July 05, 2022

In North Africa, a fighter jet arms race, with Russia and the US on either side

Journalist: Agnes Helou

While it may not make the rounds in Washington as one of the big geopolitical rivalries of the era, tensions between Morocco and Algeria are real, and have escalated in recent years thanks to a dispute over the Western Sahara, which Morocco claims to be its own territory, while Algeria backs the Tindouf-based Polisario Front rebel group.

As a result, both nations have begun investing heavily in their militaries — and specifically in airborne systems that can counter one another.

Now, an aviation arms race may be escalated further by a need for Russia to find defense exports in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, and subsequent sanctions pain. Algeria, a longstanding military client of Russia, could suddenly see cheaper rates for the Su-57, or even end up as the first export customer for the Su-75 Checkmate.

“At this point, as one of the biggest global customers of Russian weaponry, it’s likely that Algeria may eventually acquire Russia’s top-notch technology that Moscow seeks to export,” Samuel Bendett, a member of the Russia Studies Program at CNA and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Breaking Defense. “This may include Su-57 down the line, but it’s also likely that Algeria may start importing Su-75 Checkmate fighter, once it goes into production, considering how much Moscow is seeking to export its new military technology.”

In turn, Morocco is looking to bolster its own advanced air assets, spending heavily on American-made jets and helicopters.

“It appears that both countries seek to bolster their military capabilities with new technologies, including air force. Given the regional geography where both countries are located — large territory, long distances — air force capabilities are crucial for monitoring, ISR and combat,” Bendett said.

Read the full story and more from Breaking Defense.


  • Samuel Bendett

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    Samuel Bendett is an Adviser with CNA Strategy, Policy, Plans and Programs Center (SP3), where he is a member of the Russia Studies Program. His work involves research on the ...