Royal Moroccan Air Force

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Royal Moroccan Air Force
القوات الجوية الملكية المغربية (Arabic)
Moroccan Air Force.png
Royal Moroccan Air Force emblem
Active 1956 – present
Country Morocco
Branch Air Force
Size 13,500 personnel
Part of Administration of Defence
إدارة الدفاع
Equipment 367 aircraft
Engagements Sand War
Six-Day War
Yom Kippur War
Western Sahara War
Military intervention against ISIL
Saudi-led intervention in Yemen (2015–present)
Military Leadership General Ahmed Boutaleb
(Inspector of the Royal Air Force)
Civilian Leadership Mohammed VI
Roundels Morocco FRA Roundel.png Roundel of the Royal Moroccan Air Force.svg
Fin flash Fin flash of Morocco.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack A-Jet E+
Falcon-20 ELINT
Fighter MF1-EM-VI, F-16C/D Block 52+, F-5E TIII
Attack helicopter SA 342
Multirole helicopter CH-47, SA 330, AB205
Reconnaissance RC-130H SLAR, R4E-50, Predator XP, I-GNAT ER, Heron
Trainer B300, T-6C, A-Jet E+, F-5F
Transport C-130H, CN235M, C-27J
Tanker KC-130

The Royal Moroccan Air Force, RMAF, (Arabic: القوات الجوية الملكية المغربية; Berber: Adwas Ujenna Ageldan Amurakuci; French: Forces aériennes royales du Maroc) is the air force branch of the Moroccan Armed Forces.


The Moroccan air force was formed on November 19, 1956 as the “Aviation Royale Chérifienne” (Sherifian Royal Aviation).

Its modern installations and bases were inherited from France (Meknes, Rabat {in tandem with the United States}, Marrakech), the United States (Rabat {in tandem with France}, Kenitra, Benguérir, Boulhault, Nouasser and Sidi Slimane) and Spain (Laayoune).

The first acquisitions of this newly formed air force were six Morane-Saulnier MS-500 Criquets, three Max Holste MH.1521 Broussard transport aircraft, two Beechcraft Twin Bonanzas, a de Havilland DH.114 Heron and a Bell 47G helicopter.

In 1961, it changed its name to "Force Aérienne Royale Marocaine" (Royal Moroccan Air Force), a designation used to the present day. In the same period, it obtained 12 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 fighters, two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTI trainers and four Ilyushin Il-28 bombers from the Soviet Union (USSR). 24 Fouga Magister training aircraft were also received from France.

The political rift with the USSR pushed Morocco to seek a new ally in the United States, acquiring from the latter six Northrop F-5 combat aircraft (4 single-seat F-5A and 2 two-seat F-5B) and another 20 F-5A and four F-5B in 1966. Transport aircraft acquired at the time included 10 Douglas C-47 Skytrains, 18 Fairchild C-119Gs and six Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The helicopter fleet was composed of 24 Agusta-Bell AB205As, and 12 North American T-6 Texans were used for pilot training.

The next modernization of the Moroccan Air Force took place just before the Sahara conflict, with the acquisition of Mirage F-1CH attack aircraft, Beech T-34C Mentor training aircraft, Aerospatiale Puma helicopters, and new Hercules transport aircraft to substitute the older units. Modernization of Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter with improved technology and the purchase of 24 Alpha Jet E would later be undertaken by the RMAF; another modernization of the fleet of Dassault Mirage F1 was achieved in 1996 and 1997.

During the 90’s there were plans for purchasing Mirage 2000 or F-16 fighter aircraft, however due to unavailable funding they were not realized. By 2011 the Royal Moroccan Air Force started to modernize its ageing fleet by buying F-16s.[1]


Sand War

The RMAF participated in the Moroccan-Algerian border conflict in 1963 known as Sand War.

Yom Kippur War

During the Yom Kippur War a Squadron of Moroccan Air Force Northrop F-5A joined the Egyptian 69 Squadron at Tanta on 19 October 1973. At least 14 MiG-17s and also around a dozen of F-5As were deployed. The F-5As arrived after a lengthy trip, via Tunis and Libya, accompanied by Lockheed C-130 Hercules transports that carried spare parts, weapons, and equipment. Moroccans started flying tasked with CAP missions over the Nile Delta. In January 1974 two F-5As armed with AIM-9B and 20mm cannons, intercepted a pair of IAF Mirage IIICs on a reconnaissance mission. As the Israelis turned away once the F-5As became evident, dragging both RMAFs fighters behind them, concerned about a possible ambush by IAFs F-4E Phantom IIs the EAF mission control ordered both Moroccan Fighters to return, replacing them by two EAF MiG-21MFs.[2]

Western Sahara War

At the beginning of the conflict, Fouga Magister (based at Laayoune) and North American T-6 Texan (based at Ad Dhakla) were initially in ground support mission and night attacks. Later on, the F-5 aircraft were thrown into action, to strike against POLISARIO targets. From the beginning, the objective of Morocco was to create a controlled and safe zone in the area considered as “useful” for its political and economic interests, that is, the Capital Al-Aaiun, the religious center Smara, and the phosphate field of Bu-Craa.

