial disputes with Morocco, and any significant enhancement of Morocco’s military capabilities could escalate tensions between the two countries.
Another challenge is the potential cost of acquiring and maintaining such advanced military technologies. HIMARS and JSOW are sophisticated systems that require significant investment in terms of procurement, training, and infrastructure. Morocco will need to carefully consider the financial implications and long-term sustainability of such acquisitions, taking into account its overall defence budget and priorities.
Additionally, the transfer of advanced military technologies such as HIMARS and JSOW involves complex export control regulations, technology transfer agreements, and security assurances. The U.S. will need to carefully evaluate Morocco’s capabilities, intentions, and adherence to international norms and regulations before approving any potential sale. This includes considerations such as human rights, regional stability, and the potential for diversion of the weapons to unauthorized parties.
Despite these challenges, the potential acquisition of HIMARS and JSOW by Morocco could have significant strategic benefits. The HIMARS system, with its high mobility and long-range rocket artillery capabilities, can provide Morocco with enhanced precision strike capabilities, allowing it to effectively target a wide range of threats, including enemy forces, infrastructure, and high-value targets. This can bolster Morocco’s deterrence posture and provide it with a credible military deterrent against potential adversaries.
Similarly, the JSOW, with its precision-guided capabilities and standoff range, can offer Morocco the ability to conduct precision strikes against targets with reduced risk to its pilots and aircraft. This can enhance Morocco’s ability to project power, deter potential threats, and protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Furthermore, the potential acquisition of HIMARS and JSOW can also contribute to Morocco’s domestic defence industry and technological capabilities. Acquiring advanced military technologies from the U.S. can provide opportunities for technology transfer, training, and knowledge sharing, which can help build Morocco’s indigenous defence manufacturing and research capabilities. This can contribute to the country’s economic development, job creation, and technological advancement in the defence sector.
From a geopolitical perspective, the potential acquisition of HIMARS and JSOW by Morocco can also impact the regional balance of power in North Africa. As Morocco seeks to enhance its defence capabilities, it may potentially shift the dynamics of power in the region and influence the strategic landscape. This could have implications for regional relationships, alliances, and potential conflicts, and may require careful diplomacy and coordination among regional actors and international stakeholders.
Morocco’s interest in acquiring High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW) from the United States reflects its efforts to modernize its military capabilities and enhance its defence posture in the region. The acquisition of these advanced weapons can potentially provide Morocco with enhanced precision strike capabilities, deterrence posture, and the ability to project power. However, it also presents challenges in terms of cost, export control regulations, and geopolitical implications. Careful consideration and assessment of the potential benefits and risks are crucial for Morocco and the United States as they navigate this potential defence procurement deal. As the situation develops, it will be essential to monitor the outcome of any potential acquisition and its impact on regional dynamics in North Africa.
The HIMARS and JSOW will complement WS-2D multiple rocket launchers acquired from China five years ago. The WS-2D has a range of 400 km and can carry a 200 kg warhead. Up to six rockets can be launched from a single launcher. Morocco also acquired a dozen PHL-03 (AR-2) 300 mm multiple rocket launchers from China over a decade ago.
Since Morocco’s two main equipment suppliers are France and the United States, on 11 April, the US approved a $250 million sale of 40 Raytheon Joint Stand-Off Weapons and related equipment to Morocco. Also included are dummy air training missiles, spares and other equipment. Morocco intends to use the weapons on its F-16 multi-role fighter aircraft, especially for patrolling sea lanes.
Also, on 11 September 2021, Morocco requests the sale of F-16’s armament, TOW missiles, Paveway II, and JDAM from the US to enhance Morocco’s ability to undertake coalition operations, as it has done in the past in flying sorties against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
More recently, Morocco, Bahrain, and Jordan were supplied with BRU-57/A weapon release units to double the number of smart bombs their F-16 fighter jets can carry.
L3Harris Technologies announced a $29 million contract to provide smart weapon release systems to air forces in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Bomb Release Unit BRU-57/A will allow F-16 fighter aircraft in the air forces of Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco to carry two smart weapons on each hardpoint instead of one, doubling munitions capacity. The unit is compatible with 500 and 1,000-lb guided weapons.