Defense News reports that the Qatari government has finalized negotiations with its U.K. counterpart for the purchase of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters and six Hawk trainers from BAE Systems.
Chris Boardman, Managing Director of BAE Systems Military Air and Information, outlined to the British Parliament’s Defence Select Committee that the matter was “purely down to when there is a right window to have it [the contract] signed.” Boardman did not commit to a specific date.
Qatar signed a letter-of-intent (LOI) for the Eurofighter Typhoon and Hawk in September during an official visit to Doha by the U.K. Minister of Defence Sir Michael Fallon. In October, BAE disclosed that Qatar also requested six Hawk trainers with the arms package.
If signed, the Eurofighter Typhoon would join the Dassault Rafale and Boeing F-15QA in the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s (QEAF) fleet modernization and expansion effort. The QEAF currently flies one Dassault Mirage 2000-5 squadron along with six Alpha Jets in the training and close air support roles.
Notes & Comments:
Although the expansion and technology advancement efforts are ambitious, Doha’s desire to procure directly analogous – if not potentially duplicating – platforms in the form of the Typhoon and Rafale is intriguing. Qatar will endure the challenge of maintaining distinct logistics and maintenance channels, and it will require a surge of skilled human resources to efficiently operate these fighter platforms. Like the U.S., the U.K. and France could accrue a secondary commercial benefit of providing service contractors to support respective BAE and Dassault aircraft in the QEAF.
However, the outcome provides Qatar with a diverse supplier pool, one connecting each of the major Western armament manufacturing countries. In fact, Doha has also procured naval and land systems from Italy and Germany, respectively. It has also opened the doors to talks with Russia.
The specific configuration or armaments package of the Qatari Typhoon deal have not yet been revealed. Kuwait is the launch customer of the Typhoon Tranche 3 equipped with the Leonardo Captor-E active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar. Qatar could mirror that route while also equipping the Typhoon – if not having it share – with the same air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions acquired for the Rafale (as armaments for both fighters are supplied by MBDA). Qatar is procuring the AASM stand-off range air-to-surface munition, SCALP air-launched cruise missiles, MICA-IR and MICA-EM beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAM) and Meteor BVRAAM from MBDA for the Rafale.
The potential Qatari contract also provides the U.K. labour market with a much welcome boon in a period of uncertainty. BAE Systems’ Warton site employs 6,000 people and, as the final assembly facility for the Typhoon, it requires the QEAF order to reactive output from 2024. Currently, the Eurofighter Consortium is under production, it is expected to keep Warton active until 2022. In October, Sky News reported that BAE Systems will cut 1,000 jobs, mainly at its Warton site.