Apaches, Tankers and AEW Figure in Qatar Spending Spree
Qatar has announced a raft of orders for new equipment worth around $23 billion, covering vehicles, vessels and aircraft, plus associated systems and weaponry. The announcements were made on March 26, the last day of the Dimdex show in the Qatari capital Doha, and when deliveries are complete the procurement will represent a major recapitalization and capability enhancement for the Arabian Gulf state’s armed forces. Many of the acquisitions are aimed at strengthening the nation’s ability to protect itself in the maritime environment, covering its offshore oilfields in particular, and against potential threats from Iran.
The procurement of Airbus tanker/transport and Boeing early warning aircraft adds significant new capability to the Qatar Emiri Air Force, which has also recently inducted Lockheed Martin C-130J and Boeing C-17 transports. Boeing Apaches will greatly strengthen attack helicopter capability, which currently relies on a few missile-equipped Gazelles. Despite some pre-Dimdex anticipation, there was no announcement made regarding Qatar’s outstanding 72-aircraft fighter requirement to supplant the existing fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000-5s.
Boeing is one of the major beneficiaries of the new deals, with orders for 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and three Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft. Qatar becomes the fourth customer for the latter, which is in service with Australia, South Korea and Turkey. The 737 is also one of the AEW&C platforms vying for a potential sale to the UAE.
Alongside the air platforms, Qatar has also committed to buy the Raytheon Patriot PAC-3 air defense missile system, which also includes Lockheed Martin missiles. LM will benefit further by supplying the Longbow fire control radar for the Apaches, and will build and operate a training academy for the QEAF. It is also to supply Javelin anti-armor missiles with joint venture partner Raytheon. According to the request made to the U.S. Congress in July 2012, the Apache deal is likely to include Hellfire air-to-surface and Stinger air-to-air missiles, and Hydra 70 rockets.
Qatar has also looked to Europe to answer some of its needs. The air force will acquire two Airbus Defence and Space A330 MRTT tanker/transports to fulfill long-range deployment and refueling requirements, while 22 NH Industries NH90 helicopters are to be bought in a $2.8 billion deal. They will comprise 12 battlefield transport helicopters and 10 in the maritime ASW/frigate helicopter configuration. Qatar becomes the third Gulf nation to select the Airbus tanker, after Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
During Dimdex it was also announced that the country will develop an optionally piloted vehicle-aircraft (OPV-A), assisted by Thales. The air vehicle is to be used for ISR missions with or without pilot, as dictated by mission requirements.