According to the GFP report, “The Moroccan military uses a mix of old and new equipment while having several hundred thousand active and reserve personnel on call.”
Morocco was ranked 57th in the 2017 military strength ranking.
GFP is an annually-updated, statistics-based website which “tracks defense-related information of over 135 nations and exists as an independent resource.”
The US has the strongest military, followed by Russia (2nd), China (3rd), India (4th), France (5th), the United Kingdom (6th). Spain was ranked 19th.
Morocco’s military ranks among the top three in Africa after Egypt (12th) and Algeria (23rd).
Read also: Moroccan Military Power Ranks Top 10 in MENA
The Global Firepower index is based on over 50 factors, including manpower, airpower, land strength, naval strength, petroleum, logistics, defense budget, geography, and external debt.
According to GFP’s statistics, Morocco has 373,000 military personnel (198,000 active members and 175,000 reserve) and 17 million “available” manpower, including more than 14.4 million people who are fit for military service.
Morocco’s government recently introduced a bill on obligatory military service. The government council and the ministerial council approved the bill on August 20, but it has not yet been passed by Parliament. Young people aged 19-25 would be required to serve 12 months in the military.
The government said the objective is to “inculcate the spirit of citizenship in young people as part of a correlation between the rights and duties of citizenship.”
The US has over 2 million military personnel; Egypt has 1.3 million; Algeria has 790,000; and Saudi Arabia has 260,000. However, Spain has only 170,000 military personnel.
Morocco-Spain-Algeria Arms Race?
Military buildup in Algeria and Morocco, which have the strongest African militaries excluding Egypt, has prepared the countries for any possible armed conflict. In October 1963, Morocco and Algeria fought the Sand War over the border near Figuig, eastern Morocco.
There is also tension between the countries over the Western Sahara conflict in which Algeria plays a major part supporting Polisario.
“It is Algeria that hosts, arms, backs up, and brings diplomatic support for the Polisario,” wrote King Mohammed VI in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on April 4.
GFP also stated Morocco owns 284 aircraft, including 56 fighters, 56 attack planes, and 130 helicopters. Algeria has 528, including 97 fighters, 107 attack planes, 280 helicopters, and 46 attack helicopters.
In August, the Spanish outlet Infodefensa reported that Spanish satellite images showed, “Morocco already has at least 127 of the almost two hundred Abrams M1A1 tanks.” Morocco ordered the tanks from the US in 2015. The order also included associated parts, equipment, logistical support, and training for over $1 billion.
Mohammed Chakir, a Moroccan expert on military affairs, told Moroccan news outlet Hespress that Infodefensa’s article “is a reflection of the Spanish concern as an arms race exists between Rabat, Madrid, and Algeria.”
Morocco possesses 1,276 combat tanks, 2,348 armored fighting vehicles (AFV) and more than 700 artilleries of three different types: 448 self-propelled artilleries, 192 towed artilleries, and 72 rocket projectors. Spain has only 327 combat tanks and a few more AFVs than: 2,493.
Since 2012, the North African country has made significant additions to its military equipment by acquiring 450 tanks, 600 armored vehicles, and 130 artillery batteries, according to a study conducted by the Spanish think tank International Security Studies Group (GESI).
“The many disagreements between Spain and Morocco, mainly the dispute over the occupied cities of Ceuta and Melilla, make decision makers in Spain closely follow any military deal concluded by Morocco, especially with the US, which is known for its most sophisticated industry weapons,” Chakir explained.
Morocco has half the number of combat tanks that Algeria has at 2,405. The neighboring country also owns 6,754 AFVs and 666 artilleries, including 220 self-propelled artilleries, 270 towed artilleries, and 176 rocket projectors. Morocco has twice the number of self-propelled artilleries that Algeria has.
Spain has even fewer artilleries, just 239
Morocco’s navy has 121 naval assets, 6 frigates, and 22 patrol vessels. Spain has only 46 naval assets, while Algeria has 85.
Morocco’s defense budget 1/3 of Algeria’s
Morocco spends $3.4 billion annually on its defense budget and ranks 51st in spending globally.
The figure is low compared to militarily-strong countries, such as the US, which has the world’s biggest annual defense budget at $647 billion. It is followed by China ($151 billion) and Saudi Arabia (more than $56.7 billion). Spain spends $11.6 billion annually on its defense budget.
An Israeli think tank, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), estimated Morocco’s annual defense budget at $3.5 billion currently and wrote in May that it would reach $4 billion in 2022.
Morocco spends less on its defense than Algeria ($10.57 billion) and Egypt ($4.4 billion).
On September 20, the US Department of Defence announced that Morocco concluded a new contract to supply its Royal Armed Forces with M4 carbine rifles and navy systems.
Morocco’s military strength serves its objectives of eliminating any external attack, protecting territorial sovereignty, and combating regional terrorism.
Given the continuous tension between Morocco and Algeria?especially over the Western Sahara conflict with the Algerian-funded Polisario, the North African country is determined to develop its military equipment and strengthen its army.