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RAF No 12(B) Squadron to be a joint UK-Qatari unit (initially)

Photo: RAF Typhoons have been in Qatar during November on a demonstration exercise. Crown Copyright

 

Qatar has signed an $8-billion contract for 24 Eurofighter Typhoons. The deal was concluded in Doha on December 10 by the UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and his Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah.

The Typhoons will be assembled in the UK by BAE Systems at the company’s Warton site in Lancashire. With receipt of this order, the production line will be extended from 2022 to at least 2024. The deal also includes an agreement with MBDA for Brimstone and Meteor air-to-ground missiles and Raytheon Paveway IV guided bombs.

The UK Defence Secretary also agreed a package of training and co-operation between the air forces which will see them working together more regularly, including training in the UK for Qatari pilots and technicians. A joint operational squadron with both British and Qatari pilots will provide airspace protection during the 2022 Soccer World Cup.

On December 14, Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin gave further details of the deal, revealing that the new joint squadron will be UK-based and that it will be No 12 (Bomber) Squadron, and that it will temporarily integrate Qatari personnel, including pilots and groundcrew  at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.

The Qataris will not be a permanent part of the squadron, but will be integrated ahead of the delivery of their aircraft and will provide valuable frontline experience and help speed up their preparation for when their own jets are delivered.

The press release said: ‘The new 12 squadron is currently operating Tornados, and will transition to the future Typhoon force.’ Timings and stand-up dates still to be confirmed…

At last we know the identity and plans for one of the two additional UK Typhoon Squadrons that were announced in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. Not only will this agreement provide a means to assist the RAF in expanding the Typhoon Force, but presumably it will also be a way of assisting Qatar in the not-insignificant feat of building up its own fighter force, which currently consisting of only a handful of Mirage 2000s.

Qatar has also announced that it will take up an option for 12 additional Dassault Rafales from France. These will be added to the 24 it ordered in May 2015. As well as the 36 Rafales and 24 Typhoons, the QEAF is set to receive 36 Boeing F-15QA Advanced Eagles from the US.

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