New squadron is Rafale prize for Qatar

The Qatar Emiri Air Force has now received three batches of Dassault Rafales, totalling 15 aircraft, and the first squadron is working up at the new Tamim Air Base at Dukhan in western Qatar. Jon Lake reports.

Qatar originally signed a €6.3 billion ($6.92bn) memorandum of understanding covering the supply of 24 Rafales (six of them two-seat trainers) in May 2015, on the opening day of the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX).
Its purchase of the Rafale follows earlier acquisitions of the Dassault Mirage F1, the Alpha Jet and Mirage 2000.
Qatar paid a deposit for the Rafales on December 16 2015, reportedly funded by Japanese banks.
Twelve more Rafales were added to the original order in December 2017 and Qatar retains an option to buy up to 36 more.
The first Qatari Rafale, a two-seater, made its maiden flight from Bordeaux-Merignac, in France, on June 28 2016, and the country’s initial single-seat Rafale EQ took off for the first time on March 27 2017. These early aircraft were quickly transferred to the French Air Force flight-test centre at Istres Airbase for testing.
Qatar’s Rafales differ in detail from those delivered to France and Egypt, and incorporate a Lockheed Martin Sniper laser designator pod instead of the French Thales Damocles or the new Thales Talios pod (now under development).
Sniper is already flying on an Armée de l’Air Rafale test aircraft.
The Qatari Rafales also have provision for an Elbit Systems TARGO-II helmet-mounted target designation system.
The aircraft are being supplied with MBDA MICA infrared, MICA EM, and Meteor air-to-air missiles, and with MBDA SCALP-EG cruise missiles, as well as a range of air-to-ground weapons, including laser- and GPS-guided Safran AASM Hammer missiles.
Under its mission of support for exports (soutex) programme, the French Armée de l’Air is training 250 personnel, who will make up the first Qatari Rafale squadron, including 36 pilots and 100 engineers and technicians.
The Armée de l’Air stood up a Qatari Rafale training unit as Escadron de Chasse 4/30 at Base Aérienne 118 Mont-de-Marsan in the Landes department of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in south-western France on October 1 2017. The unit was initially led by a French officer, before command transferred to a Qatari officer in 2019.
Some Qatar Emiri Air Force personnel were also trained at Rochefort and at the Joint Intelligence Training Institute in Strasbourg.
The new Qatari Rafale squadron was named ‘Al Adyiyat’ (after a Surah in the Koran) during a ceremonial handover ceremony at Dassault’s Merignac facility on February 6 2019, when the unit’s squadron badge (a stylised Arab stallion’s head) was also unveiled.
Qatar received its first batch of five Rafale fighters on May 5, with four EQ single-seaters and a single DQ dual-control trainer flying directly to the island nation from BA125 Istres/Le Tubé, supported by an Armée de l’Air A330MRTT Phénix and a KC-135 Stratotanker.
The Rafales each carried three external fuel tanks and their arrival was timed to coincide with a ceremony commemorating the opening of the new Tamim Air Base at Dukhan.
That ceremony was attended by Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs, Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, who welcomed the aircraft and pilots home. Other VIP guests included Eric Trappier, CEO and chairman of Dassault; French ambassador, Franck Gellet; Lieutenant General (pilot) Ghanem bin Shaheen al-Ghanim, the chief of staff of the Qatari Armed Forces; Major General (pilot) Salem Hamad al-Nabet, the commander of Qatari Amiri Air Force; and Brigadier General Salim Abdullah al-Dosari, the Rafale project officer, who is now the commander of the Dukhan Air Base.
A second batch of Rafales (consisting of two Rafale DQ two-seat trainer versions and three Rafale EQ single-seaters) was delivered on July 3 2019, flying from Bordeaux/Merignac.
A third batch of Rafales, all single-seaters, flew from Bordeaux/Merignac to Qatar on September 3 2019.
The Al Adyiyat is due to fully transfer to Qatar in the summer of 2020.