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This week’s biennial defense conference in Qatar wrapped up with the country agreeing to buy new attack boats, drones, artillery systems and missiles from several other nations.

The move comes as Qatar works to modernizes its military and upgrade the security of its maritime borders.

When all the deals were added up, the country had signed agreements for QR32.58 billion, down from QR87 billion during the 2014 Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX).

Most of this year’s bill came from the ceremonial signing of a QR27.75 billion contract to purchase 24 French-made Rafale fighter jets, a deal that was first announced nearly a year ago.

The remaining QR4.83 billion included a QR2.6 billion purchase of a coastal battery system from European firm MBDA, which also agreed to sell the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces missiles worth QR240 million.

There was also a QR460.5 million agreement signed with US-based Aurora for drone sensor integration; a QR365 million worth of drones from German company Reiner Stemme Utility Air-Systems; and aQR200 million for a long-distance satellite ground imaging station from French company Airbus.

Other deals included:

  • A QR174.18 million purchase of diving support boats from Nakilat Damen Shipyards Qatar;
  • QR170.03 million for fast interceptor vessels from Turkish company Yonca Onuc;
  • QR134.78 million for fighter and helicopter pilot training by French firm DCI;
  • QR126.8 million for drone cameras from American company L-3;
  • A QR95 million deal with Germany’s MTU Friedrichshafen to overhaul and maintain propulsion systems;
  • QR68 million in armed attack vessels from European company Zodiac;
  • QR60 million in radar gear from France’s Thales;
  • A QR54.7 million agreement for drones from US firm Textron Systems;
  • A three-year, QR50 million deal with US company Lockheed Martin for maintenance of C-130 military transport aircraft; and
  • QR34.6 million for surveillance vehicles from South Korea’s AK & Partners.
Emir at DIMDEX 2016

QNA/Instagram

Emir at DIMDEX 2016

Additionally, Qatar bought a 51 percent stake in Polish firm WKK, which specializes in manufacturing composite materials and fuselages.

It also signed a military cooperation agreement related to drones with the Chinese National Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation and tasked Qatari firm Nakilat to train naval officers.

Most of the deals signed at DIMDEX were memorandums of understanding, which means some may not result in actual sales.

Offshore security

DIMDEX is an opportunity for defense firms to showcase their wares and for military experts from around the world to network with each other.

Due to its large coastline and massive offshore gas resources, Qatar places a big emphasis on maritime defense.

According to conference organizers, Major-Gen. Mohammed Bin Nasser Al-Mohannadi, chief of the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces, said:

“The security and economies of all states along the coast of the Arabian Gulf rely on the protection of our territorial waters and the ability to defend these waters from evolving threats is fundamental.”

Others have suggested that extensive military might is a way for Qatar to wield more influence in the region and beyond.

While Qatar’s spending at DIMDEX may have declined, analysts say the Gulf country’s overall military budget continues to rise.

Despite the decline in oil prices that have eroded government revenues, one report last year projected defense spending would rise by an average of 12 percent annually through to 2020, while another predicted that military purchases would remain at “elevated levels” in the short-term.

Thoughts?

All photos by Peter Kovessy

Warship in tow and a new defense cooperation agreement in hand, UK officials are in Qatar this week, lobbying hard to sell more weapons to the Gulf state.

Last week, the two countries signed a new 10-year pact that will lead to more training, joint exercises, high-level visits and, the UK hopes, additional military sales.

“Qatar is one of our most important regional partners,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said during a press conference yesterday. “We already carry out around four exercises a year. We will do more.”

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon

Fallon was speaking inside a hangar aboard the HMS Defender, a 152m destroyer docked in the Doha Port alongside more than a half-dozen other warships that are in town for this week’s Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (DIMDEX).

Typhoon pitch

The event comes as the UK is increasing its military presence and building new permanent bases in the region.

“The security of the Gulf is (also the UK’s) security,” Fallon said.

For the British, the defense trade show and tour of HMS Defender was a show of force and an opportunity to showcase some of the latest UK military hardware.

A Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon

Clément Alloing / Flickr

A Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon

Fallon said one of the purposes of his visit was to “emphasize the attractiveness” of the British-made Typhoon fighter jet to the Qatar military. The planes reportedly have a list price of US$140 million each, meaning sale agreements typically run into the billions of dollars.

His sales pitch comes as Qatar finalized its €6.7 billion (QR27.6 billion) purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets, manufacturer by French firm Dassault Aviation.

Fallon said the Rafale purchase would not preempt Qatar from buying additional fighter jets.

He added that a deal to sell Typhoons to officials here is “definitely still on the table” and was discussed when he met Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, Qatar’s minister of state for defense affairs, last week.

Although Qatar is trimming government spending in many areas, some analysts have said its military budgets and that of other GCC states have remained unaffected.

Aboard the HMS Defender

Commissioned in 2012, the HMS Defender is built to “control” airspace the size of Portugal with its sensors and anti-aircraft missiles.

Locally, this means the ship can keep an eye out for any airborne threats to the American planes departing from and returning to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

HMS Defender

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

HMS Defender

The ship currently has approximately 240 crew members, some of whom ran through a simulation for visitors yesterday.

The demonstration showed how they can quickly identify hostile aircraft, issue warnings and rapidly ready an arsenal that includes missiles and a 20mm Gatling gun that fires up to 3,000 rounds a minute.

“This ship, which is patrolling in the Gulf, is a powerful demonstration of the power of our Royal Navy,” Fallon said.

Last November, the UK committed itself to maintaining a permanent military presence in the Gulf as part of its defense and security review. Earlier that month, the UK started construction on a new naval base in Bahrain.

Task force

There are several multinational naval forces operating in and around the Gulf. The military vessels frequently board and inspect ships in the region in an attempt to intercept the smuggling of weapons, drugs and people.

Just outside the Gulf, the UK will take over the rotating leadership of a 31-country maritime task force next month.

That particular group is formally known as Combined Task Force 150 and is made up of roughly a half-dozen ships patrolling some 2 million square miles, covering the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman.

Weapons seized by a French warship.

Combined Maritime Forces

Weapons seized by a French warship.

Earlier this week, the task force announced a French vessel in the North Indian Ocean had intercepted a dhow headed to Somalia carrying several hundred AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank weapons.

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

David Rodriguez Martin/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A project to build drones in Qatar has reached “advanced stages, with the devices expected to hit the market as early as next year, the nation’s Minister of State for Defense Affairs has said.

According to QNA, Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah said that the country has been working on a drone production project with Germany, as part of efforts to shore up Qatar’s defenses.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of the fifth Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (DIMDEX), which opened today.

It is unclear what the Qatar-made drones will be used for, or whether they will be sold to other countries.

Coping with ‘risk’

Qatar’s armed forces have been training with unmanned aerial vehicles for years.

In 2011, the country reportedly bought its first drones – 10 mini ones – from a Turkish defense manufacturer.

Qatar purchased 10 of the Turkish Bayraktar mini unmanned aerial vehicles in 2011.

Bayhaluk / Wikipedia

Qatar purchased 10 of the Turkish Bayraktar mini unmanned aerial vehicles in 2011.

The short-range devices were used for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

QNA also reported Al Attiyah as encouraging integration of defense systems across nations to “collectively cope with the risks” in the region.

Also today at DIMDEX, Qatar inked a memo of understanding with France on an existing order of 24 Rafale fighter jets.

The deal had been struck last year, but payment was apparently delayed.

Qatar finally made a down payment in December and the new agreement seems to indicate that the country is serious about buying the €6.7 billion jets.

Thoughts?