Morocco’s Air Force Reloads: F-16s all in
Morocco’s combat air force currently flies 2 squadrons of old F-5 fighters, and 2 squadrons of only slightly newer Mirage F1s. T-37 light jets serve as high-end trainers. Their neighbor and rival Algeria flies MiG-23s of similar vintage, but the Force AÃ©rienne AlgÃ©rienne also flies SU-24 Fencer and SU-25 Frogfoot strike aircraft, plus even more modern and capable MiG-29s, and is receiving multi-role SU-30MKs as part of a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.
Morocco can’t beat that array. Instead, they’re looking for replacement aircraft and upgrades that will prevent complete overmatch, and provide a measure of security. Initially, they looked to France, but key reversals have handed most of this modernization work to the United States.
Slips and Shifts
France’s Rafale is part of a set of European 4+ generation fighters that were developed and fielded during the 1990s-early 21st century, with the aim of surpassing existing offerings among America’s “teen series” fighters, as well as Russia’s MiG-29 Fulcrum and SU-27/30 Flanker family. “Dogfight at the Casbah: Rafale vs. F-16” discussed the French sales slip-ups that cost Dassault its first export order for the 4+ generation fighter. That outcome is now official.
Just to make things worse, the final multi-billion dollar fighter deal involves new-build F-16s, at a price comparable to the rumored figures for the Rafale. Not to mention an accompanying American deal to replace Morocco’s T-37 trainer fleet with T-6Cs, and contracts for air-launched weapons, targeting pods, C-27J short-haul transports, and CH-47D helicopters.
France has retained upgrade work for the Mirage F1 fleet, and their program could end up having applications elsewhere. Other Mirage F1 upgrade opportunities may exist in Gabon, Libya and perhaps Ecuador; while countries like Argentina may become buyers for second-hand but similarly-refurbished French, Jordanian, and/or Spanish aircraft.
Contracts and Key Events
Aug 10/12: F-16s. Arabian Aerospace offers an update on the status of Morocco’s F-16s. All 8 F-16Ds are in service, along with 5 of the F-16Cs. The F-16 Block 52 fighters are now in service with the Escadron de Chasse ‘Falcon’ at Ben Guerir AB, near Marrakech. Two further squadrons, ‘Spark’ and ‘Viper’ will stand up at the same base.
A cadre of 10 pilots have graduated from instructor training in the USA with the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing, and that group will train the other Moroccan pilots. Meanwhile, Morocco’s F-5 fleet may find itself relegated to advanced trainer and reserve duties.
July 8/12: AIM-9X-2. The May 19/11 DSCA request leads to a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) to buy Raytheon’s AIM-9X Block II short range air-to-air missile for Morocco’s new F-16C/Ds. Numbers and prices are an “undisclosed quantity,” but can be inferred by consulting the DSCA request: 20 + training missiles.
The RMAF will be the 4th country using the Block II version with the added datalink and lock-on after launch capability, after the USA, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. AIM-9X Block I customers include Australia, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Turkey. Raytheon.
20+ AIM-9X-2 missiles
April 3/12: F-16 #4,500. Lockheed Martin commemorates the 4,500th F-16 Fighting Falcon delivery – “an advanced Block 52 aircraft destined for Morocco.”
Dec 5/11: F-16 ECM. Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, TX receives a not-to-exceed $32.4 million firm-fixed contract, to provide Morocco’s 24 F-16s with Advanced Countermeasures Electronic Systems Electronic Warfare Systems (ACES) modules that have “updated date protection.”
ACES defensive systems are actually a Raytheon product (vid. the Dec 1/08 entry), but they were explicitly included in Lockheed Martin’s base F-16 contract (vid. Dec 22/09 entry). That’s why the work location lists as Fort Worth, TX. The USAF Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB acts as Morocco’s managing agent (FA8615-08-C-6050, PO 0026).
Aug 1/11: F-16s. The first 4 of 24 new Block 52 F-16s leave Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, TX, on a ferry flight to Morrocco. Lockheed Martin.
