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Typhoon blows into Qatar

Posted 5 January 2018 · Add Comment

As Qatar surprises many analysts with its order for the Eurofighter Typhoon, Jon Lake explains why the procurement strategy makes sense.

On September 17, Qatar’s Minister of State for Defense, Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah, and his British counterpart, Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, signed a statement of intent outlining a proposed Qatari purchase of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.
Though many media outlets expressed surprise at what they described as an ‘unexpected’ announcement, the Qatari deal follows several years of negotiations, and meets a long-standing Qatari requirement for at least 72 fighters that had not been completely fulfilled by recent orders for 24 Dassault Rafales in March 2016 and for 36 Boeing F-15QA (Qatar Advanced) Eagles in June 2017.
Moreover, when its fighter requirement was first unveiled, Qatar said that it would acquire new aircraft from two or even three suppliers – as reported by Arabian Aerospace at the time, with a predicted three-way split, including 24 examples each of the Rafale, F-15QA and Typhoon.
The Typhoon briefly appeared to have slipped off Qatar’s shortlist after a Qatari evaluation of the Eurofighter Typhoon in the UK, scheduled for April 2011, was cancelled because the personnel involved on the Qatari side were all involved in the Libyan operations, and after reports emerged that Qatar had been unhappy with the costs being quoted by the UK MoD for flying RAF aircraft.
Qatar’s procurement strategy has been first-rate. The Emirate opened negotiations with France first, judging that Dassault was ‘hungriest’ and most likely to give the best deal. By taking out options as well as ordering aircraft, it would appear to subsequent suppliers that if they did not make a similarly competitive offer, then Qatar might just go back and order more Rafales.
The Eurofighter Typhoon was left until last, as the most expensive offering. By doing so, Qatar fortuitously found itself dealing with a Eurofighter that had lost out on a large order in India, and whose campaign in Malaysia had stalled, and where prospects for a second batch in Saudi Arabia seemed to have faded. All of the cards were in Qatar’s hands, and serious negotiations between Qatar and Britain began in about 2015.
Splitting a 72-aircraft order three ways is extremely unusual, and is superficially hard to understand – since it will inevitably impose higher costs and reduce any economies of scale, while also requiring more infrastructure and more complex logistics.
But for Qatar, where costs may not be the primary concern, the three-way split can be seen to make much better sense.
The three procurements will give Qatar relationships with three suppliers (and six primary customer air forces) rather than with just one, and will allow its senior officers to see different operational and support concepts at close quarters.
Qatar’s fighter pilots will be able to train and exercise with the Armée de l’Air’s Rafale squadrons, the US Air Force, and with the Eurofighter partner air forces. They will be able to pick up techniques, tactics and doctrine from all of their new allies. The three types have complementary and slightly overlapping capabilities, meaning that Qatar’s multi-type fleet will be more capable than a single-type would have been, while also reducing the country’s exposure to possible future embargoes.
The Typhoon has already been purchased by eight nations around the world (the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait), four of them in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Qatar’s purchase will boost interoperability across the GCC.
Kuwait’s order for 28 aircraft will reportedly push production out to 2023, and the Qatari order, together with an unconfirmed Omani follow-on, a still-possible Saudi second order and a long-hoped for order from Bahrain, could keep the Typhoon production line hot for another five years or more – potentially keeping the aircraft available to meet further future fighter requirements.
The Typhoon has seen extensive operational use in the Middle East, having seen action during the 2011 intervention in Libya (Operation Ellamy) and, more recently, over Iraq and Syria (Operation Shader).
The Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force has used its Typhoons operationally in its long-running campaign in Yemen, and also as part of the multinational operation against the so-called Islamic State.
 

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