Morocco’s acquisition of the Chinese HJ-9A (Red Arrow 9) anti-tank missile system represents a significant step towards strengthening its defence capabilities. This move reflects the country’s commitment to modernizing its armed forces and diversifying its sources of military hardware. The HJ-9A system’s advanced technology and precision-guided capabilities will undoubtedly enhance Morocco’s deterrence capabilities and bolster its national security.
The Royal Moroccan Navy recently showcased its newly-acquired Chinese HJ-9A anti-tank missile system, the Red Arrow 9A. The weapon was used in a training exercise as part of the 67th-anniversary celebration of the country’s armed forces.
The HJ-9A is specifically designed to neutralize heavily armoured targets, including tanks, armoured vehicles, and fortified structures. Its precise guidance system ensures a high probability of hitting the intended targets, even at extended ranges.
The acquisition is part of a known modernization drive to bring the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces up to standard. A 2030 Modernization plan, established in 2017 and launched in 2020, outlines the country’s stated goal of being interoperable with the United States and NATO, by modernizing the military equipment.
With the acquisition of the HJ-9A system, Morocco aims to strengthen its ability to defend its territorial integrity and secure its borders. This move is in line with the country’s broader military modernization efforts, which have included upgrading its air force, navy, and ground forces. By investing in advanced weaponry, Morocco seeks to deter potential adversaries, increase its deterrence capabilities, and safeguard its national security interests.
Designed to engage armoured vehicles and fortified structures, the HJ-9A includes a tandem warhead that can penetrate reactive armour to a depth of 1.2 meters. It has two separate explosive charges for more effective target destruction at a maximum range of 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles). Additionally, the system features a radar guidance system that utilizes millimetre wave technology for improved strike accuracy. The Red Arrow 9A reportedly provides versatility in various combat scenarios, as it can be mounted on vehicles or deployed on the ground using a tripod.
Apart from the HJ-9A, the Moroccan military operates other anti-tank systems, such as the HJ-8L that can hit targets up to 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) away.
Deepening Relations With China
Morocco’s decision to acquire the Chinese HJ-9A system highlights the growing strategic partnership between the two countries. China has become a key supplier of military equipment globally, providing advanced technology at competitive prices. For Morocco, the partnership with China offers an opportunity to diversify its sources of military hardware and reduce its dependence on traditional suppliers.
China’s defence industry has made significant strides in recent years, with advanced weapon systems gaining recognition for their reliability and effectiveness. The HJ-9A system is one such example, showcasing the technological prowess of Chinese defence manufacturers. Morocco’s acquisition of this system demonstrates its confidence in Chinese military technology and its willingness to forge closer ties with China in the defence sector.
In Africa, the Red Arrow has also been supplied to the Rwandan Defense Force which they mounted on the turret of an Otokar Cobra infantry mobility vehicle. These were displayed for the first time at the annual combined arms exercise at the Gabiro Combat Training Centre on 11 December., 2018 The Hard Punch III exercise was attended by President Paul Kagame.
In 2021, Morocco formally inaugurated its first military base housing a Chinese long-range air defence system. At the time, Morocco took delivery of the first batteries of Chinese-made FD-2000B surface-to-air defense missile systems at a military base near the city Sidi Yahya El Gharb. Rabat has acquired quite a potent mix of air defence equipment, which includes American-made MIM-104 Patriot, Sky Dragon 50 medium-range surface-to-air missiles, and land-based vertical launched French MBDA VL MICA. They were used to strengthen the air defence posture of its capital city, Rabat.
The Royal Moroccan Army also procured advanced military drones from the Asian military powerhouse to replace an older type of Chinese drone in its inventory. The Moroccan military has procured an unspecified number of Wing Loong II medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of its continuing effort to bolster its capabilities. The new Wing Loong IIs will join four basic Wing Loongs initially acquired in 2020 (likely gifted by the UAE), and other Israeli and Turkish unmanned systems. Morocco’s foray into heavy-duty medium altitude long endurance drone department started in 2020 when the United States provided the country with four MQ-1 Predator XP drone made by General Atomics.