May 19/11: AIM-9X missile request. The US DSCA announces Morocco’s official request to buy 20 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles, plus 10 CATM-9X-2 Captive Air Training Missile All-Up-Rounds (missiles with seekers and wiring, but no motor, in their case), 8 CATM-9X-2 Missile Guidance Units, 8 AIM-9X-2 Block II Tactical Guidance Units, 2 Dummy Air Training Missiles, plus containers, missile support and test equipment, provisioning, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, and other forms of U.S. Government and contractor support. The DSCA adds that the “Royal Moroccan Air Force is modernizing its fighter aircraft to better support its own air defense needs.”
Recall that the July 9/08 DSCA request for F-16s involved AIM-9Ms, which still equip many American aircraft and are inferior to the Vympel R-73/AA-11 Archer missiles flown on Algerian fighters. AIM-9X missiles are significantly more advanced, with greatly improved seekers and maneuverability. The key Block II addition is lock-on after launch, which takes full advantage of the missile’s characteristics, and the advantages of helmet-mounted sights. By telling the missile to fly to a designated location and look for a target, kills have even been scored behind the firing aircraft. This initial number of missiles would give the RMAF’s new F-16s enough missiles to train with, and field a very preliminary operational capability.
The estimated cost is up to $50 million, with exact totals to be negotiated if a contract is signed with prime contractor Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ. Implementation of this proposed sale will require travel of U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Morocco on a temporary basis for program technical support and management oversight, but the DSCA has no estimate of how many yet.
AIM-9X-2 missile request
May 18/11: T-6Cs. The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) has received the first 12 of 24 T-6C trainers from Hawker Beechcraft, to replace its existing fleet of T-34 and T-37 jet trainers. Arabian Aerospace.
Sept 30/10: F-16s. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, FL wins an $8.1 million contract for Type I special operations and maintenance training for the government of Morocco in support of their F-16 program. At this time, $6.2 million has been committed by the AETC CONS/LGCI at Randolph Air Force Base, TX (FA3002-10-C-0030).
This seems like a minor award. Without awards like this, however, you can throw away everything else spent on the aircraft. Or, you can rely on foreign contractors to keep a fleet ready, and hope they stick around if that fleet ever gets used in a state-to-state shooting war
July 19/10: F-16s. Pratt & Whitney announces a $145 million to provide F100-PW-229 Enhanced Engine Package (EEP) turbofan engines for the RMAF’s new F-16s. The new engines will be delivered in 2010 and 2011.
The Royal Moroccan Air Force became the 22nd international customer to select the F100 engine family, which powers F-16s and F-15s around the world. The F100 was the launch engine for these fighters, but technical problems led to severe readiness issues. Eventually GE’s rival F110 engine entered the market, and wound up powering most of the USAF’s new F-16s. The 2 engine competition never let up, however, and the new F100-PW-229 EEP has given the Pratt & Whitney team a number of important wins in head-to-head competitions around the world. To date, F100-PW-229 powered aircraft have logged more than 2.5 million flight hours in more than 18 years worth of operational service.
July 19/10: T-6Cs. Hawker Beechcraft Corporation rolls out the first of 24 Beechcraft T-6C military trainers ordered by the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF). Hawker Beechcraft [PDF].
April 28/10: Mirage F1s. Arabian Aerospace reports on progress with Morocco’s MF2000 Mirage F1 upgrade program, which will upgrade 27 Mirage F1s (F1CH, F1EH and F1EH-200) at an estimated cost of $420 million. In the case of the Moroccan upgrade, the first 2 aircraft were upgraded at Charleroi in France, with the 3rd undergoing modifications in-country. The prototype made its maiden flight on Oct 19/09, and flight tests and certification are expected to continue throughout the spring and summer of 2010. The upgrade is handled by the new Association Sagem Thales pour la Renovation d’Avions de Combat (ASTRAC) joint venture between Thales and Sagem’s SAFRAN.
The MF2000 adds the standard “glass cockpit” of digital 2-color displays. A new Head-Up Display and full HOTAS(Hands On Stick And Throttle) controls brings the pilot area into line with modern standards, as does a modern zero-zero ejection seat, and compatibility with a helmet-mounted display system if one is added later. A pair of SAGEM mission computers interfaced with a MIL STD 1553B digital databus, and a hybrid Sigma IN/GPS, back this up, and modern secure radios are used for communications. The older Snecma ATAR 9K50 engines are retained, but with a 4% thrust boost and longer life through a new compressor module, redesigned high-pressure turbine, and corresponding increases in mass flow and engine temperatures.
