The Royal Moroccan Army, officially The Royal Army (Arabic: الجيش الملكي, French: l’Armée Royale) is the branch of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations.The army is about 175,000 troops strong. In case of war or state of siege, an additional force of 150,000 Reservists, and paramilitary forces, including 20,000 regulars of the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie, 25,000 Auxiliary Forces and 5,000 mobile intervention corps regulars come under the Ministry of Defence command.
Army forces from Morocco have taken part in different wars and battles throught history, from the Iberian Wars with the Almoravid Empire in the 11th Century , to the recent Central African Republic conflict.
The Kingdom of Morocco has much to be proud of; for example, it has been a long-time Middle East ally to the United States, being the first country to recognize the United States as a nation in 1777, King Mohammed Bin Youssef’s Mohammed V’s refusal to surrender Moroccan Jews to the Vichy (pro-Nazi) French Government and certain death in Nazi concentration camps, and the role payed during WWII with the Allies. Today, Morocco has a moderate government in which the monarch, challenges militant ideology and encourages Islamic scholars to dispel the twisted theology that produces mass murder. Morocco, is seen as a guardian of maritime commerce along the Gibraltar Strait and a nation that has contributed in different UN and NATO missions.
During the period of the French protectorate of Morocco (1912–1956) large numbers of Moroccans were recruited for service in the Spahi and Tirailleur regiments of the French Army of Africa. Many served during World War I. During World War II more than 300,000 Moroccan troops (including goumier auxiliaries) served with the Free French forces in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany. The two world conflicts saw Moroccan units earning the nickname of “Todesschwalben” (death swallows) by German soldiers as they showed particular toughness on the battlefield. After the end of World War II, Moroccan troops formed part of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps engaged in the First Indochina War from 1946 to 1954.The Spanish Army also made extensive use of Moroccan troops recruited in the Spanish Protectorate, during both the Rif War of 1921-26 and the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Moroccan Regulares, together with the Spanish Legion, made up Spain’s elite Spanish Army of Africa. A para-military gendarmerie, known as the “Mehal-la Jalifianas” and modelled on the French goumieres, was employed within the Spanish Zone.
The Royal Armed Forces were created on 14 May 1956, after the French Protectorate was dissolved. Fourteen thousand Moroccan personnel from the French Army and ten thousand from the Spanish Armed Forces transferred into the newly formed armed forces. This number was augmented by approximately 5,000 former guerrillas from the “Army of Liberation” (see below). About 2,000 French officers and NCOs remained in Morocco on short term contracts, until crash training programs at the military academies of St-Cyr, Toledo and Dar al Bayda produced sufficient numbers of Moroccan commissioned officers.The Royal Moroccan Army fought during the Six-Day War and on the Golan front during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 (mostly in the battle for Quneitra) and intervened decisively in the 1977 conflict known as Shaba to save Zaire’s regime. The Armed Forces also took part in the Gulf War with an infantry batallion and a Mechanized Battalion in the Tariq and Omar Task Forces, contributing in the frontline as in the Battle of Khafji. But the Moroccan Armed Forces were mostly notable in fighting a 25-year war against the POLISARIO, an Algerian backed rebel national liberation movement seeking the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco (Western Sahara War). Other wars that Moroccan troops have taken part in include the Ifni War, against Spain, and Sand War, against Algeria. Other Missions and conflicts:
- Shaba I (Zaire 1977) / Inter-African Force after Shaba II (Zaire 1978-79)
- Operation Barracuda (Central African Republic 1979)
- UNAVEM I/UNAVEM II/UNAVEM III
- UNOSOM I
- UNOSOM II
- Battle of Mogadishu (1993)
- Supporting BINUCA and MISCA (2014)
- Perejil Island crisis
- Operation Active Endeavour
- International Security Assistance Force (Joint Command)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara
- Operation Scorched Earth (Yemen 2010)
- Northern Mali conflict (2013)
The Kingdom of Morocco is particularly as committed to battling Islamic militancy and terrorism, The Maghreb (more specifically, Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco) has been the subject of an insurgency since 2002 waged by the neo-Khawarij Islamist militia, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or, GSPC. The GSPC allied itself with the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb against the Algerian government. Morocco sufered different terrorist atacks since 9/11:
- May 16 2003: 2003 Casablanca bombings killed 45 including 12 suicide-bombers.
- Between March 11 and April 14, 2007: Casablanca bombings killed 8.
- April 28 2011 Marrakech bombing: A remote controlled bomb explode in Argana café, on Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Amongst the dead are 7 French national, 2 Canadians and a Dutch.
Algeria, Morocco, and other Maghreb states affected by the insurgency have been assisted in fighting Islamist militants by the United States and the United Kingdom since 2007, when Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara began.
Forces today – Situation and Equipment
From the beginning of 21st-century, the Moroccan army began a modernisation program that included the purchase of modern equipment and the transformation into a more professional army performing multiple exercises with allied’s armies, as a Major non-NATO ally, member of the initiative 5+5 and other cooperation agreements. The army’s modernisation program took shape with the acquisitions of weapons such as the Chinese VT-1A and MRLS AR2, American M1A1 Abrams, the HAWK air defense system or the M109A5 Self-Propelled Howitzer.
