The joint venture (JV) between Morocco, the Belgian group Blueberry and the American group Lockheed Martin has just spawned the first private investment operation in the field of military industry in the era of the new legal framework for this purpose.
The will of Sabca and Sabena Aerospace united in the Blueberry Group since 2020Investing in military aircraft maintenance, repair and upgrading (MRO&U) was expressed since 2018through a declaration of intent.
At that time, the two companies were mainly targeting the famous military transport aircraft C-130 Hercules which has been the subject of a maintenance service license granted by Lockheed to Sabena since 1977. Nevertheless, they were already planning attacks on the F-16, Alphajet, Mirage F1 and Agusta A-109 in a second phase.
A year later, a limited liability company called Sabena Aerospace was formed by Sabena Aerospace Engineering. Immediately thereafter, it changed its name to become Maintenance Aero Morocco (MAM). She has remained inactive since then, except for changing leadership in 2021. Today its CEO and Chairman is Vincent Francis Daniel Monborgne and Director Gautier Hucorne.
Sabca, now part of the Blueberry group, is in turn has been present in Morocco since 2012 through its subsidiary Sabca Maroc, which manufactures assemblies for Airbus and Dassault Aviation aircraft. It was also responsible for the modernization of the Royal Air Forces (FRA) Mirage F1 and Alphajet fleets.
In August 2021, Sabca Maroc and Pilatus Aircraft signed contract thus the aircraft structure of the business jet Pilatus PC-12 either assembled in Casablanca by Sabca Maroc. This is an investment of 180 million dirhams for the construction of a new 16,000 m2 factory in Nouaceur, which will ensure the assembly of the fuselage, wings and flight controls, including the electrical installation of the aircraft’s wiring.
Following the announcement of this three-way joint venture this week, it is not yet clear to what extent the Moroccan state and/or Lockheed Martin will be investing in MAM’s capital. In any case, the management of this joint venture remains the responsibility of the Blueberry Group.
A first since the new legal framework for the defense industry came into force
For his part, military expert Abdelhamid Harifi, contacted by Médias24, believes that the investment will be borne by Morocco and Lockheed Martin, while the Belgians could only ensure the administration without appearing in the capital for political reasons.
He also lists the many benefits of this investment, which he believes to be his own the first of its kind under the new law which regulates the defense industry in Morocco.
It is true that Sabca started local upgrading of the Moroccan Mirages F1 and Alphajet back in 2006, but it was a temporary operation taking place at the FRA in Meknes. On the other hand, this JV marks the desire to have one permanent structurewhich is all the more about private capital in the Moroccan military industry, he explains.
Thus, this maintenance center will be for F-16 and C-130 aircraft and other American-origin helicopters, he says. Currently their maintenance is done either on site at the FRA or at the air forces of friendly countries.
On the other hand, this joint venture confirms that the modernization process of the F-16s currently in service with the FRA will be carried out locally, as previously announced. it is sophisticated technologiesin particular, the installation of new weapon systems, new electronic systems and the modernization of motorization.
However, the importance of such a partnership also lies in the aspect of technology transfer allowing Morocco to progressively lay the foundations for a local defense industry. It is also an opportunity to strengthen human capital in this area through a transfer of skills.
Another interest in this investment is Maintaining high availability of Moroccan military aviation, because the bane of any air force is to ground or service planes abroad. It is important for an air force to be able to mobilize its aircraft as quickly as possible.
Such an installation in Morocco will certainly give Morocco more control over the mobilization capacity of its aircraft. Today, Morocco has about twenty C-130s, for the maintenance of which they are scattered across several countries between Morocco, Jordan, France and Romania.
This new unit also serves as a maintenance center in the regionparticularly for the C-130s held by Tunisia and several other African countries.
Abdelhamid Harifi also sees this as part of this development Requirements for building a military-industrial platform longer term. The latter will also benefit from the civil aviation and automotive ecosystems that Morocco has developed over the past two decades.