Morocco has joined the coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. American officials report that the Kingdom has agreed to air strikes against ISIL positions in Iraq as well as Syria. Morocco has already contributed several F-16 Block 52+ multi-role fighters for the daily operations
An American military spokesperson says “This was a good decision both for the coalition and Morocco as it has not yet tested these aircraft in combat.”
At this point, the Royal Moroccan Air Force has been operating three F-16s in the campaign against ISIL. Officials said the Moroccan missions were coordinated with the U.S. Air Force through its air operations command in Qatar.
This marked the first use of Morocco’s F-16 fleet in air strikes. The kingdom procured 24 such aircraft from Lockheed Martin in a $2.4 billion purchase.
So far, Morocco has been the first and only North African ally to join the coalition. Egypt, which was a longtime partner of Washington, has refrained from any commitment following the U.S. suspension of F-16s to the regime of President Abdul Fatah Sisi.
Rep. Rob Wittman, a chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee says “This effort needs an Arab face.”
According to daily newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum in its December 10th issue, four F-16 Moroccan fighters have begun bombing locations belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Moroccan air raids focused on bombing IS positions in the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in addition to other parts of the country that were not yet identified.
The newspaper said that Spain is closely watching Morocco’s participation in the US-led coalition to fight against the Islamic State, adding that the move enabled Morocco to have an increased access to advanced technology and weapons manufactured by the United States. It went on to say that the Spanish press believes that results have shown that the Moroccan F-16s are more advanced than Spanish F-18 fighters which are devoted to the protection of the Canary Islands.
Earlier reports by the NY Times said that the Moroccan F-16 fighters will be targeting fixed sites like military headquarters, communications centers, oil refineries, training camps, troop barracks and weapon depots.