The old Cyrano IV radar is replaced by Thales RC400 (RDY-3) multi-mode pulse Doppler radar, which is similar to but smaller than the Mirage 2000-5′s. Weapons carried can include a variety of guided and unguided weapons, in addition to the onboard 30mm DEFA cannon. Air-air options include the short-range MBDA Magic 2 or Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder, with MICA IR/RF missiles available as longer-range options. Damocles surveillance and targeting pod integration makes a big difference in the plane’s air-ground capabilities, as does its ability to carry French AASM GPS-guided bombs. ARMAT anti-radiation missiles and AM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles can be used for specialty missions. For defense, a new digital radar warning receiver (RWR) and an external PAJ FA ECM pod, plus Corail flare launchers and Phimat chaff dispensers, improve survivability.
Mirage F1 MF2000
April 8/10: F-16 insurance. In FedBizOpps solicitation #FA8615-10-R-6045, the USAF issues a request for information. Seems that Morocco is looking to insure its F-16s between the time the US government accepts them from the manufacturer, and the time they are handed over in Morocco. When you consider the need for checkout flights by Lockheed Martin test pilots, long ferry flights, and ongoing integration flight tests, this makes sense.
One all-risks insurance policy would cover 22 planes for 3-5 months each, and another would either cover 2 planes for up to a year and a half, or just cover those final ferry flights. Coverage would be up to $50 million per plane, with a $250,000 deductible. Coverage would last from initial delivery in Texas until engine turn-off and completion of all published post-flight pilot checklists. The coverage would also include a desired $500 million in liability coverage, with no deductible. Edwards AFB is in California… are they sure $500 million is enough?
The first twenty-two (22) aircraft will be ferried over the period of July 2011 – December 2012. These last 2 aircraft will be held in the US for up to a year, performing integration and characterization flight tests at Edwards AFB, CA, and integration and characterization flight tests at Fort Worth, TX. The last ferry will occur sometime in the year 2013 for the last two aircraft.
Dec 22/09: F-16s. Lockheed Martin Corp. in Fort Worth, TX receives an $841.9 million contract for 24 F-16 Block 52 aircraft with electronic warfare systems (Raytheon’s ACES, see Dec 1/08), along with associated support equipment, alternate mission equipment and support elements for the government of Morocco. At this time, $672.8 million has been committed under management of the 312th AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH (FA8615-08-C-6050, PZ0008).
Note also the $233.6 million long-lead buy on May 30/08. As one can see, some expensive but essential components like engines (vid. July 19/10, June 6/08) are covered under separate contracts, so even $1.075 billion (about $45 million per plane) isn’t the full price for an operational fleet of 24.
Nov 25/09: F-16s. L-3 Communications in Arlington, TX receives a $21.6 million contract to provide the Royal Moroccan Air Force with 2 F-16 Block 52 aircrew training devices and associated support. The 677 AESG/SYK at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio manages the contract (FA8621-10-C-6251).
Oct 26/09: Chinooks. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Morocco’s official request to buy 3 CH-47D Chinook helicopters with 6 (2 per helicopter) uprated Honeywell T55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 2 spare T-55-GA-714A Turbine engines, 4 AN/ARC-201E Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS); plus associated mission, communication, navigation and ground support equipment, as well as spare and repair parts, special tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, site survey, and U.S. government and contractor technical and personnel services. The estimated cost is $134 million, and Boeing in Ridley Park, PA will be the prime contractor.
Morocco’s air force ordered 12 CH-47Cs, from Italy’s Elicotteri Meridionali (now AgustaWestland, see photos), who built them under license by Boeing. They were delivered in 2 batches of 6 each, in 1979 and 1982, and fly with the Escadre Hélicoptère in Rabat. Their current state of repair and serviceability are not known for certain; some orders of battle place their current operational number at 9, in which case these 3 helicopters would return the fleet to full strength.
Oct 20/09: F-16s. Lockheed Martin CFO Bruce Tanner, discussing Q3 2009 earnings, reveals that Morocco and Iraq will be delaying their planned F-16 purchases “beyond 2011″. Q3 Podcast [MP3] | Q3 Earnings slides [PDF] | Flight International.
