The Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) intends to phase out its fleet of Dassault Mirage MF-2000 for newer F-16s.
The Mirage MF-2000s have served for more than 40 years, and remains one of the most prolific fighter jets across the globe.
The replacement process is expected to be complete by 2023-2024, to make way for the 25 new F-16 Block 70/72.
The Dassault Mirage F1 is a single-engine French-made aircraft, developed as a successor to the popular Mirage III family. The type has been operated as a light multipurpose fighter and has been exported to more than a dozen nations.
30 Mirage F1CHs, 14 Mirage F1EHs and 6 Mirage F1EH-200 were ordered by the Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) in 1975, with delivery beginning two years later.
The fleet were deployed in combat missions against the forces of the Polisario Front, operating in Western Sahara in 1979.
In 2005, the Royal Moroccan Air Force started awarded ASTRAC (Association Sagem Thales pour la Rénovation d’Avions de Combat) a €350 million for MF2000 upgrade program to modernise 27 F1CH, F1EH and F1EH-200 aircraft.
In the modernization program, the old Cyrano IV radar by a RC400 (RDY-3) was replaced, a revised cockpit, and improved armament, with Damocles targeting pods, MICA air-to-air missiles and Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM) guided bombs. Twenty-seven aircraft was upgraded to the MF2000 variant.
Thirteen Mirage F1s have been lost as a result of hostile fire and crashes, with the latest being in 2019 in the northern region of Taounate. The pilot managed to safely eject from the airplane. About twenty-four Mirage F1s are still operational.
Currently, the RMAF operates 30 F-5E/F, (4 F-5F’s use for training), and 23 F-16C/D (8 D variants use for training).
In September 2019, Morocco requested for the sale of 25 F-16 Viper fighter jets Block 72 and other equipment from from the United States through the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), and earmarking nearly a billion dollars.
The equipment outlay will cover APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, 26 Modular Mission Computers, 26 Link-16 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems – JTRS (MIDS-JTRS) with TACAN and ESHI Terminals, 26 LN260 Embedded Global Navigation Systems (EGI), 26 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems II, 26 Improved Programmable Display Generators (iPDG), 50 LAU-129 Multi-Purpose Launchers; and 26 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Pods.
And electronic warfare systems including 26 AN/ALQ‑213 EW Management Systems; 26 Advanced Identification Friend/Foe systems; 26 AN/ALQ‑211 AIDEWS defensive aids systems; and six DB-110 Advanced Reconnaissance Systems.
At the time, Congress was informed that the proposed sale of F-16 armament would “improve Morocco’s capability to meet current and future threats of terror from violent extremist organizations prevalent throughout the region. Additionally, the additional munitions provided by this sale 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.”
Morocco also intends to upgrade its 23 existing F-16s, which would bring them to F-16V standard at a cost of $985.2 million.
Last year August, the United States Department of Defence (DoD) awarded Lockheed Martin a contract to supply Morocco with twenty-four F-16 Viper multi-role fighter jet through its foreign military sales contract (FMS).