In 1980 construction of the Sahara defensive walls began, consisting of every type of obstacle for infantry and armoured vehicles, such as mines and radars, all backed by Quick Intervention Units (Détachements d'Intervention Rapide) able to move to and quickly reinforce every location along the wall, aided by air-transport composed of Super Puma, AB-205 and CH-47 Chinook helicopters. As to the anti-tank defenses, it was decided additionally to use Aérospatiale SA 342 Gazelle helicopters with TOW missiles to neutralize the POLISARIO T-54, T-55 and BMP tanks. And apart from the ground radars of the Wall, two C-130 Hercules with SLAR system were also used for the detection of enemy units.

After the loss of 1 F-5A and 2 RF-5A in the battles, 20 F-5E "Tiger II" and 4 F-5F were acquired. The main problem that faced the F-5 in Western Sahara was its insufficient range to realize missions in depth in the vast battlefield of the Sahara desert. To minimize this problem, a B.707-138B fitted with Beech hose units at the wingtips for refuelling and 2 Lockheed KC-130H were also delivered beginning 1982 to provide the Moroccan “Tiger II” with air-to-air refueling, and consequently increase their attack range.

The Mirage F-1 were responsible for defending the air-space against a possible Algerian or Libyan attack, whose governments supported both financially and politically the Polisario Front, during the beginning of the conflict.

In 1977, the Moroccan Mirage pilots started their training in an Air-force base located in Orange, France. In this same year, the Moroccan Air Force started receiving its first Mirage F-1C fighters. Libya and Algeria did not attack Morocco, and consequently Morocco destined its Mirages to ground-attack missions against POLISARIO. 3 Mirage Deliveries were received between 1978 and 1982. The first delivery were 30 Mirage F1-CH received between February and December 1978. The second one, was received between December 1979 and July 1982 and comprised 14 Mirage F1-EH. Between July 1980 and June a final delivery of 6 Mirage F-1EH-200 was received.

With the losses of Fouga Magister, the FARM decided to buy a total of 24 Rockwell OV-10A from the United States Marine Corps. The first 6 aircraft were delivered, but with the early loss of one of them, the rest were transferred to a maritime patrol role due to their inefficiency in combat. The program was cancelled for the rest of the aircraft.

Intervention against ISIS

In late 2014 Morocco sent F-16s into combat against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.[3][4] This was the first deployment for the jets since Morocco purchased them in 2011.[5][6]

Modernization in the 21st century

General Ahmed Boutaleb (left) during a meeting with Brigadier General Robert Ferrell, March 2010

[7] The Royal Moroccan Air Force started a progressive modernization program of its ageing fleet and their technical and operational capacities. In 2007, Morocco formally requested 24 T-6B Texan trainer aircraft, with very secondary light attack capability, and 24 F-16C/D Block 52+ aircraft as well as associated equipment and services, with:

Later, from 2008 to 2012 the RMAF purchased advanced equipment for its F-16 fleet:

Advanced armament was also acquired:

The RMAF also started the MF2000 Dassault Mirage F1 upgrade program, which has upgraded 27 Mirage F1s (F1CH, F1EH and F1EH-200) to the level of Mirage 2000-5 to improve survivability for the MF2000, that included :

  • The replacement of the old Thomson-CSF Cyrano IV radar by Thales RC400 (RDY-3).
  • 4% thrust boost and longer life through a new compressor module for the SNECMA Atar 9K50 engines.
  • New cockpit Layout with Two LCD multifunction, a Head-Up Display with UFCP (Up Front Control Panel), two LCD multifunction, Two mini-LCD (to RWR and artificial horizon) and full HOTAS controls.
  • Inertial-aided GPS Navigator Sagem Sigma 95.
  • CN2H-AA Mk II Night-Vision Goggles.
  • Modern Zero-zero ejection seat.
  • New electronics:
    • New weapons management system.
    • Advanced Thales Radar-warning system.
    • New Data Link.
    • Improved communications-system.
    • Two Dynamic task computer-integrated with a 1553 bus.

