On 10 July 1971, the Moroccan army carried out a failed coup against the king in the palace of Skhirat. The following year airmen made a new coup, this time the plane of King Hassan II, on his return from France, was attacked in the air by jet fighters.
In the near future, the Amazigh Information Centre will use short articles to reconstruct this historical event. We will do so on the basis of testimonies from people who have experienced this event, such as the fighter pilot Salah Hachad, books by critical authors such as Gilles Perrault, Stephen Smith and various newspaper articles.
In 1972, the Moroccan Air Force had 38 fighters of which 14 were of the type Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter, known as the F-5. This simple aircraft was produced in the sixties by the American company Northrop according to three conditions: small, light and cheap. The F-5 could be used for different purposes: training, reconnaissance, attack, photography, air defense, escort. On takeoff, an F-5 can be loaded with two times 280 bullets for the two 20mm M39A2 airborne machineguns in the nose of the aircraft, next to missiles and bombs.
The F-5 was mainly intended for sale to the allies of the United States and was built under licence in Spain and Canada. The Dutch Air Force had 100 aircraft in service, these aircraft served in the Dutch armed forces between 1969 and 1991.
Two F-5 squadrons of the Moroccan Air Force were stationed at Kenitra Air Base. The Moroccan part of the airbase was manned by about 20 fighter pilots, they had obtained their pilot’s license at Spanish or French military schools. When Morocco replaced the Soviet MiG’s with F-5’s in the mid 60’s, Moroccan pilots travelled to the Williams Air Force Base in Arizona and the Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma for training.
During their internships in the US, Moroccan pilots felt like fully-fledged pilots: they had the same rights as their American colleagues, they had cars at their disposal, and they received a good salary. They felt free on American soil and were impressed by the development of the country. When they returned to Morocco, they suffered a shock, some pilots felt tears in their eyes and wondered why Morocco hadn’t developed. They lost their salary and many of the rights they enjoyed in the US.
Moroccan pilots fly in very expensive supersonic jet fighters, equipped with high quality equipment and technology, just like the American pilots, but the Moroccans, or some of them at least, have to go to work by public transport because they can’t afford their own transport. They are often forced to help (sick) family members, who are worse off, in their livelihoods. The dissatisfaction within the armed forces was great. The king had raised his salary after the failed coup by Skhirat in 1971, but there were no solutions to the problems within the army, such as corruption, clientelism and the abuse of soldiers in longer ranks. It is forbidden for the military to join a trade union or political party. In August 1972, the army again attempted to take over power in Morocco.
Translated by: Najat M.