Algeria and Morocco: An Arms Race in the Sand
(Source:; posted Nov. 04, 2022)

By Timothy Arsh
Algeria and Morocco have been engaged in an arms race for quite some time, revolving around control of the western Sahara, and both are constantly increasing their military expenditure. Morocco operates the Lockheed F-16 as its front-line fighter. (FAR photo)

PARIS --- Within a week, Algeria and Morocco have unveiled their defence budget, drawing an arms race in the sands. Algeria’s defense budget will indeed increase by 130% to $22.7bn, partially aimed at buying weapons outside Russia, while defense expenditures will represent 10% of the global expenditures of the Kingdom, at $10.8bn.

Algeria increases defense spending by 130%

In Algeria, the Defence Bill, albeit voluntarily unspecific in details, will increase the armed forces with a 130% budgetary increase. Far from the traditional budget (around $10Bn), the FY 2023 defence budget climbs to $22.7Bn (3,186 billion of dinars).

A large part of the surplus generated by the high levels of oil & gas will thus feed the defence sector which will represent next year 13% of the GDP.

The sole details that the MoD has releases are the division per chapter:
--$8.8Bn will be spent on “general administration”,
--$8.5Bn will be allocated to the National Defence,
-- $5.7Bn for logistics and operations

Why such an increase? Three main reasons may have been the driven forces behind this decision:

First, despite major past acquisitions, obsolescence threatens many sectors (defence electronics, fire control, complex ammunition, etc.);

Second, while the equipment acquired is now more than ten years old, the MCO is growing in importance and requires investment;

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while 80% of its weapons come from Moscow, the regime is worried about Western technological superiority in Ukraine over Russian weapon systems.

Part of this budget increase should therefore be devoted to the acquisition of equipment outside Russia (Turkey, Iran, China…Germany?) at a time when Russian supplies may dry up and when certain American statements, coming from both Congress and Administration, demand sanctions against Algeria for its Russian acquisitions. A first which would certainly push the Algerian generals to diversify their suppliers.

The UAV domain, both for surveillance and combat missions, has already paved the way: Algeria has almost exclusively favoured unmanned aircraft of Chinese and Emirati origin. For its strike drone force, the Algerian air force makes use of a flotilla of Chinese CH-3A and CH-4B Rainbow CASCs and the Emirati Adcom Yabhon Flash 20 and United 40 drones, renamed El-Djazair-54 and 55 for their Algerian versions, but very recently, it has purchased six Aksungur drones from the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). Algeria is thus the first international purchaser of this MALE UAV.

Morocco’s shopping spree

On the other side of the border, the military bonanza continues. Article 38 of the Finance Act for 2023 assures that "the amount of expenditure that the Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in charge of National Defense Administration is authorized to incur, during the 2023 budget year, under of the endowment expenditure account entitled "Acquisition and repair of Royal Armed Forces equipment and support for the development of the defence industry", in anticipation of the appropriations that will be opened to it for the 2024 budget year, is set at one hundred and nineteen billion seven hundred and sixty-six million dirhams (119,766,000,000 DH).”. 119.7 DH, or $ 10.8 billion, represents 10% of the whole investment expenditure of the Kingdom.

On this subject, it is worth to be noted that the modification of article 43 of the finance law of 1969 includes the development of the defence industry as an objective.

Here too, diversification is the key word and, if Turkey may enjoy the Algerian dinars, Israel is already at works to supply some of the most advanced of its systems. In October 2021, a bilateral roadmap has been drafted.

In defence, it included:
--Infrastructures, especially at the Melilla Naval base (near the border of Algeria),
--Surveillance UAS: 3 ISR Heron (for $48 millions), 150 small UAS from Blue Bird (IAI) for $50 million, and probably the Hermes 900 (5 systems),
--Loitering munitions: the initial purchases of Harop-2 (nearly hundred items) ,
--ISR: P600 AEW and G560
--Air defence with the Barak-MX (4 batteries for $500 millions),
--Strike with the Spike-NLOS (on vehicles or airborne), spice (kits for guided bombs) and possibly the Delilah cruise missile (for the F-5 Fleet).


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