Four corvette warships and a support vessel will be added to Qatar’s growing armed forces under a deal with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri that’s expected to be announced tomorrow, according to a media report.
Reuters cited an unnamed Italian government source as saying a delegation of Qatar officials is travelling to Rome this week to sign an accord worth €5 billion (US$5.61 billion, or QR20.4 billion).
The new agreement with the state-backed shipbuilder would be one of the largest additions in recent years to Qatar’s swelling maritime forces.
Since 2014, Qatar has announced orders for Turkish-made patrol ships and interceptor vessels, as well as Zodiac attack boats, among others.
However, none of these deals compare in size to the reported Fincantieri deal, both in financial terms and military heft.
Fincantieri says its corvettes are typically 104 meters long and are operated by a crew of some 105 individuals, although various models have different specifications.
The Italian firm says it has previously developed corvettes for the UAE.
There are signs that this week’s agreement is the culmination of a multi-year lobbying effort.
In 2013, Italy’s flagship aircraft carrier docked in Doha as defense officials from the European country tried to drum up Qatar’s interest in its arms exports.
More recently, Fincantieri agreed to be the diamond sponsor of the biennial Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition earlier this year.
According to industry publication Defense News, Italy’s defense minister and Fincantieri officials were expecting to sign the corvette deal with Qatar at the March military show.
However, the report said they were caught off-guard when the Gulf state postponed the signing ceremony in order to give French officials more time to refine a competing bid.
Qatar places a large emphasis on its maritime defense capabilities due to its large coastline and massive offshore gas resources.
The waters of the Gulf are heavily patrolled by warships from several nations seeking to keep shipping lanes open and interdict smuggling.