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Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) Fighters

Of all the branches of the Qatari military, the air force is undergoing the most significant expansion. In 2017 the Qatari Emiri Air Force, or QEAF, consisted of a dozen French-made Mirage 2000 fighter jets and some Alpha trainers. The relatively small number of Mirages would be hopelessly outclassed by the large, modern air forces possessed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Qatar addressed the imbalance with three significant purchases of new, advanced fighter jets.

  • In May 2015 Doha signed a $6bn deal with French aerospace giant Dassault for 24 Rafale fighter jets. A further 12 were ordered in 2018 as part of the initial deal, bringing the total number to 36. Qatar also has an option to buy 36 more. The Rafale is a highly advanced multirole fighter jet. Combat proven and extremely manoeuvrable, it can carry a large payload of weapons, conduct multiple mission types – giving planners much needed operational flexibility – and is a potent addition to any air force’s inventory. Qatar did not stop there.
  • In 2017 it signed a $12bn deal with US manufacturer Boeing for 36 advanced F-15QA fighter jets. Although an old airframe, the F-15QA is the most advanced of its line, specialising in air superiority and, increasingly, long-range ground attack. The Qatari version is able to carry more weapons and its sensors have been updated.
  • Seeking to diversify its air force further, Qatar signed a letter of intent with the United Kingdom in September 2017 for 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets. It is another advanced aircraft, an air superiority thoroughbred, yet capable of a wide variety of missions.

All three countries, the US, France and the UK, agreed to train Qatari pilots and provide logistics and training for ground crews in a tacit yet clear message of support for Qatar. The QEAF will shortly see its small and antiquated fleet of 12 fighters expanded to 96 advanced fighter jets, making it one of the most powerful air forces in the region. Defence ties with Qatar’s ally Turkey have also strengthened. Turkey’s military-industrial complex is rapidly maturing and many of its weapons have gained a reputation for combat prowess. Qatar has bought and received delivery of six Bayraktar TB2 drones.

In 1979 modernisation and reorganisation plans resulted in orders for six Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets and 14 Mirage F1 multi-role fighters, which were delivered during 1980-1984. During the first Gulf War avoiding fratricide was a major determinant in air-to-air Rules of Engagement [ROE]. Most coalition aircraft carried IFF transponders which enabled USAF F-15s and AWACS to discriminate between coalition and Iraqi aircraft. Friendly aircraft not so equipped relied on visual identification to prevent inadvertent engagements. French, Kuwaiti, and Qatari Air Force F-1s presented a unique problem as the Iraqis flew the same aircraft. This identification problem was compounded by the intelligence assessment that the best Iraqi pilots were assigned to F-1 units. Initially, coalition F-1s were kept on the ground so that friendly fighters knew any F-1s in the air were Iraqi.

The Qatar Emiri Air Force used Dassault Mirage F.1EDAs and two-seater F.1DDAs from No. 7 Squadron based at Doha from 22 January 1991 for local air defense and also to attack targets in Kuwait together with F-16s from 614th TFS. As the Iraqi air threat diminished, allied F-1s were allowed to fly missions. Because a slight Iraqi air threat existed throughout the war, F-1s were constrained in their employment. Qatari F-1s only flew with USAF F-16s sharing their base at Doha. In terms of numbers of sorties, the smallest contributors to the coalition were the UAE and Qatar. Qatar‘s F-1s offered a nonair refuelable ground attack capability to the coalition.


The 1987 military co-operation agreement with France produced $1.6 billion in contracts in 1994 for nine single seat Dassault Mirage 2000-5EDA combat aircraft and three two-seat Mirage-2000-5DDA combat trainers, with deliveries starting in December 1997. Qatar's remaining eleven Mirage F1EDAs and two two-seat F1DDAs were returned to Dassault in part-exchange, and subsequently sold to Spain. The Fleet of 12 Dassault Mirage 2000-5DAs (9 Single Seat Mirage 2000-5EDAs and three two-seat Mirage 2000-5DDAs )are comparatively new, having been delivered as recently as 1997, and are unlikely to require upgrade in the immediate future.

Qatar tried to sell its fleet of twelve MIRAGE 2000-5 fighters, which were withdrawn into storage after a very short service period (leaving the Air Force without first line combat planes) reportedly because it was felt to be inappropriate to have French technical assistance personnel and advisors on the same base that houses the CENTCOM forward HQs. A tentative deal with India collapsed in mid-2009 as the price offered by India ($375 million) proved to be less than half the Qatar’s request.

