The U.S. State Department has approved two possible sales to Morocco that, if concluded, will bolster the country’s F-16 fleet.
On March 25, the U.S. announced the approval of a possible sale of 25 F-16C/D Block 72 fighter jets. The potential deal comes with an estimated price tag of $3.8 billion and “will improve interoperability with the United States and other regional allies and enhance Morocco’s ability to undertake coalition operations, as it has done in the past in flying sorties against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.”
The approval includes 29 F100-229 engines (25 for the jets along with four spares) and 26 APG-83 AESA radars. The other approved equipment includes 26 Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems – Joint Tactical Radio Systems (MIDS-JTRS) with TACAN and ESHI terminals; 26 LN260 Embedded Global Navigation Systems; 40 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS); and 26 Improved Programmable Display Generators.
For armaments for the new jets, the U.S. approved the following:
M61 Al Vulcan 20mm guns (includes 5 spares); 50 LAU-129 Multi-Purpose Launchers; 40 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs); 40 AIM-120C-7 guidance sections; three GBU-38/54 JDAM tail kits; 50 MXU-650 Air Foil Group, GBU-49; 50 MAU-210 Enhanced Computer Control Group (CCG), GBU-49, -50; 36 FMU-139 D/B fuzes; six FMU-139 D/B (D-l) inert fuzes; two GBU-39 (T-l) GTVs; 60 GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs (SDB I); 10 MAU-169L/B Computer Control Group, GBU-10, -12, -16; 10 MXU-650C/B Air Foil Group, GBU-12; 12 Mk 82 bombs, filled inert; four BLU-109 practice bombs; and 10 (10) MAU-169 CCG (D-2).
The aircraft will come with AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods.
In addition to the new buy, Morocco is approved for a possible upgrade program for its existing F-16s. The U.S. State Department announced a possible $985.2 million sale of upgrades for 23 Moroccan F-16s, to bring them to the F-16V configuration.
The two sales – together worth about $4.8 billion – are still pending. With formal approval from the State Department, the sales now enter a review period of about a month with the U.S. Congress. Once this process is completed, assuming Congress does not move to disapprove it, Morocco will be able to move forward with the purchase.
Formal announcement from the State Department follows rumors throughout 2018 that a sale of up to two dozen F-16s to Morocco was imminent. Notably, Morocco’s interest in renewing its fighter jet capabilities come as neighbor and rival Algeria puts new Russian-made Su-30MKA fighter jets into service.
Algeria is also said to be considering an additional buy of Russian fighter jets. The country has evaluated in particular the MiG-29M (and two-seat M2 version) as well as the Su-35S. Were Algeria to purchase these aircraft, it would be the second in North Africa to do so – Egypt is currently receiving MiG-29M/M2s and is reported to have signed an agreement with Russia before the end of 2018 for the purchase of dozens of Su-35 jets.