During a visit to the Gulf state today, Sir Michael Fallon and his Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah, signed a Statement of Intent concerning Qatar’s proposed purchase of 24 Typhoon aircraft.
The UK and Qatar share a close and longstanding Defence relationship, and today’s Statement of Intent further reinforces this, deepening military cooperation between the two, and the opportunity to further enhance the security of all partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “After a number of years of negotiations between our two countries, I am delighted to have been able to sign today with Qatar’s Defence Minister, this Statement of Intent on the purchase of 24 Typhoon aircraft by Qatar.
“This will be the first major defence contract with Qatar, one of the UK’s strategic partners. This is an important moment in our defence relationship and the basis for even closer defence co-operation between our two countries. We also hope that this will help enhance security within the region across all Gulf allies and enhance Typhoon interoperability across the GCC.
“The security of the GCC, of all Gulf countries, is critical to the UK’s own security.”
The UK and Qatar share mutual Defence interests, including countering violent extremism, and ensuring peace and stability in the region.
Qatar singed LOI with UK to buy 24 Typhoon fighter jets pic.twitter.com/9b3xqTg8Yz— Abdulmoiz (@abdulmoiz1990) September 17, 2017
Not only will the purchase of Typhoon aircraft further strengthen this strong bilateral relationship, it will benefit Qatar’s military capability, and increase security co-operation and interoperability between the UK and Qatar and other GCC Typhoon partners.
The Typhoon is a multi-role combat aircraft that has long-term potential to be at the forefront of air power for many years, and today’s Statement of Intent demonstrates continued confidence in Typhoon and British manufacturing.
In addition to supporting Royal Air Force operations protecting the UK in the skies above Britain and globally, the Typhoon has already been purchased by eight nations around the world.
( EDITOR’S NOTE: The UK Minister’s announcement of the deal came as a complete surprise to most observers, as nothing had leaked about these negotiations.
The deal is clearly at a very preliminary stage, as shown by the wording used by the Qatar Armed Forces in their short Sept. 17 statement:
“Both ministers also signed an LOI this morning at the Ministry of Defense that in addition to solidifying the continued cooperation and commitment between the two nations in military and technical fields, also lays the groundwork for Qatar’s intentions towards procuring 24 advanced Eurofighter Typhoons and supporting capabilities.”
The most surprising aspect of the deal, however, is that Qatar, which currently operates just 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighters, has already ordered 24 Dassault Rafales (with an option on 1 more) and 36 Boeing F-15QA Advanced Eagles (with another 36 on option).
Operating three different types of fast jets, each with different engines and different weapons fits, will undoubtedly create a complex logistical environment for the Qatar Air Force, which at last count comprised less than 1,600 personnel.
To be able to operate 84 new fast jets – or 126 if all options are taken up -- in the early 2020s will require Qatar to train at least 200 new pilots and several hundred maintenance personnel, all of which will have to be capable of maintaining the most technically-advanced Western combat aircraft available.
Furthermore, Qatar will need to build one or more new air bases to house the new aircraft as it is not feasible to use the Doha national airport, where the Mirages are based, not Al Udaid air base, which has been virtually turned over to the United States.
Finally, it cannot be excluded that Qatar might have cooked up this unexpected and unanticipated deal – which comes just a few weeks after it was ostracized by the Gulf Cooperation Council – simply to show that it has another helpful ally, the United Kingdom, willing to arm it in addition to France and the United States.
If this was the goal, it is not impossible that this deal will fade away before a contract is signed and a down payment made.)