Qatar Air Force

OPSSG

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Post 1 of 3: Europe and UK’s role in the Fastest growing air-force in the world

1. The State of Qatar has been governed by HH Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-THANI since June 2013. As one of the smallest nations by population and land area, in the world the State of Qatar has a total land area of only 11,610 km2 (4,483 sq. miles). According to Aug 2019 UN estimations, the State of Qatar’s total population is 2,839 million. With some 340,000 people, Qataris are considered a ‘minority’ in their own nation amounting to only 12% of the population.
(a) To overcome manpower limitations, Qatar is not only extending its compulsory national service program from 3 to 4 months to 12 months and allowing volunteer females to join the Army, but also recruits large numbers of foreign contract soldiers. In April 2015, when the National Service Law entered into force, Qatar has made it mandatory for Qatari citizens to be conscripted in the Army.​
(b) Since April 2018, amid the ongoing Arab boycott, Qatar allowed female Qatari citizens to join the Army and extended compulsory military service to one year. Given the manpower and talent limitations, we should not see Qatar’s fighter purchasers from France, UK and the US as just buying an ‘instant noodle’ type of solution; rather the country is buying into a long term security relationship with the above said countries and with also Italy (for their navy).​
(c) While Qatar’s goal is not to create their own foreign legion, it is looking to diversify (from just traditional ties with Pakistan as manpower supplier) and augment their manpower shortage by hiring foreign contractors to shore-up their squadron manpower, for 5 new squadrons. IMO, Qatar is certain to ask UK and France for secondment of officers and senior enlisted to their squadrons, to take up roles as diverse as flight leads, instructor pilots, test pilots, weapons systems officers, flight surgeons and to hire crew chiefs on local terms, from these countries.​
(d) Qatar will continue to do this for a decade or more until they can stabilise their pilot and crew chief training pipeline. Strictly speaking, they are not just buying platforms but also renting people to operate them, while trying to grow their locals to take more and more responsibilities.​
(e) The fighter purchases from Qatar has occurred against a backdrop of a three-year boycott by Arab states, in part due to Qatar’s policies, including its support for the Muslim brotherhood by its media. In particular, Al Jazeera has been criticized as functioning as Qatari state media. Among the 13 demands made by Arab countries namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE on 23 Jun 2017 was the closure of Qatari based cable news network, Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera has been called Al Jahiliyyah (the ignorance) and Al Jahannam (the damned) for the network’s seemingly mala fide, biased and unprofessional news coverage.​
(f) Over the last decade, the Qatari leadership have raised so much controversy over the country’s foreign policy that there is a strong anti-Qatar sentiment in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt, which was imposed a boycott in Jun 2017. In 2010, U.S. State Department internal communications released by WikiLeaks as part of the 2010 diplomatic cables leak said that the Qatari government manipulates Al Jazeera coverage to suit the country's political interests.​

