Morocco to build surveillance satellite with Israel Aerospace Industries
Morocco is seeking to build a new surveillance satellite in cooperation with Israeli companies, reported French media La Tribune.
"According to many sources, Morocco chose an Israeli group, possibly Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), at the end of the summer to provide it with a new surveillance satellite, intended to replace Mohammed VI-A satellite launched in 2017," wrote the French publication on Tuesday. It did not give details about the alleged cooperation's timeline and cost.
Rabat has yet to confirm the news.
The previous satellite, launched to ensure "strong surveillance for the country's border and coasts and to manage natural disasters", was produced by France's Thales Alenia Space and Airbus manufacturer, following a 500 million euro contract signed between Rabat and Paris in 2013.
The two manufacturing companies also produced the Mohammed VI-B satellite, which launched into orbit on 21 November 2018.
The French publication has speculated that Rabat's alleged replacement of French companies by Israeli ones is due to the ongoing crisis between Rabat and Paris and the fractured relationship between the Moroccan monarch and President Macron.
"The success of French industrialists in exports still depends on the bilateral relations established by France and its president with the countries that issue calls for tenders," the French media reported.
Last March, Morocco's Minister of Industry and Trade, Ryad Mezzour, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Amir Peretz, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in aeronautics.
Since then, negotiations between Rabat and Israel's state-run company about the new satellite have started, according to La Tribune.
At the time, Trade Minister Mezzour said the agreement with IAI would provide Morocco with high-tech Israeli security equipment. It did not articulate further.
"Israel and Morocco are beginning today a new phase of strategic and economic cooperation," said Minister of Industry and Trade Ryad Mezzur told media on 23 March, following the deal with IAI.
Last year, Rabat also signed with IAI a US$500 million purchase deal to acquire the "Barak-MX," an advanced air & missile defence system.
The North African kingdom has also acquired Heron drones manufactured by IAI and IAI Bluebird units.
Morocco's drone acquisition from Israel is reported to include five different types of units: Heron, Hermes 900, WanderB, ThunderB, and Harfang.
Morocco's 2024 finance bill has allocated US$12.088 billion to the defence industry, adding nearly US$484.7 million to this year's defence budget.
Morocco's growing military budget is predicated on its continued conflict with a well-armed Algeria that backs the separatist Polisario Front in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
In June, an Israeli envoy to Morocco announced the future opening of Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems in the North African state. The announcement led to several protests in the country, with activists vowing escalation in case of an opening. For years, Elbit sites in the UK have been targeted by pro-Palestine activists over the arms maker's "complicity in enforcing Israel's violent occupation in Palestine."
Rabat has never commented on the controversy.
Rabat and Tel Aviv normalised ties in 2020 under the US auspices. A year later, they signed a memorandum of understanding on security and military training, paving the way for growing cooperation despite public opposition in the kingdom.