Sept 21/09: T-6. Hawker Beechcraft Corp. in Wichita, KS receives a contract for 24 T-6C trainer aircraft, spares, program support, operational flight trainers, ground support, on-site support and technical publications. The Dec 19/07 DSCA listing said that Morocco was requesting 24 T-6B trainers, but Morocco will be the launch customer for the new variant.
At this time, $37.1 million has been obligated. The AESG/SYI at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base manages this foreign military sales contract (FA8617-09-C-6170).
The Royal Moroccan Air Force is the launch customer for the new T-6C model, and Hawker Beechcraft’s Oct 12/09 release adds more details. Like the US Navy’s newly certified T-6B, the T-6C features an integrated digital “glass” cockpit and advanced avionics suite, including a a Head-Up Display (HUD), Up Front Control Panel (UFCP), 3 Multifunction Displays (MFDs) and Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls. What it adds is wings equipped with hard points, to allow for external fuel tanks, and an open architecture Esterline CMC Cockpit 4000 avionics suite that’s the first in its class to incorporate a fully integrated and FAA-certified dual FMS/GPS navigation suite. See also Dec 19/07 entry.
Sept 9/09: F-16s. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Morocco’s formal request for F-16 C/D Block 50/52 aircraft support equipment and weapons at an estimated value of $187 million.
DSCA said that the proposed sale will allow the Moroccan air force to modernize its aging fighter inventory, thereby enabling Morocco to support both its own air defense needs and coalition operations (emphasis DID’s), adding that “Morocco is a major non-NATO US ally.” The proposed sale includes:
- 40 LAU-129A launchers;
- 20 AGM-65D infrared-guided Maverick air-to-surface missiles;
- 4 AGM-65D Maverick training missiles;
- 4 AGM-65H TV-guided Maverick training missiles;
- 60 Enhanced GBU-12 Paveway II kits, which include GPS-aided, laser guidance systems for the 500 lbs GBU-12 bombs;
- 28 M61 20mm Vulcan cannons;
- 28 AN/ARC-238 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radios (SINCGARS) with HaveQuick I/II (a frequency-hopping system used to protect military radio traffic) or Saturn I/II;
- 1 ground based simulator;
- 40 LAU-118A missile rails;
- 6 AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER targeting pods with ground station. Previous DSCA requests had included 12 SNIPER ATP or LITENING pods, and the RMAF has begun buying SNIPER;
- 16 Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) pods that record an aircraft’s in-flight data during dogfighting exercises;
- 4 ACMI ground stations:
- 8 Joint Mission Planning Systems (JMPS);
- 2 Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receivers (ROVERs);
- 30 AN/ALR-93 radar warning receivers;
- 30 AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles.
Other items included in the request are containers, bomb components, support equipment, repair and return, spares and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, US government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
The principal contractors will be:
- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX
- Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ
- L3 Communications in Arlington, TX
- Advanced Night Vision System in North Salt Lake, UT
- Marvin Industries in Inglewood, CA
- Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT
- Goodrich ISR Systems in Danbury, CT
- BAE Advanced Systems in Greenland, NY
- Boeing in Seattle, WA
- Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in St Lewis, MO
- Boeing IDS in Long Beach, CA
- Boeing IDS in San Diego, CA
- Raytheon in Lexington, MA
- Raytheon in Goleta, CA
- Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX
- Northrop-Grumman Electro-Optical Systems in Garland, TX
- Northrop-Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD
Some contractors on this list may not be featured in final orders, depending on which ancillaries are chosen.
F-16 weapons request
Aug 03/09: F-16s. Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Orlando FL receives a $30.3 million contract for the purchase of Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATPs) for Morroco’s F-16s. The Dec 19/07 DSCA request specified either Sniper ATP or the LITENING pod.
The contract includes integration support, product spares. and logistics support. Sniper ATP deliveries will be completed in 2011. The number of pods was not disclosed. Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center/448 SCMG/PKHCB at Robins Air Force Base, GA manages the foreign military sales contract (FA8522-09-C-0013).