Some where along the line it seems these aircraft moved from Al-Udeid to Doha International Airport, and were reactivated. Gadhafi himself stiffened international resolve by using a degree of military force against his own people that other governments had not employed, presenting a case for humanitarian intervention in 2011 that set uneasy precedents. Having the most at stake in Libya, Britain and France, aided by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, conducted the bulk of combat operations. Qatar, the newest member to the coalition supporting the enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, flew its first operational sortie 25 March 2011 as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn. A Qatari Emiri Air Force Mirage 2000-5 flew alongside a French Mirage 2000-5 as part of a formation patrolling one sector of the airspace to prevent the Qadhafi regime from attacking Libyan citizens.

Qatar deployed six Mirage 2000-5 and two C-17As to Europe supporting the Franco-Qatari detachment and delivering humanitarian assistance as part of their participation in the operation focused on protecting the Libyan people. Qatar joined the growing coalition enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. The other nations directly involved in enforcing the NFZ are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States. The United Arab Emirates on March 24 announced its intention to join the coalition, but was not yet flying aircraft.

The Qatar Emiri Air Force Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets took part in Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces.

The state's small and little-used fleet of Mirage 2000s would be replaced by an expanded fighter force of between 24 and 36 aircraft. Having supplied the current and previous generations of Qatari fighters, Dassault was seen as a strong contender. Evaluation was underway by the Qatar Emiri Air Force and as of early 2011 a type selection was due to be made before the end of 2012, but that did not happen.


In July 2010 Qatar requested the usual leading manufacturers for proposals to replace its ageing 12 Dasault Mirage 2000-5s. This competition is likely to involve BAE Systems with the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing offering the F/A-18 E/F and the F-15, Dassault with its Rafale, Lockheed Martin with the F-16 and F-35, and Saab offering the Gripen NG. The goal is to make a selection before the end of 2012, with 24-36 fighters initially projected as likely to be acquired. Some sources reported that the Qatari Air Force might seeks up to 40 fighter jets.

Qatar and Kuwait were considering buying French Rafale fighter jets, but were waiting to see whether the United Arab Emirates would make a purchase first. French defence minister Gerard Longuet said 09 January 2012 that "They are in effect interested but they won't know for sure until the first one jumps in." The UAE was in talks with France to buy 60 Rafales. Industry experts estimated that Kuwait needs 18-22 new fighter jets and that Qatar needs 24. After opening talks on the purchase in 2008, the UAE said in November 2011 that the offer for Rafales from France's Dassault Aviation was uncompetitive and opened up the tender to competition. In 2013 the UAE decided to purchase 30 Block 61 F-16 aircraft.

Qatar agreed to buy 24 Dassault Aviation-built Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth 6.3 billion euros ($7.05 billion), the French government said on 30 April 2015, as the Gulf Arab state looks to boost its military firepower amid regional instability. Tensions in the Middle East with conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya, as well as fears of Iran's growing influence in the area, have fuelled a desire across Sunni Gulf Arab states to modernise their military hardware.

"The president spoke to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, who confirmed his desire to buy 24 Rafale combat planes," President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement. Hollande would travel to Doha on May 4 to sign the contract before heading to Saudi Arabia as guest at a summit of Gulf Arab leaders. The contract also included MBDA missiles, and the training of 36 Qatari pilots and 100 technicians by the French army.

On 07 December 2017, in the presence of the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and his Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatar Armed Forces and Dassault Aviation signed an agreement on future cooperation and the exercise of an option for 12 Rafale. This new order follows on from the contract signed on 4 May 2015 between the State of Qatar and Dassault Aviation for the acquisition of 24 Rafale, thus raising the number of Rafale aircraft operated by the Qatar Emiri Air Force to 36.

Dassault Aviation and its partners thank the Qatari Authorities for having given them the opportunity to enhance their collaboration by restating their confidence in the qualities of the Rafale and expressing their satisfaction with the performance of the main contract. "This new agreement is built around the special relationship that exists between the two countries and the shared determination, by the Defense Ministry of Qatar and Dassault Aviation, to move forwards together", declared Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.


Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani welcomed the first shipment of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft on at the Dukhan/Tamim Airbase on 27 August 2022.

Qatar signed a major weapons deal to buy 24 Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom amid a political stand-off with former Arab allies of the Persian Gulf region. Qatar's Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, signed the deal on 10 December 2017 in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The agreement, worth USD 8 billion (6.8 billion euros), is the latest to come from Doha amid a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The four cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar six months ago over allegations of its support for terrorism. They have even warned of further action if Doha does not mend its regional policies.

Britain and Qatar will create a Joint Operation Squadron, a partnership between Qatar's air force and Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF). "The squadron tackles all air combat operations, ensuring combat readiness for all Qatari and British pilots and technicians," said the statement. "It will have a notable role in operational coverage and aerial security during 2022 World Cup events." The arrangement will create UK jobs and is expected to be fulfilled by mid-2018. Approximately 5,000 people in Britain are employed to build Typhoons.

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Page last modified: 29-08-2022 05:15:56 ZULU