Saudi Arabia: no supply of Apache helicopters to Morocco

Published August 11th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Saudi Arabia on Saturday denied a Spanish press report that Riyadh would supply Morocco with Apache helicopters in light of its crisis with Spain over a disputed Mediterranean islet. The Spanish newspaper Laraithon has reported that Saudi Arabia intended to supply Morocco with two squadrons of Apache gunships.  


A source at the Saudi Defense Ministry termed the report "baseless," saying that such an issue was not even raised during talks between the two states, reported Kuwait's official KUNA news agency. 


The Royal Saudi Army Air Arm operates a squadron of 12 of the AH-64 Apache combat helicopters. The Apache is the most advanced attack helicopter in the world. Heavily armed and armored, it can attack targets by day and by night, and carries the Hellfire guided missiles.  


The Spanish media report was quite improbable, in view of the extreme difficulties any such Saudi transfer would entail. Because the Apaches are American-made, Saudi Arabia would not be able to transfer the helicopters to Morocco without U.S. approval – and it is highly unlikely that the U.S. would allow one of its most advanced combat systems to be used against a European ally.  


Even if diplomatic difficulties were to be ignored, it should be noted that the Apache helicopter requires very comprehensive logistics support, far beyond the current level of logistics that the Moroccan Air Force can provide. Even the American Army finds the support for the Apache to be quite difficult. Therefore, even if Saudi Apaches were to reach Morocco, they would quickly become inoperable due to lack of proper support. 


Last, but not least, it should be remembered that the Saudi military only operates one squadron of apaches, making it highly unlikely that Saudi Arabia would be able to send two squadrons to Morocco. However, the Saudi Apaches are operated in concert with a squadron of Bell 406 Combat Scout helicopters, lighter helicopters that assist the Apaches by spotting targets for them. This second squadron that operates together with the Apache squadron may have given rise to the mistake. 


While it seems clear that the Spanish reports of Saudi Apaches being sent to Morocco were a baseless provocation, the scenario does give room for thought. A squadron of Apaches is a powerful force, and would have sufficed to control both the disputed island and its surroundings against Spanish troops and Naval ships. This strong Saudi Arabian military capability is an important factor in the balance of power in the Arabian Gulf. ( 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (

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