Feb 23/09: F-16s. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products announces a 5-year, $39 contract from Lockheed Martin for F-16 Ammunition Handling Systems (AHS). The initial order is $8.9 million, covering guns that will equip Turkey’s 30 new F-16C/D Block 50s, and Morocco’s 24 new F-16C/D Block 52s. Final assembly will be performed at GDATP’s Saco Operations facility in Saco, Maine, with testing and program management performed at the company’s Burlington Technology Center in Burlington, VT. Deliveries will begin in April 2010.
The General Dynamics F-16 Ammunition Handling System utilizes a closed-loop, linkless feed system, giving it greater ammunition capacity than previous designs and eliminating potential damage from ejected ammunition casings. The system is combined with GDATP’s M61A1 20mm Gatling gun.
Dec 1/08: F-16s. Raytheon announces a contract from Lockheed Martin for its ACES (advanced countermeasures electronic system) for 24 Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16 Block 52 aircraft.
The ACES system is Raytheon’s latest offering for the F-16, and consists of a radar warning receiver, digital jammer and chaff-flare dispensers. The system features a new, all-digital, low cost, high performance radar warning receiver for dense signal environments, and a new digital RF memory-based (DRFM) jammer with enhanced resource management and an upgraded bag of tricks. Raytheon’s contract calls for deliveries to begin in December 2009.
Note that the original DSCA announcement involved 28 of ITT’s AN/ALQ-211 AIDEWS; or BAE Systems’ AN/ALQ-178 SPEWS suites, or or Raytheon’s AN/ALQ-187 ASPIS II suites. ACES would represent an upgrade from ASPIS II.
Oct 23/08: C-27Js. Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica announces [PDF] that the Moroccan Defence Ministry has placed a EUR 130 million order for 4 C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft. Industry and local sources say it also includes a 2-year training and spares package, plus options for a VIP module.
This brings the total number of firm C-27J orders received to 121 (US Army 78, Italy 12, Greece 12 + 3 option, Romania 7, Bulgaria 5 + 3 option, Morocco 4, Lithuania 3), and is the first order from a non-NATO country.
The Alkowat al malakiya al jawiya (RMAF) currently operates a fleet of about 19 C-130H/KC-130H Hercules aircraft as its mainstay transports. This order appears designed to supplement that C-130 feet with smaller short-field cargo aircraft, which don’t have the same number of flight-hours on their airframes. Later reports, however, indicate that the C-27Js will actually replace some C-130s.
Aug 28/08: F-16s. Goodrich Corp. Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems of Chelmsford, MA wins an $87.9 million contract for 4 DB-110 airborne reconnaissance pods, 1 mobile ground station, 1 fixed ground station, 2 mission planners, data links, in-country technical representatives, technical manuals, and test and integration support. At this time $37.8 million has been committed. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH is managing the contract (FA8620-08-C-3013). See the DSCA listing in the Dec 19/07 entry; the DB-110 beat BAE’s TARS alternative.
Goodrich Corporation announced the contract back on July 14/08, to equip the Royal Moroccan Air Force’s new Block 52+ F-16 fighters. Work will be performed by the company’s ISR Systems teams in Chelmsford, MA and Malvern, UK.
July 9/08: F-16s. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] Morocco’s formal request for weapons to equip its new F-16s. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $155 million.
The request includes a number of different weapons, along with containers, bomb components, spare/repair parts, publications, documentation, personnel and training, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support elements.
The principal contractors will be:
- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX (F-16)
- Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX (Paveway)
- Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA (JDAM)
- Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ (AMRAAM, HARM, Maverick, Paveway, Sidewinder)
Weapons requested will include:
- 30 AIM-120-C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to Air Missiles (AMRAAM). The most recent production version is the C7.
- 60 AIM-9M SIDEWINDER Missiles. The most recent production version is the next-generation AIM-9X, but most American aircraft still carry AIM-9Ms.
- 20 AGM-88B/C HARM Missiles, used to attack radar sites.
- 8 AGM-65D/G MAVERICK Missiles, which use imaging infrared (IIR) guidance. The AGM-65G is especially useful against hardened targets.
- 45 AGM-65H MAVERICK Missiles. These use camera-based guidance, which can be more useful in hot desert environments.
