May 20 (UPI) -- Morocco will acquire missiles and missile defense systems from the defense industry consortium MBDA France, the Moroccan defense ministry said on Wednesday.
Government approval of the contract came after Morocco received a $211 million loan in February from the French banking group BNP Paribas.
France supplies about 44 percent of Morocco's weapons needs -- the United States supplies most of the rest -- and relations between France and Morocco, a French colony until 1956, have long been cordial.
The purchase from MDBA France is part of Morocco's five-year plan, begun in 2017, to establish regional military supremacy by modernizing its military forces. It has devoted $20 billion to the objective. Since 2008 the country has acquired a naval frigate, two spy satellites and assorted ground armaments.
A 2019 survey named Morocco the seventh-largest military power in Africa.
The announcement of the deal Tuesday comes after an April approval of the sale of 10 Harpoon air-launched missiles, at $62 million, by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The missiles, to be manufactured by Boeing Co., will be used on Morocco's F-16 fighter planes "to enhance its capabilities in effective defense of critical sea lanes," a DSCA statement said.