Approval given by the US State Department for a possible $260m Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Morocco further raised the stakes in the region, with Rabat and neighbouring Algeria engaged in an ongoing arms race.

The Javelin missiles, known for their precision and effectiveness, will provide a significant boost to Morocco’s military capabilities. Meanwhile, Algeria’s reliance on Russian equipment faces challenges as Moscow’s involvement in the war in Ukraine is straining its military capabilities. 

While the possible FMS is framed to enhance Morocco’s defence capacity and bolster its sovereignty, concerns are heightened amidst ongoing geopolitical instability and conflict in neighbouring regions.

According to GlobalData’s Moroccan defence market intelligence, missiles and the anti-missile defence systems that often accompany or complement them are forecast to be the second largest sector in the Moroccan defence market. This reflects Morocco’s recent focus on missile defence in the Sahara to deter and defend against Algeria.

Morocco has sought to bolster its military strength with purchases of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW) from the US, totalling over $792m. These acquisitions aim to enhance Morocco’s security and counterterrorism capabilities while leveraging consistent US support to gain an advantage in the North African region’s ongoing procurement contest. 

Morocco’s defence spending is forecasted to increase to 4% of its GDP by 2028 to maintain its sovereignty against perceived threats. This further complicates Algeria’s efforts to keep pace in the regional arms race.

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Notably, the potential Javelin FMS comes at a moment as North Africa grapples with various security challenges, including terrorism, border disputes, and political unrest.

The prime contractors for the deal, the Javelin Joint Venture between Lockheed Martin and RTX Corporation, stand to benefit from the agreement.

Despite assurances from the State Department that the proposed sale will not disrupt the military balance in the region, questions linger regarding the broader implications of arming allies in volatile geopolitical environments.

As stakeholders await further developments, the approval of the Javelin missile sale underscores the delicate balance between security imperatives and regional stability in North Africa. With tensions simmering, the ramifications of this US-Moroccan arms deal, amongst others, are likely to echo across North Africa.