Security, Middle East
The tiny Gulf nation of Qatar has launched a massive buildup of air power for an unclear purpose.
The latest development in this saga came in September, when British Defense Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon and Qatari Defense Secretary Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah signed a Letter of Intent for Doha to purchase twenty-four Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft from London. That came on the heels of Qatar announcing a deal to purchase thirty-six Boeing F-15 Qatar Advanced-variant Eagles from the United States for a reported $ 12 billion. And in 2015, Qatar signed a $ 7.5 billion deal with France to purchase twenty-four Dassault Rafale fighter jets, MBDA missiles, as well as pilot and support personnel training.
What makes these deals particularly shocking is how much of an increase they represent from what the Qatari Air Force currently fields. Despite hosting a large U.S. air base, Qatar itself has primarily relied on twelve aging Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighters. Thus, the eighty-four different fighters are a seven-fold increase. This led Aviation Week’s Tony Osborne to comment, “Such growth in airpower capability and capacity is virtually unprecedented in recent times, and historians would likely have to look back to the outbreak of World Wars I and II to see such rapid fleet growth.” Quantity is not the only aspects that stands out. As IHS Jane’s noted, Qatar’s “decision to replace its one current fighter type with three different types is curious.”
Regarding the planes’ capabilities, Jane’s reported: