By ARIE EGOZI
In July, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), Lt. General Aviv Cochavi, paid a visit to Morocco.
Two years ago, such a visit would have been unthinkable. But the signing of the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020, which normalised relations between Israel and Arab countries like the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, has given a huge boost to Israeli defence industries.
So, when tensions between Morocco and Algeria regarding a dispute over the status of the Western Sahara flared up again recently, Rabat’s new relations with Israel provided some lucrative options to obtain advanced weapon systems in case a conflict with neighbouring Algeria erupts.
In February, Israel and Morocco inked a $500 million deal to provide the kingdom with the Barak MX air and missile defence system, which is manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Morocco also purchased the Skylock Anti-Drone System from Israel in 2021.
The Barak MX is a modular air defence system designed to address missile and aircraft threats. It operates on both maritime and belongs to the Barak missile family.
After the initial agreement between Israel and Morocco was signed, the Moroccans submitted a long list of Israeli-made weapon systems they wish to acquire from Israeli companies. The list includes different types of UAVs, radars, communication, and early warning systems.
After purchasing 150 eVTOL drones — the WanderB and the ThunderB — made by Israel’s Bluebird, Morocco is evaluating more types of Israeli-made unmanned air systems. One of the stipulations of the first deal is that some of the production be performed in Morocco.
According to sources, the new agreement signed with Morocco will allow it to manufacture intelligence gathering and armed drones in commercial quantities and at relatively low cost.
At first, Moroccan requests were for basic UAV systems aimed mainly at intelligence gathering. However, Israeli sources now say the Moroccans are asking for more "aggressive" systems to launch strikes against enemy targets.
Israeli sources also confirmed that Morocco is interested in the Elta ELM-2084 radar, which is part of the Rafael Iron Dome air defence system.
The ELM-2084 Multi-Mission Radar (MMR) detects high and low flying targets, tracks, classifies and generates a real-time Air Situation Picture of all aerial targets such as low radar cross-section platforms.
Some weeks ago, Israel’s military censors lifted a gag order that was in place for 20 years, which prohibited it from revealing that Israel is using UAVs armed with missiles.
Immediately after the gag order was removed, some countries, including Morocco, indicated their interest in these combat-proven systems.