By Bijan Razzaghi
In 2018 Qatar is set to receive three additional new fighter aircraft types, 24 Dassault Rafales, 72 Boeing F-15QAs and 24 Eurofighter Typhoons. The purchase of all three platforms is to cost $24 Billion. Qatar’s recent efforts to build up its Air Force are likely an attempt to match neighboring Saudi Arabia, which currently has the largest Air Force in the Persian Gulf region. Currently Qatar has 9 Mirage 2000s that make up its air force. The fighters were delivered in the 1990s.
The capabilities that Qatar’s Air Force will gain from acquiring these platforms is significant. F-15QAs along with Rafale offer a long-range strike capability, while the Eurofighter Typhoons provide an Air Superiority capability. Qatar’s effort’s build up its military started with a series of 2014 contracts for Javelin anti tank missiles, Patriot Defense Systems and AH-64 Apache gunships.
It is unclear what weapons systems and avionics will be purchased with the aircraft. It is likely that AIM-9s, GBU series laser guided bombs and Brimstone missiles with be purchased. Other more sophisticated weapon systems such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM, JDAM and JSOW are less likely to be included due to The Arms Export Control Act. Avionics such as the Lockheed Martin Sniper Pod and BAEs EPAAWs electronic jamming system are likely to be part of the deal.
Qatar is currently not engaged in any armed conflict but in the past has taken part in the 2011 NATO led operation in Libya and in the Saudi led Operation in Yemen. Qatar’s efforts to grow its air force is likely to create tension with Saudi Arabia and the UAE who have large Air Forces. The backbone of the UAEs air force are 55 F-16E Advanced Desert Falcons while the Royal Saudi Air Force uses the F-15SA, Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado GR4. Qatar also serves as the primary hub for US air power in the region with CENTCOM operating out of Al Udeid Airbase.