The upgrade enabled the use of more advanced equipment as:

[8] Before all those upgrades, Improvements to F-5A/B were realised with the installation of "Tiger II" avionics on, probably, 8 F-5A and 2 F-5B. A contract was stipulated with the French company Sogerma at Bordeaux (France), all aircraft were received by 1998. [7] From 2001 to 2004 the RMAF's F-5E/F received a full refurbishment and upgrade from SOGERMA and Lahav (IAI). The upgraded improved the performance of the "Tiger II" to the level of the "Tiger III". The work carried up included:

  • new FIAR Grifo F/X Plus improved radar (similar in performance to the AN/APG-69)
  • Elettronica ELT/555 active Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) pods.
  • HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick)
  • New EWPS/-100 (DM/A-104) RWR
  • Cockpit Layout with new:
    • heads-up display
    • Weapons Delivery and Navigation System MFD/WDNS
    • Multifunction displays

The F-5E/F TIII acquired the capability to use new weapon systems such as Beyond Visual Range missiles and precise-guided weapons. RADA ACE ground debriefing station [8], a Simulator and AN/AAQ-28(V) LITENING targeting pods have also been purchased.

In 2008, 4 C-27J Spartan tactical transport aircraft were also purchased from Finmeccanica subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica, and the advanced trainer and CAS/COIN aircraft Alpha Jet E fleet was upgraded to the "E+ standard". One year later, 3 CH-47D were requested, to be added to the 9 CH-47C delivered in 1979 and 1982 (originally 12 were acquired). General Atomics received in 2010 export licenses to sell an unarmed export version of the Predator to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, U.A.E. and Morocco. Six aerial firefighting Bombardier 415 Superscooper were also purchased in 2011. The modernization and upgrade of the former US Air Force base in Ben Guerir Air Base to support its F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft is also important. In March 2013, it has been confirmed that the RMAF have purchased from France at least 3 MALE UAVs IAI Heron.[9]


In July 2011, a RMAF C-130H crash killed 78 people after the aircraft, en route from Dakhla, a city in Morocco to Kenitra Air Base in Kenitra, crashed 9.7 km (6 mi) from a planned stop-over at Guelmim airport.

The 6 crew, 60 members of the army and 12 civilians, mainly partners travelling with their partners, perished in the accident.

In November 2012, nine soldiers were killed and two seriously injured in a SA330 Puma crash in the same region of Guelmim during combined forces exercise.[10]

On May. 11, 2015, Houthi rebels downed a Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16 which was taking part in air campaign in Yemen.

On 16 August 2015, a Mirage F1 was lost after a bird strike.[11]


U.S. and Moroccan members listen during a briefing on Block 52 F-16 Fighting Falcon capabilities
RMAF Air Bases in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara

Militaires du rang / Enlisted

  • Soldat - Private
  • Soldat de première classe - Private First Class
  • Caporal - Corporal
  • Caporal-chef - Senior Corporal

Sous-officiers / non-commissioned officer

  • Eleve Sous-Officier / candidate at Officers School
  • Sergent - Sergeant
  • Sergent-chef - Sergeant First Class
  • Sergent-major - Sergeant Major
  • Adjudant - Warrant Officer
  • Adjudant chef - Chief Warrant Officer

Officiers subalternes / Junior officers

  • Eleve Officier - Officer Cadet
  • Aspirant - Aspirant
  • Sous-lieutenant - 2nd Lieutenant
  • Lieutenant - Lieutenant
  • Capitaine - Captain

Officiers supérieurs / Senior officers

  • Commandant - Major
  • Lieutenant-Colonel - Lieutenant Colonel
  • Colonel - Colonel
  • Colonel Major

Généraux / General officers

  • Général de Brigade Aérienne - Major General
  • Général de Division Aérienne (Inspecteur général de l'aviation) - Major General (Inspector-General)
  • Général de l'Armée et commandant en chef: Army General and Commander-in-chief Retained by His Majesty the King of Morocco.


Aircraft inventory

The Royal Moroccan Air Force flies a variety of Western-built airplanes, particularly American and French built aircraft. The RMAF currently operates approximately 100 combat aircraft of 4 different types. There are 3 front-line wings.