2. While under pressure from an Arab boycott, Qatar hastily entered into a £5bn deal with BAE Systems supported by the UK government for which it paid the first installment in September 2018. In 2019, it was also reported that Qatar will accelerate its acquisition of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets and 9 Hawk trainers. The export deal also includes a support and training package for the aircraft, in addition to training and cooperation between the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Qatari Emiri Air Force (QEAF). In the original schedule the aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2022; but that has been accelerated. The Qatar deal includes the supply of a weapons package covering MBDA-built Brimstone 2 air-to-ground and Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles as well as Raytheon’s Paveway IV precision-guided bombs.
(a) When Qatar ordered its Eurofighters in 2017, it specified that the Captor-E AESA radar be installed, despite the fact that none of the original European partners had ordered the radar, then. Thanks to Kuwait’s (28) and Qatar’s (24) orders, vital funding was flowing into the AESA E-Scan radar project. With the help of these 2 new foreign customers, the E-Scan radar was able to win big orders in Europe. In Airbus announced in late June 2020, that it had been awarded a contract for the development, supply and integration of 115 AESA, or E-Scan, radars for German and Spanish Eurofighters.​
(b) Powered by twin EJ200s that each provide 90kN of thrust, the Eurofighter Typhoon to cruise at supersonic speeds without the use of reheat for extended periods. The engines deliver 1,000 flying hours without needing unscheduled maintenance — which is a huge advantage over USAF teen series fighters, that cruise at approximately Mach 0.8–0.9 with militarily significant weapons loads.​
(c) BVR stands for beyond-visual-range. If you consider an operational flight profile, with AESA E-Scan radar and the BVR Meteor missile combined — Qatar’s supercruise capable Eurofighters have a superb BVR air-to-air engagement capability with its high speed (which helps in long range engagements), very long range radar and BVR missiles — the Eurofighter is MORE than capable of supercruising at Mach 1.5 with an air superiority missile load.​
(d) Qatar’s Eurofighters are even more impressive in the within-visual range fight, as they are equipped with a Helmet Mounted Symbology System (HMSS), which passive and stealthy sensor system, reduces pilot workload and increases the weapon envelope. A Eurofighter pilot is able to designate targets with full head movement, reducing the need for in-cockpit switch selection and aircraft manoeuvring. This exploits the full potential of high off-boresight missiles such as IRIS-T and ASRAAM which can now be deployed without the need to turn the aircraft on to the target.​
(e) In Qatar’s quest to become more capable of being superior in the air, it bought 24 of the most capable supersonic air-to-air fighters made in Europe. While Dassault’s offer includes more air to ground weapons integrated and a superb EW system, purely in the air-to-air arena, the Eurofighter with its HMSS and ASRAAM combination is Qatar’s most capable dog fighter for the offensive counter air mission.​
(f) An article by Kirstie Chambers published on 19 June 2020 added: Wing Commander Chris Wright, Officer Commanding 12 Squadron, told Forces News: “The joint squadron specifically will now grow its Qatari elements, to the point that we will train upwards of 16 pilots over the next few years ahead of the delivery of their own planes... So, 12 Squadron will continue to grow from where it is today, it will increase the complexity of the training that we do and will also involve some deployments out to the Middle East in support of their sovereign exercises.”​
3. The RAF will also assist in the acquisition of 2 A330MRTT for QEAF, who are on the largest shopping spree for fighters and tankers I have see (for a country this small).

4. Qatar began negotiations with France first, judging that Dassault was the ‘hungriest’ of the bidders and most likely to give the best deal. It was hoped that a low Rafale price could then be used to strike a harder bargain with the next supplier. An initial contract for 24 Rafales was signed in May 2015, prior to the Jun 2017 Arab boycott on Qatar. In Apr 2020, the QEAF received its 3rd batch of Dassault Rafales, totalling 15 aircraft, and the first squadron is working up at the new Tamim Air Base at Dukhan in western Qatar.
(a) In Dec 2017, they added 12 more to the 24 on order. Qatar retains an option to buy up to 36 more (up to a total of 72). Qatar’s Rafale is equipped with the RBE2 AA AESA radar and the OSF (Optronique Secteur Frontal) infra-red search and track (IRST) system.​
(b) The Rafale carries a 30 mm GIAT 30 DEFA cannon and can be armed with SCALP EG cruise missiles, MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) and AM39 Exocet sea-skimming anti-ship missiles (AShMs).​
(c) The first Qatari Rafale, a two-seater, made its maiden flight from Bordeaux-Merignac, in France, on 28 June 2016, and the country’s initial single-seat Rafale EQ took off for the first time on March 27 2017. These early aircraft were quickly transferred to the French Air Force flight-test centre at Istres Airbase for testing, before they were delivered.​
 
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OPSSG

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Post 2 of 3: America’s role in the Fastest growing air-force in the world
(d) The Qatari Rafales also have provision for an Elbit Systems TARGO-II helmet-mounted target designation system. The aircraft are being supplied with MBDA MICA infrared, MICA EM, and Meteor air-to-air missiles, and with MBDA SCALP-EG cruise missiles, as well as a range of air-to-ground weapons, including laser- and GPS-guided Safran AASM Hammer missiles.​
(e) Under France’s mission of support for exports (soutex) programme, the French Armée de l’Air is training 250 personnel, who will make up the first Qatari Rafale squadron, including 36 pilots and 100 engineers and technicians.​

5. In Jun 2020, it was reported that Qatar, has solidified details and logistics with U.S. government organizations and contractors to procure its own fleet of 48 F-15QAs.

