MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones are efficient in border surveillance and law enforcement.
Rabat – The US is close to completing the sale of at least four MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones to Morocco.
Reuters, citing three US sources “familiar with the negotiations,” reported today that Congress is set to discuss the sale of the sophisticated large aerial drones in the coming days.
The outlet’s sources said the deal has been in the works for months but did not confirm if it is related to Morocco’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel, which US President Donald Trump announced earlier today.
The sources said the US State Department authorized the sale of the four unmanned aerial drones to Morocco. They are unsure, however, if US officials have approved the export of drones with weapons attached.
One of the sources said Congress must approve the deal and may receive notification of it as early as Friday. Two of the sources do not expect Congress to block the sale.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is the manufacturer of the four MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones Morocco may receive from the US. With a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 kilometers), the drones can survey huge swaths of sea and desert but are also designed to operate within civilian airspace.
MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones can serve various naval and littoral surveillance operations, including anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, border surveillance, and law enforcement.
With Morocco a key transit hub for migrants trying to reach Europe via the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the country could be seeking the MQ-9B SeaGaurdian drones to improve efforts to curb irregular migration. In particular, Spain’s Canary Islands off Morocco’s southern coast are facing an unprecedented migration crisis, with Spain calling for increased cooperation with Rabat to stem the flood of migrants to the islands.
The US’ reported deal with Morocco would be among the first drone sales after the Trump administration’s reinterpretation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an international arms control agreement.
Reuters reports the reinterpretation allowed the Trump administration to sell more drones to more countries, but US senators introduced legislation to block the export, transfer, or trade of many advanced drones to countries that are not close US allies. Sales are allowed to NATO members, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and Israel.
Despite the Senate’s legislation, the US recently completed drone sales to Taiwan and the UAE.
The US just sold 50 of its prized F-35 fighter jets, 20 MQ-9 Reaper drones, 14,000 bombs, and munitions to the UAE in a $23 billion arms deal. Although the sale effectively brings UAE military power up to par with that of Israel, Israel’s powerful lobby in Washington surprisingly supported the deal after initially opposing it.