- 50 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits (20 GBU-31 for MK-82 500 lb bombs, and 30 GBU-38s for MK-84 2,000 lb bombs);
- 20 GBU-24, PAVEWAY III laser-guidance and fin kits to convert 2,000 pound bombs.
- 50 GBU-10, PAVEWAY II laser-guidance kits for 2,000 lb. bombs with penetrating warheads for hardened targets.
- 150 GBU-12, PAVEWAY II laser-guidance kits for 500 lb. bombs.
- 60 Enhanced GBU-12 PAVEWAY II bombs, with dual-mode GPS/laser guidance.
- 300 MK-82 training “bombs”
- 60,000 training projectiles for 20mm cannons, which are found in the F-16 and in Morocco’s F-5s
- 4,000 self-protection chaff for use in the ALE-47 self-protection system
- 4,000 ALE-47 self-protection flares and associated equipment and services.
Morocco can order up to these amounts, if the sale is not blocked by Congress within 30 days.
F-16 weapons request
June 6/08: F-16s. Pratt & Whitney announces that its F100-PW-229 engine has been selected by the Royal Moroccan Air Force to power their new fleet of F-16 Block 52 aircraft, beating GE’s F110-GE-129. The engine program is valued at approximately $170 million, with deliveries to take place in 2010 and 2011.
The F100-PW-229′s Engine Enhancement Package (EEP) aims to increase the time until full depot inspection from 7-10 years, while providing up to 30% life cycle cost reductions and reduce the predicted in-flight shutdown rate by up to 25%. To date, F100-PW-229 powered aircraft have logged more than 963,000 flight hours in more than 16 years of operational service, and the Royal Moroccan Air Force becomes the 22nd international customer to select the F100 engine family for F-16 or F-15 aircraft.
May 30/08: F-16s begin. Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Co. of Fort Worth TX received a firm fixed price contract not to exceed $233.6 million for 24 F-16 Block 52 aircraft, along with associated support equipment, alternate mission equipment and support elements for the Government of Morocco. At this time $124.3 million has been obligated. The 312AESG/PK at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH manages this contract (FA8615-08-C-6050).
As one might guess from the amount, this isn’t the full purchase price, just the cost of key materials and components that have long lead times, and must be ordered now to ensure timely delivery of the finished fighters. Note: this contract was re-announced on June 5/08.
Dec 19/07: F-16s. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Morocco’s formal request for 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft as well as associated equipment and services – but not weapons. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $2.4 billion. The proposed sale includes:
- 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft with either the F100-PW-229 or F110-GE-129 Increased Performance Engines (IPE), and APG-68v9 radars;
- 24 Conformal Fuel Tanks (pairs);
- 5 F100-PW-229 or F110-GE-129 IPE spare engines;
- 4 APG-68v9 spare radar sets;
- 30 AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing Systems (CMDS)
- 30 AN/ALR-56M Radar Warning Receivers (RWR)
- 60 LAU-129/A Launchers;
- 30 LAU-117 Launchers;
- 6 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems;
- 12 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper ATP, or AN/AAQ-28 LITENING advanced surveillance and targeting pods. Even the choice is surprising, as Northrop Grumman’s LITENING was jointly developed with RAFAEL of Israel; DID predicts a Sniper ATP purchase.
- 5 Tactical Air Reconnaissance Systems (TARS) or DB-110 Reconnaissance Pods (RECCE); Goodrich’s DB-110 is already integrated into Poland’s F-16s, an eventually won here, too.
