The first four Eurofighter Typhoons for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) have been ferried to the Gulf nation and are beginning operations. They were officially accepted into service during a ceremony at BAE Systems’s Warton facility in the UK on August 15.
Three of the four aircraft left Warton on August 25 and the fourth aircraft was planned to follow a few days later. After joining up with their accompanying Voyager tanker, one of the aircraft experienced a minor technical issue and returned to Warton for additional checks, while the remaining pair continued to Athens, Greece. After departing there on August 27, one aircraft experienced a minor problem and the pilot decided to make a precautionary return to Athens, leaving QA404/ZR505, flown by the Qatari squadron commander (Colonel Faisal Al-Ghanim) to fly on to the jet's new home at Tamim Air Base, Dukhan. On arrival at Dukhan, the Typhoon made a low flyby, flanked by a pair of F-15QA Eagles, and was then parked alongside the F-15QAs and pairs of Rafales and NH90 helicopters. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani greeted the aircraft.
The next pair of Typhoons left Warton just after midday on August 30, bound for Luqa airport in Malta. The remaining aircraft at Athens flew on to RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus, where it was joined on August 31 by the pair. The three aircraft then departed Akrotiri on September 1, routing via the Royal Saudi Air Force base at Tabuk. A birdstrike to one of the aircraft delayed the completion of the journey, but the three finally reached Dukhan on Sept. 4. Their arrival allowed the stand-up of the QEAF’s new Typhoon unit, the Al Thariyat (‘Moving Wind’) squadron, more formally known as No. 1 Wing’s No. 7 Squadron (previously the QEAF’s Mirage 2000 unit).
The aircraft were operational upon their arrival at Dukhan, and sufficient combat-ready aircrew have completed training with the RAF's joint Qatari-UK No. 12 Squadron for the unit to be able to activate its own Typhoon QRA detachment immediately. Though the Qatari pilots have trained on the Tranche 3 Typhoon with mechanically scanned radar, the new ECRS.Mk 0 AESA radar uses the same human-machine interface, so conversion to the QEAF standard is largely a matter of understanding the new sensor's capabilities rather than learning to operate an entirely different system.
The squadron began operating on air defense quick-reaction alert duties on September 4. Additional aircraft are expected to be operational by the time the FIFA World Cup begins in November, and the No. 12 Squadron (the joint UK/Qatar Typhoon squadron) is due to deploy to Dhukan with eight Typhoons to bolster the Qatari unit, under Exercise Al Thariyat. The RAF aircraft will deploy to Qatar for six months beginning in early September.
BAE Systems has established comprehensive support facilities at Dukhan and will provide a turnkey support solution. The company’s presence is still growing, and it expects to reach 300 personnel by the end of 2022. The last of the 24 Qatari Typhoons on order is due to be delivered by mid-2024.