Speaking to reporters (through Russian News Agency TASS), the Russian Presidential Aide for Cooperation on Defence Technologies Vladimir Kozhin, Qatar is interested in the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E, stating that “talks are in progress” between Moscow and Doha.
Kozhin did not offer additional details, but the news follows earlier reports – based on statements from Qatar’s Ambassador to Russia Fahad bin Mohammed al-Attiyah – of Doha also being interested in the S-400 long-range air defence system produced by Almaz-Antey.
In October 2017, Qatar and Russia signed a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) to enhance bilateral military and technical cooperation. The MoU was meant to begin facilitating the sale of Russian weapons to Qatar, though specific details were not provided at the time.
Qatar has drawn attention through its ambitious combat aircraft procurement program, which not only involves qualitative and quantitative improvements to its current fleet of 12 Dassault Mirage 2000-5s, but does so using different, but comparable, platforms from three different suppliers.
The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) is now expecting the delivery of 36 Dassault Rafale, 36 Boeing F-15QA and 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters along with nine BAE Systems Hawk trainers.
From a technical standpoint, it is unclear why Qatar sought different platforms – each with its own logistics and maintenance channel, and that too from different countries.
One suggestion is that Qatar is using big-ticket arms purchases to curry favour with major countries, especially the US, UK, Western Europe and – if the Su-35 and S-400 reports are correct – Russia. However, this does not explain the insistence on different fighters, Qatar could focus on other big-ticket programs (e.g. naval combatants) and for comparable foreign relations objectives.
However, it should be noted that apparent Russian talks with the United Arab Emirates over the Su-35 in 2017 have yet to materialize. One can speculate that interest in Russian hardware from the likes of Qatar could be a mask for other objectives in relation to the US and Western Europe (e.g. inducing pressure for the release of restricted hardware, such as the F-35 Lightning II).United Aircraft C