The US military practiced bombing S-400 batteries in controversial ‘African Lion’ war games in Morocco.
US-led war games in North Africa have provoked controversy after Morocco, one of the hosting countries, said some drills would be held in Western Sahara, a territory it claims to rule.
The US has backed Morocco’s claims, but contradicted Rabat’s statement about the drills being held there.
During the massive “African Lion” war games in Morocco, the US-led international force practiced attacking Russian-made S-400 Triumf air defense systems. Washington has objected to the S-400’s proliferation around the globe, sanctioning multiple nations for buying them, including its ally Turkey, and it’s possible Algeria has obtained them as well, Sputnik reported.
Mention of the drill involving simulated strikes against S-400s was made in a June 9 Command Post exercise in Agadir, Morocco, footage of which was posted by the Pentagon as a B-roll video on its DVIDS media hosting site.
“Two strikes were conducted against those two S-400s,” one person can be heard saying in the briefing room, adding they are “still awaiting battle damage assessments from yesterday’s strike.”
The drill was carried out by Southern European Task Force-Africa, a US Army formation that replaced US Army Africa after it was remarried with US Army Europe in November 2020. It’s never stated which weapons were used for the strike, but it’s likely to have been M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which feature in other media posted from the drills.
The War Zone notes that it’s not clear if Morocco’s neighbor and regional rival of Algeria has obtained S-400 systems, meaning the exercise isn’t necessarily aimed at Algiers’ military. It does have the slightly older S-300PMU-2, which is similar enough to the S-400 in terms of appearance to create ambiguity in reports alleging to show Algeria has obtained S-400s.
Regardless, other nations have definitely bought or are actively interested in buying their own S-400 systems, including of course Russia as well as China and Turkey, which have already received batteries. India’s will be delivered before the year is out; Belarus and Saudi Arabia are presently in talks; and Russia has offered the system to both Iran and Iraq. Buyers risk being sanctioned by the United States under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which is intended to dissuade nations from buying advanced Russian military equipment.
Although the African Lion drills are annual, this year’s games have aroused particular fury after Morocco claimed some of them would be held in Western Sahara, a non-self-governing territory to its south over which it has claimed sovereignty. In December 2020, the US recognized Rabat’s claims in exchange for the North African state normalizing relations with ‘Israel’, and just a month earlier, war in the territory between the Moroccan forces and the indigenous Saharawi liberation group Polisario Front erupted for the first time since 1991.