Israel and Morocco recently signed a landmark defense agreement, a major milestone following the normalization of ties after the Abraham Accords. The agreement laid the foundation of security cooperation, intelligence sharing and arms sales in the future during the Israeli Defence Minister’s visit to Rabat.
“The agreement that we signed will allow us to cooperate, with exercises, with information — this is an agreement that will allow us to assist them with whatever they need from us, in accordance — of course — with our own interests. We have a strategic alliance of knowledge,” said Zohar Palti, the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Bureau.
While Israel and Morocco do not share common threats, Rabat is engulfed with many issues including separatism in Western Sahara, and conflict with Algeria.
Salah Goudjil, the Algerian Senate Chief and second only to the President, stated that this agreement shows “enemies are mobilizing” to undermine Algeria.
Apart from regional politics, Rabat and Jerusalem do have a common ground in the fight against terrorism emanating from the Middle East and North Africa. It is also believed that Iran and Hezbollah are also involved to some extent in the Algerian-Moroccan conflict.
Morocco established relations with Israel last year, after agreeing to the US-backed Abraham Accords. In exchange, Washington agreed to recognize disputed Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
Major Arms Sales
Rabat has repeatedly expressed its interest in purchasing Israeli weapon systems, especially air defense equipment, radars, and upgrades to combat aircraft.
According to the Israeli Channel 2 News, the Moroccan officials provided Gantz with a ‘wish list’ of weapons systems they want to acquire. This ‘list’ reportedly includes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Elta-made Radars, Iron Dome air defense system, and SkyLock anti-drone systems. The kingdom also wants Israeli help to modernize its aging fleet of F-5 light fighter aircraft.
The Moroccan Armed Forces have already acquired some SkyLock systems recently and spent around $48 million to buy three IAI Heron reconnaissance drones to combat extremism in the Western Sahara region.
“The agreement that we signed has created a work plan. A steering committee will be set up — led by the Defense Ministry, with the Israel Defense Forces and other organizations participating — that will operate throughout the year in order to advance our shared interests. There will soon be military delegations that will come [to Morocco], and I expect joint exercises,” a senior Israeli defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told TheTimesOfIsrael.
One of the most notable deals reported is of Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles, jointly developed by Israel and India.
The Barak-8 can be employed against all types of airborne threats including helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-ship missiles, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles, and can hit targets with pinpoint accuracy up to 70 kilometers.
The missile’s development was undertaken by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Israel’s Directorate of Research and Development (DDR&D), Elta Systems, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
The main organizations involved in the production of the missiles are KRAS (a joint venture between Rafael and Kalyani group) and Bharat Dynamics Limited.
Following the successful development, IAI moved on with a new Barak-MX multi-layered air defense system that employs different missiles for different ranges of interception, similar to the Russian S-400 Triumf air defense system.
The MX version provides a single integrated solution for multiple, simultaneous aerial threats from different sources and different ranges, according to the IAI.
“BARAK MX allows you to tailor your system configuration to face any threat, in any mission and in any battle condition. Connect and utilize any combination of the three BARAK MX components,” IAI mentions, about the versatility of the system.
The Barak-8 missile has been a significant step in boosting Indian and Israeli air defense capabilities. In operational roles, Barak-8 has shown outstanding success when it reportedly shot down a Russian-made Iskander short-range ballistic missile during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020.
During the deadly conflict, Yerevan allegedly fired an Iskander missile directly targeting Baku, which was shot down by a Barak-8 missile operated by Azeri forces.
The land-based system used by the Indian Army and the Air Force is known as MR-SAM, and an extended-range system is being developed, known as LR-SAM.
When coupled with modern multi-function radars like those on naval warships or other air defense radars, Barak-8 can be used to simultaneously engage multiple targets, defending the ship or an installation against saturation attacks.