The Gulf state has major defence deals with its international partners, including the US, Italy, Turkey and France.
The seventh annual Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (DIMDEX) has kicked off in Qatar.
The conference is organised by the Gulf state’s Armed Forces and exhibits a number of military vessels and equipment from around the world.
The event also comes as Qatar expands its military cooperation with its international partners, which has witnessed growth over the past decades.
The Gulf state began building up the Qatar Armed Forces in 1971 when it declared independence from Great Britain. By 1992, Qatar’s limited defence resources witnessed a significant expansion, when its total number of soldiers reached 7,500.
A total of 700 were comprised with the navy forces out of the total number of personnel it had at the time. Qatar had also obtained three French La Combattante III missile boats, which began what would later turn into a rich collection of warships.
By 2022, the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces (QENF) personnel reached 2,500 comprising of coast guards, marine police, and coastal artillery. The total personnel at Qatar’s navy is expected to hit 6,000 by 2025.
Qatar’s naval bases are located in Halul Island, Ras Abu Aboud, and the Al-Daayen Naval Base. The Al Daayen Naval Base was inaugurated in 2019, built on an area of 639,800 square meters in the middle of Qatar’s eastern coast.
Inaugurated during the 2017 GCC crisis, the base was built to secure its territorial waters. During that time, the Gulf state had expanded its overall military capacity.
The Gulf state cooperated with the US in a number of military exercises, as it expanded its defence ties with the ally state before eventually becoming a Major non-NATO ally (MNNA) by 2022.
Before the designation, Qatar has hosted the Al Udeid Air Base since 1996, the largest American military post in the region. The military base hosts 11,000 American troops.
The Qatari and US navies hold four annual joint drills off the Gulf state’s coast.
Similarly, Qatar and the UK’s navy hold joint military drills.
In 2018, the Qatari and British navy took part in naval drills in the Gulf state’s territorial waters as part of the countries’ bilateral defence cooperation.
Major maritime defence agreements
As Qatar expands its maritime defence, it has secured major deals with its international partners.
One key maritime defence partner is Italy, which shares numerous agreements with Qatar’s Ministry of Defence (MOD).
In 2017, Qatar signed a €5 billion deal ($553,5250,000) with Italy for the construction of seven navy vessels following talks that took place between the two countries in 2016. The MOD had struck the deal with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri which entailed four corvettes, one amphibious vessel, and two offshore patrol vessels.
The corvettes measured 2,800 tonnes and include a helicopter deck.
The building process of the vessels began in 2018 and will take an estimate of six years to be completed.
By 2021, Fincantieri also released the third Al Zubarah-Class air defence corvettes, used for both surveillance and as fighting vessels whilst having a capacity of 112 persons. The ships have a weapon system and have ballistic missiles defence abilities.
Also in 2017, Fincantieri agreed to established a branch in Doha as a subsidiary licensed by the Qatar Financial Centre. The agreement was key to ensure the company can provide logistical support in the design and construction process of the Italian ships.
In 2020, Fincantieri signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the MOD’s Barzan Holding in a bid to strengthen their partnerships.
France is also a key European partner in the defence sector. For years, Qatar’s navy has been receiving electronic support for its warships from France’s aerospace company, Thales.
As key allies, Qatar and Turkey share major maritime agreements.
During the 2014 edition of DIMDEX, Qatar Coast Guard Services ordered 17 fast patrol boats from Turkey’s ARES Shipyard. The deal entailed ten ARES 110 Hercules, five ARES 75 Hercules, and two ARES 150 Hercules.
Also during DIMDEX in 2018, QENF ordered two cadet training ships from Turkey’s shipbuilder, Anadolu Shipyard.
The second ship, QTS 92 A-Shamal, has been delivered in February this year.
Last year, Qatar inaugurated the “Al Abrar Fuwairit” (type LCT80) warship, which had the overall length of 80 meters and armed with 30mm guns and two 12.7mm STAMP guns, both manufactured by Turkish defence giant, Aselsan.
The ship had the capacity of carrying three main battle tanks.