Defense Minister Gantz to visit Morocco next week

According to foreign reports, Gantz and Loudiyi will sign defense cooperation deals including plans to develop a domestic industry to produce loitering munitions. 

 Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz attend a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on October 19, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz attend a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on October 19, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz will make an official visit next week to Morocco, where he is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the North African kingdom.

Gantz will meet with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Loudiyi, and will sign an MoU that will outline defense cooperation between the two countries.

According to foreign reports, Gantz and Loudiyi will sign defense cooperation deals that include plans to develop a domestic industry to produce loitering munitions, also known as suicide drones.

According to Defense News and the French publication Africa Intelligence, the two countries are currently working on the development of a project to manufacture the drones to strengthen Morocco’s air power.

The report said that defense giant Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) subsidiary BlueBird Aerosystems has been negotiating with Moroccan teams for several months about developing a business incubator to manufacture such drones.

 Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Minister-Delegate for the Administration of National Defense Abdellatif Loudiyi sign a US-Morocco defense cooperation road map, Rabat, Morocco, Oct. 2, 2020. (credit: LISA FERDINANDO/FLICKR) Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Minister-Delegate for the Administration of National Defense Abdellatif Loudiyi sign a US-Morocco defense cooperation road map, Rabat, Morocco, Oct. 2, 2020. (credit: LISA FERDINANDO/FLICKR)

Rabat, the report said, became interested in the use of loitering munitions, after IAI “highlighted” in a sales pitch the extensive use of the company’s Harop suicide drones by Azerbaijan during the two-month war with Armenia last year.

The Harop is a small drone, which according to the company’s website is a combination of the “capabilities of a UAV and a lethal missile.”

Israel and Morocco have had close economic, diplomatic and military ties for years, and the two countries signed a normalization agreement in December. According to a report in Haaretz, military ties between Israel and Morocco primarily involve intelligence cooperation and trade in arms.

According to another report, Israel sold Morocco other military systems, including military communications and control systems (such as radar systems for fighter jets) via a third party.

Jerusalem and Rabat reestablished ties under the Abraham Accords, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

In June, a Moroccan C-130 landed in Israel to take part in an international drill. It was the first time that an air force platform belonging to the North African country landed in the Jewish state.

In January 2020, the Moroccan army received three Israeli reconnaissance drones in a deal worth $48 million. The deal between the two countries was signed in 2014 and closed via the French company Dassault.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Morocco in August and inaugurated the country’s mission in Rabat. During his two-day visit, Lapid met with his counterpart, Nasser Bourita, and handed him an invitation from President Isaac Herzog for King Mohammed VI to visit Israel.