The organisation and structure of command remained the same:
General Command HQ (Rabat
Northern Command (Meknes)
Southern Command (El Aaiún)
Formations are 10 Independent Armored battalions (GEB), 3 Mechanized Regiments with 19 battalions (RIM), 35 Independent Infantry Battalions (BIS), 6 Light security Brigades, 2 Cavalry and 3 Camel Corps battalions (Meharis), 2 Paratroops Brigades (BIP), 2 Airborne battalions (BIAP), 4 Commando battalions and 13 Artillery battalions (GAR), Air defence is included in the Artillery structures and divisions.
Armored diviones are mostly deployed in eastern and southern provinces, all along Algerian border and Moroccan wall. More than 600 tanks are in service: 48 VT-1A (150 purchased), 148 T-72B/BK and 427 M60A3/A3TTS Patton. Some M48 Pattons were retired from active service and stored as reserve with the 1991 cease-fire, the SK-105 Kürassiers had the same fate. In Addition, 200 ex-US refurbished and enhanced M1A1 Abrams are expected to be delivered in a period of 4 years, as the rest of Chinese tanks, to be delivered totally by 2013.
The mechanized brigades and Cavalries, equipped with Light Armored Carrier (LAVs), armored personnel carriers (APCs) or infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for transport, combat and reccon missions: 1,200 M113 in different variants (M113A1/A1-B/A2 APCs, M106A1/A2 mortar carriers, M163 VADS, M981 FISTV, M901A1, etc.), 60 Ratel 20/90, 395 VAB VCI/VTT, 110 ex-Belgian AIFV, 175 AML 90/60 and 110 AMX 10 RC. Other APCs are part of other corps as the Auxiliary’s UR-416, or the recent purchase of 88 Lenco BearCat for the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie.
The Artillery, gouped in GARs, includes Self-Propelled Howitzers, towed Howitzers, MRLS and Air Defense Systems, mortar carriers are part of the RIMs (Mechanized Infantry Regiments). The equipment includes: 248 155mm M109 SPH in different versions, 60 203mm M110A2 SPH, received as EDA from the USA, and 100 155mm Mk F3. Note that only 155mm towed howitzers are deployed all along the Moroccan Wall, wich includes 140 155mm towed howitzers (M198, FH-70, M-1950, M114), and 18 130mm (M1954) and 54 105mm (M101 and L118) deployed in different regions. 2 Battalions of MRLS are also listed as part of RMAs inventory, the first with 36 122mm BM-21 and the second with 36 300mm AR2.
Moroccan Anti-Aircraft Warfare have been based basically on Self Propelled Air Defense Systems, waiting the arrival of MIM-23 Hawk XXI HIMAD SAMs. In its inventory we find 72 MIM-72 Chaparral, 12 Tunguska M1, 90 ZSU-23-4 and 115 M163 VADS, in addition of the K32 Strela-2 MANPADS. Other systems include AAG as M1939 (61-K), ZU-23-2 or M167 VADS, usually mounted on different type of vehicles.
The Kingdom of Morocco is part of multiple international organisations, is a Major non-NATO ally, part of the Arab League, and has established military cooperations with different countries such as USA, Russia,Portugal,Tunisia,China,Qatar,Italy, France, Spain, UAE or Turkey. As part of the UN, Moroccan Army participed in different Peacekeeping missions. Moroccan troops were sent as part of SFOR, KFOR, MINUSTAH or the more recent UNSMIS in Syria. It has also responded the call of its allies, taking part of conflicts such as Shaba I, Battle of Mogadishu (1993), the Gulf War or the Operation Scorched Earth, among others. Has also known for established medical aid and assistance during international conflicts, the latest contributions were at Libyan civil war, Syrian civil war, in the Gaza strip after Operation Pillar of Defense and in Malian capital, Bamako during Malian Civil War.
The Royal Moroccan Army also performs annual training exercise called “African Lion” with the United States Marine Corps. The exercise is a regularly scheduled, combined U.S. – Moroccan military exercise designed to promote improved interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques, procedures, unit readiness and enhancing foreign relations.
Morocco has also been the venue for Exercise “Jebel Sahara” since September 2000, taken 10 times since, and gathering elements from 33 Squadron, 230 Squadron, 18 Squadron, 27 Squadron, Joint Helicopter Force HQ from RAF Benson, 1st Battalion Royal Gibraltar Regiment and 2nd Brigade d’Infanterie Parachutiste of the Royal Moroccan Army. The aim of the Exercise was to increase the Support Helicopter warfighting capability in desert ‘hot and high’ conditions and foster good relations between the UK and Morocco. To achieve this, the scenario consisted of a joint counter insurgency operation in the desert and mountain foothills to re-establish control and authority within a troubled region of North Africa. Another exercises were the “Jebel Tarik”, with the Moroccan contribution of service personnel to an annual bilateral deployment of two companies (up to 180 personnel) of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment (RG) to the UK, on seven occasions since 2003. “Desert Vortex”, a one-off bilateral helicopter exercise which is run between 16 May and 30 June 2009. This was a UK training exercise with objectives set by Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) and run concurrently with Moroccan Air Force annual helicopter crew training.
The Royal Armed Forces also take part of different international exercises as Leapfest, Flintlock, Blue Sand, and occasional military operations exercises with Belgium, U.A.E., Spain, France and others.
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces motto, which graces every military base, banner, and ship, is: God – Nation – King.
God: Creator of all destiny, by His Mercy we draw from, He ordains our choice to right path.
Nation: Land that begets our bounty, from which we sustain ourselves we protect its integrity from and defend it from all enemies.
King: Our commander and guide, he guides our renaissance and development, protector of our people’s rights.”