Combat aircraft Wings and Squadrons
"Atlas" Escadre (F-16C/D Block 52+) "Tigre" Escadre (F-5E/F TIII) "Sarab" Escadre (MF-2000/F1)

The various aircraft of the Air Force include:[12]

Military transport

RMAF's C-27J
RMAF's Lockheed C-130H

The RMAF's air transport squadron, part ot transport and Aerial refueling squad, based at the 3rd Air Force Base (3rd BAFRA) in Kenitra provides rapid mobility, forces projection and logistical support in national and international duties. Air mobility is a national asset of growing importance for responding to national emergencies, technical and logistical support in national and international operations, and providing aid and medical supplies to international countries touched by disasters. Cargo and transport aircraft are also typically used to deliver troops, weapons and other military equipment to any area of military operations and needs in national and ranged international countries. The materials of the RMAF's transport squad are:

Aerial refueling

The RMAF's tanker aircraft are part of air cargo transport and Aerial refueling squad (See Military transport), the main mission is to provide the fuel in large-scale operations and daily air operations and exercises. Air-to-air refueling is extensively used by fighters and cargo aircraft, this makes these aircraft an essential part of the Air Force's efficiency and RMAF's projection.


The reconnaissance aircraft of the RMAF are in roles such as intelligence gathering, battlefield surveillance, airspace surveillance, observation, border patrol and fishery protection.

Several unmanned remotely controlled vehicles or UAVs are also active, providing cheaper and more capable fighting machines that can be used without risk to aircrews. These aircraft are:

The Recon Pods can be installed in fighters, and contain reconnaissance sensors, imagery data recording system and can also carry air-to-ground data link system. The sensor are electro-optical and infrared, allowing day or night missions.

Electronic warfare


The purpose of electronic warfare is to deny the opponent an advantage in the EMS and ensure friendly, unimpeded access to the EM spectrum portion of the information environment. Electronic warfare aircraft are used to keep airspaces friendly, and send critical information to anyone who needs it.

The EW ELINT pods, also in RMAF inventory, intercepts signals involving electronic signals not directly used in communication (ELINT)


RMAF's T-6C Texan II
RMAF's SA342 Gazelle during African Lion '10
RMAF's F-16D Block 52+

The Air Force's trainer aircraft are used to train pilots, navigators, and other aircrew in their duties. Given the expense of military pilot training, air forces typically conduct training in phases to winnow out unsuitable candidates, and different aircraft are used depending on the future posts:
Ab initio

Basic training

Advanced training

Transport and utility Helicopters

Military transport helicopters are used in places where the use of conventional aircraft is impossible. They're used for air assault, cargo, MEDEVAC, command and control, and troop transport. They can also transport towed artillery and light vehicles either internally or as under-slung roles, small AFVs, supplies, etc. They are usually expected to land directly in a zone under enemy fire or used to reinforce and resupply landing zones.

Attack Helicopters

The primary role of the attack aircraft is the capability of engaging targets on the ground, such as enemy infantry and armored vehicles. Weapons used on attack helicopters can include autocannons, machine-guns, rockets, and guided AGM missiles. RMAF's attack helicopters have to provide direct and accurate close air support (CAS) for ground troops, to destroy enemy armor concentrations, for armed scout role or to escort an aerial convoy.


RMAF's Mirage F1 (2007)

The fighter aircraft of the RMAF's are used for air-to-air combat and ground-attack capabilities, also known as fighter-bombers. Secondary roles include interception of bombers and other fighters, reconnaissance and patrol. Other operational missions include intelligence-gathering by interception of signals with advanced ELINT pods, target identification, autonomous tracking, coordinate generation, and precise weapons guidance from extended standoff ranges.

Special Missions

RMAF's aerobatic team "Marche Verte" with CAP-232

Some RMAF's aircraft are used or were upgaded or transformed to be able to perform special missions.

Al Ghait

[13] In 1985 the Moroccan Government started with a Cloud seeding program called 'Al-Ghait'. The system was first used in Morocco in 1999, It has also been used between 1999 and 2002 in Burkina Faso and from 2005 in Senegal. For this program two aircraft were equipped with special instruments:

  • An unknown Beech King Air; which holds cloud physics and seeding equipment
  • RMAF's Alpha Jet No 245; which only holds the seeding equipment.

Aerial firefighting

The RMAF use aircraft, helicopters and other aerial resources to combat wildfires. The equipment used is:[14]

Aerobatic Team

RMAF's aerobatic display team Marche Verte (Green March), was formed in 1988. The team performs unique formation takeoffs in which all seven planes are tied together with ropes. They perform some maneuvers in this configuration before a breaking apart maneuver which tears the ropes. All the team aircraft are painted in all-red, with green and yellow lines, smoke generators are also used. At present, the Marche Verte team flies with French-built CAP-232 aerobatic aircraft.

VIP staff transport

RMAF's 737-BBJ2

Due to the international role of the Kingdom of Morocco and national mobility needs, a large fleet of VIP aircraft is available for official travels of the royal family and government members:


External links