The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) has signed a deal with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) for an undisclosed number of Super Mushshak basic flight trainers.
Comment and Analysis
In February, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) made a goodwill visit to Qatar with two Super Mushshak trainers and two JF-17 multi-role fighters. The recent sale to Qatar adds to the Mushshak platform’s success in the Arab Gulf (joining Saudi Arabia and Oman).
At the time of the goodwill visit, Alan Warnes, a leading Pakistan defence aviation watcher and writer, indicated that the QEAF was looking at the idea of acquiring the JF-17 to replace its Alpha Jet, which is used by the QEAF for training and ground attack missions (e.g. close air support).
While an interesting and worthwhile idea, it is important to recognize that this is far from being a realistic prospect. For one thing, the first dual-seat JF-17B only entered production at the end of April. It will be some time until the JF-17B can emerge as an exportable item.
Furthermore, Qatar’s increasingly ambitious defence modernization objectives may predispose it to very capable lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) platforms such as the Leonardo-Finmeccanica M-346 Master and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 Golden Eagle, respectively. In fact, Leonardo may be willing to offer an attractive package considering Qatar is already a customer of its radar and electronics products.
Against such competition, PAC’s best bet may rest with a dual-seat variant of the JF-17 Block-III (and that too equipped with a more efficient engine, such as the RD-33MK). Of course, “best bet” does not necessarily mean “sure bet.” The chances of the QEAF procuring the JF-17 of any version is incredibly low, but an aspirational effort on PAC’s part could set it up for success in other markets.
Moreover, defence relations between the two countries should not be confined to sales. Since Qatar is poised to be a much more significant military power by the mid-2020s, military-to-military cooperation in the form of exercises and joint-operations could be a more interesting and valuable area for both sides.