To strengthen it’s air power in counter insurgency efforts, Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces (FAR) have signed a contract with Turkey worth MAD 626 million ($70 million) for the supply of 13 Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV).
The Bayraktar TB2 UAV is a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations.
In the contract agreement, Morocco will receive four ground stations, a configurable simulation system, and a digital system for tracking and storing information. Also, a drone operations center will be set up in Moroccan airbases.
Also, Moroccan military personnel will receive training, logistical and technical support. The supply of the combat drones is scheduled to begin later this year.
The Bayraktar TB2 UAV rose to prominence after successful combat performance in Syria, Libya, and more recently, Azerbaijan. The pricetag of a single Bayraktar TB2 UAV is $5 million, which means that Morocco likely paid $65 million in this deal with Turkey.
Over the past few years, Morocco has been moving to modernize its armament and improve on it’s combat capabilities to ensure regional security and stability given its important strategic position.
Morocco -with an annual defense budget of MAD 31.30 billion ($3.5 billion) and possibly MAD 38.30 billion ($4 billion) in 2022, -has earmarked a MAD 178.87 billion ($20 billion) for it’s five-year plan to reach “regional supremacy” through modernizing it’s armed forces.
This recent drone deal follows a similar contract conducted last year, where Morocco received at least three Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as part of a $48 million arms deal.
Aside the Heron deal, on Friday 11 December, former US President Donald Trump moved forward with $1 billion in sales of drones and precision-guided weapons to Morocco.
The deal includes four MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones made by privately-held General Atomics, and Hellfire, Paveway and JDAM precision-guided munitions made by Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing.
The unmanned aircraft will most likely monitor rebels in the Western Sahara.
Although, the Military of Morocco have not officially declared it’s position on the use of armed unmanned aircrafts, but a recent report suggests that Morocco used an armed drone strike to kill a senior Western Sahara independence fighter early this month.
A Polisario official later told local media that the officer had been killed by a Moroccan drone in a military operation.
Meanwhile, in November 2019, Morocco purchased a counter-drone system named Bukovel-AD, designed by the Ukrainian company Proximus to protect it’s airspace from hostile unmanned aerial vehicles.