- 4 AN/ARC-238 Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) radios with HAVE QUICK I/II;
- 4 Link-16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT);
- 2 Link-16 Ground Stations;
- 4 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Embedded GPS/ Inertial Navigation Systems (INS);
- 4 AN/APX-113 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) Systems;
- 28 AN/ALQ-211 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suites (AIDEWS); or 28 AN/ALQ-187 Advanced Self-Protection Integrated Suites (ASPIS II); or 28 AN/ALQ-178 Self Protection Electronic Warfare Suites (SPEWS)
- 1 Unit Level Trainer
- Associated support equipment, software development/integration, tanker support, ferry services, CAD/PAD, repair and return, modification kits, spares and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical, engineering, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
The principal contractors (and some of their key offerings) will be:
- Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX (F-16 prime)
- Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, TX (Sniper ATP)
- BAE Advanced Systems Greenlawn, New York (Electronic Warfare, IFF, TARS)
- Boeing Corporation Seattle, Washington
- Boeing Integrated Defense Systems (three locations) St Louis, MO; Long Beach and San Diego, CA
- Raytheon Company (two locations) Lexington, MA; Goleta, CA
- Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ
- Northrop-Grumman Electro-Optical Systems in Garland, TX (LITENING)
- Northrop-Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD (AN/APG-68v9)
- Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT (F100 engine)
- General Electric Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati, OH (F110 engine)
- Goodrich ISR Systems in Danbury, CT (DB-110)
- L3 Communications in Arlington, TX
Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Morocco involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management, and training over a period of 15 years.
Dec 19/07: T-6. The DSCA release [PDF] notes that:
“The Royal Moroccan Air Force’s (RMAF) fleet of T-37 aircraft was produced in the early 1960s. The T-37s high fuel and maintenance costs, and low mission-capable rates led to the RMAF’s decision to procure new trainer aircraft. The T-6B aircraft will reduce fuel requirements by 66%. The RMAF will use these new aircraft to modernize its air force and to improve operational capability in coalition operations and exercises, and contribute to a modern air defense network for the legitimate defense of Morocco.”
Hence Morocco’s official request for 24 T-6B Texan trainer aircraft with very secondary light attack capability. Associated equipment will include Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with CMA-4124 GNSSA card and Embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation System (INS) spares, ferry maintenance, tanker support, aircraft ferry services, site survey, unit level trainer, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support.
The estimated cost is $200 million, and the principal contractors would be:
- Hawker Beechcraft Corporation in Wichita, KS (aircraft)
- Pratt & Whitney Corporation near Montreal, Canada and in Bridgeport, WVA (engines)
- Martin Baker in Middlesex, United Kingdom (ejection seat)
- Hartzel Propeller in Pique, OH (propeller)
- CMC, with headquarters in Montreal, Canada and offices in Ottawa, Canada and Sugar Grove, IL (cockpit avionics)
- L-3 Vertex in Madison, MS
Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips to Morocco involving U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, program management, and training over a period of 15 years.
Why The F-16? DID Analysis
Defence Aerospace claims that France’s Rafale offers were 18 jets for EUR 1.8 billion (currently $2.6 billion), or 24 jets for EUR 2.4 billion (currently $3.45 billion), along with MBDA’s Mica air-air missiles and AASM GPS-guided bombs:
“Contrary to earlier reports, Morocco is buying new F-16s, and not surplus US Air Force aircraft. The price it is paying is broadly comparable to that offered by France for the Rafale, giving the lie to reports that Moroccan authorities were swayed by a cut-rate offer made by the United States.
France made two offers, one for 18 Rafales for 1.8 billion euros ($2.6 billion), and one for 2.2 billion euros ($3.2 billion) for 24 aircraft. The French offers included a full weapons suite (MICA air-to-air missiles and AASM laser-guided bombs) as well as an extensive ground environment, that Morocco will have to buy separately for the F-16s.”
A 2012 Arabian Aerospace report says that the French bid shift came when the US reportedly counter-offered up to 36 second-hand F-16s at a cost of just $1.4 billion. France’s revised offer reportedly offered the choice of 12 Rafales and 12 Mirage 2000 aircraft, or a higher-end buy of 24 Rafales. The US response involved 24 fully up to date F-16C/D Block 52s at $2.4 billion.
There’s little transparency in these sorts of negotiations, so the public may never know why Morocco chose as it did. Few would dispute that the Rafale is a significantly better plane, offering Morocco a level of quality overmatch that the F-16C/Ds cannot promise against neighboring Algeria’s MiG-29s and SU-30s. The F-16s’ potential winning edge thus comes down to some combination of the most likely explanations: price, network effects, strategic leverage… and pride.
When comparing the offers, the first thing any analysis must note is that a reasonably extensive support network is in fact built into the American offer. Equivalent weapons like the AIM-120 AMRAAM and Paveway II/III kits were not included, but they are unlikely to add more than $200 million to the price of 24 aircraft. An American dollar discount of 45% can still make that an attractive offer; indeed Morocco’s “equivalent choice” actually involves a 33% discount of 24 F-16C/Ds for the price of 18 Rafales, assuming a budget of around $2.6 billion for the aircraft and basic weapons.