(a) On 14 Jun 2017, it was announced that Qatar had signed a deal to purchase 36 F-15QAs for which a LoI was signed between Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs of Qatar, and James Mattis, the then U.S. Secretary of Defence. In Dec 2017, Qatar signed a US$6.2 billion dollar deal for 36 F-15QAs (that has since been increased to 48). Qatar’s F-15 variant will feature a greater number of underwing hardpoints for extra munitions, a powerful AESA radar which serves to reduce its radar signature and vulnerability to jamming, the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems for both the pilot and WSO (as the fighter has twin seats), and the new more powerful General Electric F110-129 engine. In this order, Boeing has designed a new wing for Qatar’s F-15QA that it hopes will one day be selected as a service life extension option for the U.S. Air Force’s F-15Cs. Flight Global says the new wing retains the same aerodynamic profile but internally it has been strengthen using new manufacturing techniques developed. These techniques will also be used to build the USAF’s F-15EX; which has 90-95% commonality with the F-15QA.​

(b) The aircraft will also feature a new, updated ‘glass’ cockpit featuring the advanced crew station with a large (10 x 19 inch) Elbit wide-area display – a digital multi-function display similar to that found in the F-35 Lightning II. Reports have said that these will be fitted with a low-profile head-up display (HUD) – a derivative of the company’s LiteHUD – or Elop’s low-profile HUD.​

(c) The QEAF is scheduled to start receiving these fighter jets in June 2021. The F-15QA is the most advanced version of the F-15 Eagle. Following the initial F-15QA delivery to the Qatar Emiri Air Force in the summer of 2021, the force is expected to reach initial operational capability in the summer of 2022.​

6. For some years, Qatar has been building up its combat aviation capabilities with the procurement of the latest platforms and technologies. Qatar is replacing a single squadron of 12 Mirage 2000s with 108 new fighters in 5 squadrons – including 48 Boeing F-15QAs, 36 Dassault Rafales, and 24 Eurofighter Typhoons. The increase in the QEAF’s frontline fighter force from the current 12, in particular, will represent a massive enhancement in its capacity and capability. The only thing they lack is AEW&C; following from the Oct 2018 decision not proceed with QEAF planned acquisition of 3 Boeing produced E-737 AEW&C aircraft.
 
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OPSSG

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Post 3 of 3: The Fastest growing air-force in the world is buying more than fighters

7. Beyond acquiring fighters, the QEAF received their first of 24 Apaches during a ceremony at Boeing’s Mesa production plant in Arizona on 14 Mar 2019. In May 2020, it was reported that just after deliveries commenced, the US State Department approved the sale of a further 24 AH-64Es to Qatar, making for a final fleet of 48. However, that follow-on contract has not yet been finalised.

8. Qatar’s 1st squadron of AH-64Es will replace the QEAF’s ageing Aerospatiale SA 342 Gazelle attack helicopters in the close air support, armed reconnaissance, and anti-tank roles.

9. Qatar’s Apache procurement is part of a major recapitalisation of its capabilities that has included the acquisition of 8 C-17s, 2 A330 MRTTs and 4 C-130J-30s; 28 NH90 (16 TTH, 12 NFH) and 16 H125 helicopters; and a Patriot ground-based air-defence system.
(a) With regard to the NH90, Leonardo acts as an overall prime contractor with responsibility for the management of the entire programme valued at more than €3 billion to the NHI consortium.​
(b) This Qatar helicopter order will be split in 16 NH90-TTHs (Troop Transport Helicopter) and 12 NH90-NFHs (Navy Frigate Helicopter), with deliveries, starting from the 2019-2020 time frame. Of the total order, the 16-strong batch in the TTH version for the Army will be built at Airbus Helicopter’s plant at Marignane, southern France. France’s new baseline TTH variant in 2025-2026 include the addition of Safran’s new EuroFLIR electro-optical/infrared imaging system, with displays and controls available for the helicopter’s entire crew; plus the upgraded removable ‘leaf’ doors and a beam to allow fast-roping from the rear ramp, plus additional ceiling-mounted rope anchor points. Although billed as a special forces variant, the French DGA procurement agency sees potential to roll out the updates across the army’s entire NH90 fleet. The remaining 12 units for Qatar will be in the NFH configuration, to be assembled in Italy and equipped with MBDA's Marte ER anti-ship missiles.​
(c) It is likely that the Marina Militare Italiana will be training Qatar’s pilots to operate their NH90-NFHs with their 4 Italian built, 3,250 ton, Doha-class air defense corvettes and their mini-LHD (based on the San Giusto-class). The 142.90 m long mini-LHD has a flat deck is large enough to accommodate two NH90s (with 1x spot forward and 1x spot aft) and space in the hangar for up to 5 NH90s.​

10. There have also been reports that the country is looking to buy additional tankers, with the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus being considered along with more MRTTs.
 
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