Morocco is a country located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, with land border with Algeria to the east and Western Sahara to the south (status disputed). Morocco also claims the exclaves of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction, as well as several small Spanish-controlled islands off its coast. The capital is Rabat and the largest city is Casablanca. Morocco spans an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi) and has a population of over 36 million.
The Royal Moroccan Air Force, or Alkowat al malakiya al jawiya, was founded in 1956 when it still was called Sherifan Royal Aviation. The Air Force's backbone is formed by French built aircraft. The Air Force consists of four commands. The training command uses the AS202 for initial training. Further training is done on the T-34C and the CM170. After graduating, fighter pilots are trained on the Alpha Jet, Transport pilots on the King Air and Helicopter pilots on the Bell 205, Bell 206 and SA342.
The transport fleet is based at Kénitra in the north and uses the C-130H and B707 for transport and air-to-air refuelling. The CN235 is also used for transport and the Falcon 50 and Gulfstream are used for VIP-transport. The Rabat-Sale based helicopter fleet shows a variety of helicopters. Besides the SA330 and the CH-47 for transport, the Air Force uses Bell 205, Bell 206 and SA342 helicopters. Also based at Rabat-Sale is the Maritime Patrol Flight which uses the Do28 to protect the coastal waters.
The backbone of the Moroccan Air Force is formed by four fighter squadrons, two with F-5s and two with Mirage F1s. Moroccan fighters can be seen in Europe occasionally, of which the ODAX 2000 exercise held in France is an good example. Also, Moroccan fighters are regularly seen in Spain and Portugal on exchange visits.
The Escadron Aerien Gendarmerie Royal (Royal Police Squadron) uses a variety of helicopters and is based in several airfields. Most aircraft in the Moroccan Air Force use civil registers. There is however some confusion about the way the serials / registrations are presented. For instance, CN-RMW is the way a B737 is serialled, but CNA-OB is used on a C-130. The fighters use numbers instead of characters.
In 2010, it was announced that twenty-four F-5E and F-5F are to be updated to F-5 III standard by SAGEM in the near future.
After years of unfruitful efforts by Dassault and the French government to sell the Rafale to Morocco, the government of the latter has decided to go with the F-16. In 2011, the first four Moroccan F-16s were delivered to Ben Guerrir Air Base early August. In a ceremony on 4 August 2011, the aircraft were officially handed over.
The program name for the updated Mirage F1s has been dubbed Mirage F1-2000MF. Work on the first Mirage F1 (no.173) started back in 2009, and now the first three Mirages have been upgraded to Mirage F1M-2000 standard and delivered to Sidi Slimane. The Moroccan Mirage F1 upgrade was designed and is being integrated by the new Association SAGEM Thales pour la Rénovation d'Avions de Combat (ASTRAC) consortium. This is a joint venture between Thales and SAGEM Défense Sécurité (SAFRAN) and was established in November 2005 at the request of the French Ministry of Defence. Some 27 Mirage F1s (a mix of Mirage F1CH, F1EH and probe-equipped F1EH-200) will be upgraded to a common MF-2000 standard under the F1 Renovation programme, at an estimated cost of 290 Millon Euro. Mirage no.173 and another example were modified at Charleroi, Mirage no.150 and further aircraft will be upgraded in Morocco.
In July 2010, Hawker Beechcraft Corporation announced it has rolled out the first of twenty-four Beechcraft T-6C military trainers ordered by the Royal Moroccan Air Force. The RMAF is replacing its existing fleet of T-34 and T-37 jet trainers with the T-6C. In addition to the hard-point wings, the T-6C’s upgraded avionics include a Head-Up Display, Up Front Control Panel, three Multifunction Displays and Hands-On Throttle and Stick. Deliveries are expected to be finished in 2012.
In 2004, the Royal Moroccan Navy (Marine Royal) has commenced operations with its recently-acquired three AS565MB Panthers. The first aviation assets to serve with the North African country's newly-established naval air arm. An unspecified number of panthers will be assigned to the navy's two Floréal-class frigates (ships: Mohammed V and Hassan II). The helicopters, equipped to the same standard as French Navy Panthers, also have radar and a forward-looking infra-red pod system for surface surveillance.
The Gendarmerie Royale, or ad-darak al-malikiyy al-maḡribiyy, was founded in 1957 and resorts under the Ministry of the Interior. Its aviation branch is called the Groupement Aérien and supports various branches of the Gendarmerie. From the outset the force was equipped with French built helicopters. Starting with the Alouette II and III. In more recent years crop dusters were incorporated to combat the cultivation of illegal substances.
Currently, the Groupement Aérien still largely relies on French helicopters. Main bases are Rabat Souissi for the helicopters and Rabat Salé for a mix of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Another fixed-wing station is Agadir. Seven permanent detachments are kept on airports throughout the country.