AH-1Z. File photo
Morocco's military has recapitalized its Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, its General Dynamics M-1 tanks, and, in the third stage, might soon recapitalize its fleet of Airbus Gazelle utility and attack helicopters.
Last year, Airbus Helicopters observed the 50th anniversary of the Gazelle's maiden flight.
At the Marrakech Air Show this week — Bell's second annual appearance — the company is displaying an AH-1Z attack helicopter and an H-1 cockpit demonstrator. Both helicopter displays have received "a lot of traffic" from Moroccan and Royal Moroccan Air Force officials, said Doug Wolfe, Bell’s director for military business development for the Middle East and North Africa.
"They do have an acquisition underway," Wolfe said of the Moroccan government in an Oct. 25 telephone interview from the Marrakech Air Show. He said that U.S. government officials, who would have to approve a foreign military sale (FMS), are also attending the show.
Attributes of the AH-1Z, Wolfe said, include that it has a "very small logistics footprint," is the "only attack helicopter built for expeditionary warfare" and can withstand "sea, salt and dust" for its 30-year design life. The AH-1Z has the "lowest acquisition cost, flying-hour cost and total life-cycle cost," he said, adding that the AH-1Z has 85 percent commonality with its utility cousin, the UH-1Y.
"We're seeing a lot of interest in the region," Wolfe said.
Last April, the U.S. State Department approved a possible $911 million sale of 12 AH-1Zs to Bahrain. The UAE, Israel and Jordan are other countries that may have interest. The Israeli Air Force, which used Cobras in Lebanon in 1982 and against Hezbollah, retired its fleet of 33 in 2013 because of budget constraints and transferred 16 of the helicopters to Jordan. Turkey bought some 42 Cobras, which the country has used against the Kurds.
Human rights concerns are issues in possible sales to foreign nations, and Wolfe said that he spoke with U.S. officials Oct. 25, but they are thus far tight-lipped about any repercussions on FMS of the recent slaying of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.