Morocco’s Air Force Reloads
26-Feb-2009 09:41 EST
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French Mirage F1s
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Morocco’s combat air force currently flies 2 squadrons of old F-5s, and 2 squadrons of only slightly newer Mirage F1s; T-37 light jets serve as key transitional trainers. Their neighbor and rival Algeria flies MiG-23s of similar vintage, but the Force Aerienne Algerienne also flies SU-24 Fencer and SU-25 Frogfoot strike aircraft, even more modern and capable MiG-29s, and is set to receive multi-role SU-30MKs as part of a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.
Morocco can’t beat that array. Instead, it is looking for replacement aircraft that will prevent complete overmatch, and provide it with a measure of security.
Initially, they looked to France. 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 deal involves new-build F-16s, at a price comparable to the rumored figures for the Rafale. Not to mention an accompanying request to replace Morocco’s T-37 trainer fleet, and subsequent contracts for air-launched weapons and for C-27J short-haul transports.
The latest development includes a contract for their F-16s’ gun systems…
Contracts and Key Events [updated]
Why The F-16? DID Analysis – Dec. 2007
Contracts and Key Events
Chilean F-16D Block 52
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Feb 23/09: 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: 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: 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.
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 that don’t have the same number of flight-hours on their airframes, rather than serving as any kind of replacement.
Aug 28/08: The DB-110 pod contract is announced on the Pentagon’s DefenseLink. Goodrich Corp. Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems of Chelmsford, MA won an $87.9 million contract for 4 reconnaissance pods, 1 mobile ground station, 1 fixed ground station, 2 mission planners, 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).
July 14/08: Goodrich Corporation announces a contract to provide its DB-110 airborne reconnaissance pods for the Royal Moroccan Air Force’s new Block 52+ F-16 fighters. The Foreign Military Sale (FMS) contract calls for Goodrich to provide 4 of its reconnaissance pods, plus data links, multiple ground exploitation systems and related support services. Work will be performed by the company’s ISR Systems teams in Chelmsford, MA and Malvern, UK.
See the DSCA listing in the Dec 19/07 entry; the DB-110 beat BAE’s TARS alternative.
July 9/08: 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 infared (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.
June 6/08: 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: 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 is not 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: 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.
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Dec 19/07: 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.
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. 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
Why The F-16? DID Analysis
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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 laser-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.”
There is little transparency in these sorts of negotiations, so the public may never know the exact answer to Defense Aerospace’s implicit questions. 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.
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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.