In addition to Afghanistan and Libya, Guerini is also expected to focus on widening defense sales and agreements with Qatar. In addition to the M-346, which Italy and Qatar have been discussing for some time, the talks are also expected to cover an additional order for Italian-built warships, possibly as early as the end of the year, and the prospect of Italian industry taking over the support and sustainment of Qatar’s entire naval fleet, according to the news website Formiche.
“The talks will center on the further strengthening of cooperation in the defense sector with joint training programs and military and industrial cooperation, in which Italian defense manufacturers occupy a prominent place,” the Italian Embassy in Qatar said in a Nov. 10 statement.
L’amicizia che lega Italia e Qatar è profonda. E la #Difesa è elemento imprescindibile per rafforzare la collaborazione— Lorenzo Guerini (@guerini_lorenzo) November 10, 2020
A #Doha incontro con mio omologo Al Attiyah: dialogo su cooperazione militare e industriale e programmi di formazione. Scambio utile su Libia e Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/vvZBcFHT6T
Arriving in Doha Tuesday night, Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini tweeted that “Defense is an essential element to strengthen the deep friendship between Italy and Qatar. In Doha I will meet with my counterpart Al Attiyah to discuss military and industrial cooperation and training programs.”
Qatar's interest in Italian training capabilities is not new. In July 2019, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Qatari Air Force came to Rome for talks with his Italian counterpart, preceded by a visit to the international flight school in Galatina, which focused on the T-346 Integrated Training System. Qatari officials had visited Galatina in April 2019 to see the T-346 operations, while in November 2018 the aircraft was taken to Qatar during a Middle East sales tour organized by the Italian Air Force and defense contractor Leonardo.
In September, Italian Army Chief of Staff, General Farina, and the Commander of the Qatar Land Forces Maj. Gen. Al-Khayairi, signed an agreement which calls for the Italian Army to conduct a series of training and training activities in Qatari aimed at developing combat capabilities of the infantry, artillery and cavalry forces of the Qatari Emiri Land Forces. It was said, at the time, that the agreement could lead to sales of Italian Army equipment, most notably of the Centauro II eight-wheeled tank destroyer.
Fleet management agreement
Finally, Guerini is expected to discuss an agreement under which Italian shipyard Fincantieri and Italian defense contractor Leonardo would team to provide maintenance, repair and support services for the entire Qatari Navy fleet, similar to what they are already contracted to provide for the Fincantieri-built warships that Qatar ordered in 2014 under a contract valued at about €4 billion euros. That contract covered the construction of four corvettes, an LPD amphibious ship and two Offshore Patrol Vessels, as well as their sustainment for ten years.
An initial step towards the fleet support contract was achieved in March 2018, when Fincantieri signed an agreement with Barzan Holdings, a company wholly owned by the Qatari Ministry of Defense established to strengthen Qatar’s military capabilities.
That agreement set out the goal of strengthening the strategic partnership between the two companies, the possibility of orders for new warships as early as 2020 and the prospect of Italian industry taking over the management of Qatar’s entire naval fleet.