Depending on relative in-service rates, the difference in aircraft that are actually available for use at any given time could widen further. That’s a significant consideration when the numbers neck down to under 24 aircraft, in order to cover an entire country against a potential opponent who can field over 60 aircraft of comparable or better quality.
The second factor to consider is “network effects,” in which the value of a military platform increases with the number of associated choices in weapons et. al. F-16s do have the advantage of offering a much wider set of choices in weapons, targeting pods, engines, and other related equipment. This expands Morocco’s weaponry options to handle a variety of strategic scenarios, and avoids the Rafale’s limiting choices of either accepting supplier lock-in, or pursuing expensive local integration projects. The F-16′s network effects could well be more attractive to a country who values flexibility highly, and understands that flyaway aircraft cost, like the cost of a new car from a dealer, is only the beginning of the real expense of ownership.
The 3rd factor to consider is that the F-16 sale may also be set in the context of a wider security relationship with the USA, which would offset Morocco’s aircraft quality differential in a different way. The US DSCA adds that:
“The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by enhancing Morocco’s capacity to support U.S. efforts in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), as well as supporting Morocco’s legitimate need for its own self-defense. Morocco is one of the most stable and pro-Western of the Arab states, and the U.S. remains committed to a long-term relationship with Morocco.”
That relationship undoubtedly had a role to play getting the American F-16 in the door as an alternative. Many people think that countries sell arms to people they wish to befriend; that is only very partially true. It is more true to say that countries tend to buy arms from nations whom they wish to be their friends, when the potential for a strategic relationship is a factor at all. This helps to explain why the F-16 became Morocco’s #1 alternative instead of (for instance) Sweden’s JAS-39 Gripen. Or cheap Russian fighters, which would be fatally compromised by Russia’s near-certain choice of Algeria and its gas reserves over Morocco in the event of a crisis.
While these security relationship dynamics always apply to global weapon purchases, it is very unlikely that they were decisive in winning the deal. If Morocco desires a relationship with the USA that extends to military support in times of crisis, that relationship cannot be dependent on a single minor aircraft sale; given the way America works, it either exists in any event, or it does not exist at all.
The last factor to consider is pride. Past reports have indicated that France’s initial sales efforts quoted one price, while a later call to the DGA concerning France’s price per aircraft gave a much lower figure. Negotiations went very cold after that, and serious discussions began with the Americans that would eventually lead to the F-16 sale. In a part of the world known for holding pride and honor in very high esteem, that kind of gaffe tends to have serious consequences. Not serious enough to break Morocco’s relationship with France entirely, of course; France is valued for strategic reasons. It was serious enough, however, that if the French reports are true and Morocco could find a “good enough” alternative, pride and the satisfaction of honor alone could explain the denouement we have seen:
# Buy American jets to exact redress and serve as a warning to France not to do that again, while improving relations with another powerful ally.
# Couple that with a EUR 500 million order for a French FREMM frigate to shore up another need, and demonstrate to France that relationship still exists, and honor has been satisfied.
- Wikipedia – Royal Moroccan Air Force
- Scramble – Royal Moroccan Air Force
- F-16.net – Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16s
- Morocco Aeronautique – Premier F-16 Marocain. Shown Sept 21/10.
- ISN (Nov 17/09) – Arming the Maghreb. Discusses recent and prospective North African arms purchases in Libya, Morocco, and Algeria. ISN is a project of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Center for Security Studies (ETH Zurich’s CSS), and is jointly funded by the Swiss Department for Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) and ETH Zurich.
- AFNS (Mar 19/09) – Luke Airmen advise Moroccan air force on F-16 operations
- DID (Oct 22/07) – Dogfight at the Casbah: Rafale vs. F-16
- DID (Oct 16/07) – Moroccan VIP Jet Gets LAIRCM
- Air-Scene UK (2006) – Moroccan Air Force at 50
- Armed Forces Press Service (Feb 14/00) – U.S.-Moroccan Training, Cooperation to Expand