RABAT - Morocco, the largest US weapons buyer in Africa today, is filling the gap in its helicopter attack capacity with the purchase of 24 AH-Appache helicopters for a total cost of $1.5 billion, according to US media.
The deal comes in a series of purchases from the US armament industry to bolster the land and air components of the Moroccan army.
The Appache remains the best performing attack helicopter since it was first launched in 1989.
The twin-engine army attack helicopter, developed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), is used by Egypt, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United Kingdom.
The acquisition would seriously tip the balance in favor of Morocco in the regional arms race with Algeria. Morocco operates F16 fighter jets while Algeria relies on Russia’s SU-30.
The Moroccan defense budget is expected to grow to $3.9 billion by 2022. The main suppliers for the Moroccan military are the United States, France, and Spain.
Military expenditures in Morocco totaled about $48 billion between 2005 and 2015. Over the last decade, Morocco has strengthened its navy and equipped its army with sophisticated vehicles.
The North African kingdom purchased this year 25 new F-16 aircraft while launching an overhaul for its current fleet for a total budget of $4.8 billion.
Other significant purchases include 162 new M1A1 tanks, 300 TOW missile launchers with 1800 missiles at $180 Million, and significant interest in purchasing High Mobility
Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), PATRIOT Air Defense systems, and G550 reconnaissance aircraft.