Qatar began its air force modernization program in 2015. The US, UK and France are the main recipients of contracts from Doha.
Global fighter procurement contracts are seeing fierce competition from the F-35 stealth fighter to the Rafales, Eurofighter Typhoons, F-15EX and many others. Owning any of the above fighters is enough to make the air force powerful; But what if someone has all four? One Middle Eastern country is leading major modernization efforts to replace its aging fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters, Qatar. Billions of dollars have been invested to buy 96 super modern aircraft.
Doha signed a $6 billion contract with Dassault Aviation to purchase 24 Rafale multirole fighters. Twelve more were ordered in 2018 to increase the Rafale fleet to 36 (equivalent to India). Furthermore, Qatar has the option to purchase an additional 36 Rafales.
The Rafale is a twin-engine, multi-role fighter; Designed for the French Air Force and Navy. The Rafale can perform a variety of short and long-range missions, including land and sea attack, reconnaissance, precision strike, and nuclear deterrence. Rafales have been tested on battlefields such as Afghanistan, Mali, Libya, Syria and Iraq. As of 2020, Qatar has received 15 Rafales. Their first squadron was stationed at Tamim Air Base in Dukhan.
In 2017, Qatar signed a $12 billion contract with Boeing to purchase 36 F-15QA fighter jets, specifically designed for the requirements of the Qatar Air Force. Boeing recently delivered the first batch of F-15QAs to Qatar. The F-15QA is arguably the most advanced variant of the famous F-15 series. The QA version is based on the Saudi F-15SA and has the same flight control system.
The F-15QA variant comes with upgraded sensors and increased weapon carrying capacity and is rated for superior long-range ground attack capabilities, further increasing its lethality. The F-15QA has the ability to take off from a short runway, and a G-force of up to 9G, allowing the pilot to perform complex maneuvers, without affecting the structure of the fuselage. According to Janes, the F-15 QA will be equipped with a variety of weapons, including the AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-120, AGM-84A Harpoon, and GBU-31 precision-guided bomb (JDAM).
Qatar, perhaps the only air force in the world, will soon have both the Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon. In 2017, Doha signed a $6 billion contract with the UK to buy 24 Typhoons. This is a collaborative product of the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain. The Typhoon is a long-range, heavy-duty multirole fighter with air superiority, ground attack and “supercruise” capabilities, as the Typhoon maintains speeds above Mach 1 without the need for afterburner.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is equipped with an internally mounted Mauser BK27mm aviation cannon for close air combat and has 13 weapon hardpoints under the wings and fuselage. It can carry weapons up to 8 tons. The first Eurofighter Typhoon is expected to enter service with the Qatar Air Force in 2022.
Last year Qatar submitted a formal request to Washington for the purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter. While the US, UK and France have pledged to train pilots for Qatar and handle logistics and technical issues. But one question is, the use of too many types of modern fighter, leading to very high technical requirements and may face more challenges than anticipated.