By Dave Makichuk
Calling it a “momentous” occasion, US General Greg Guillot, commander of 9th Air Force, lauded the unveiling of the first batch of new F-15QA fighter jets with advanced next-gen systems for the Gulf State of Qatar, Al Jazeera reported.
Produced by the United States and Boeing, the rollout took place on Wednesday in a ceremony at Boeing’s headquarters in the US state of Missouri, with the Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah in attendance.
Amid the ceremony, the aircraft name was revealed to be Ababil, after a bird of prey from Islamic mythology. The minister said Qatar is acquiring the aircraft for defence purposes, adding that the new aircraft have better combat specifications and are faster than the older F-15s.
“The rollout of the F-15QA is momentous, not just in terms of capability but also in terms of the enhanced partnership it represents,” General Guillot said.
“The relationship the United States shares with Qatar is critical to the stability and security of the central command area of responsibility, and we are grateful for our coalition partners continued focus on building interoperability and combined readiness,” he added. The F-15QA, a version of the F-15 fighter jet, packs a number of next-generation technologies, SlashGear.com reported.
“The Qatar F-15QA program further enhanced next-generation technologies in the advanced F-15 such as the fly-by-wire flight controls, an all-glass digital cockpit and contemporary sensors, radar and electronic warfare capabilities,” said program VP Prat Kumar.
“Driven by digital engineering and advanced manufacturing, these aircraft represent a transformational leap for the F-15.” Boeing describes the F-15QA as the most advanced F-15 thus far, saying it will equip the Qatar Emiri Air Force with “more speed, range, and payload than any fighter in the world.”
The first F-15QA fighter jets will be ferried to the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) by the end of 2021, Aerotime Hub reported. By then, QEAF pilots will have received pre-delivery training, which began earlier in the year. The aircraft are to be based at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, with a facility to be built by Boeing by 2024.
The roll-out video shows the aircraft with an illustrative range of weapons, including the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, the Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and the Raytheon AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile).
Qatar ordered 36 F-15QA fighters in 2017 with an option for 36 more, for a total contract valued at around US$12 billion, after a political dispute broke out between it and its neighbours – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain.
After the feuding Gulf nations imposed a blockade on Doha, it agreed with Washington and Boeing to purchase at least 30 aircraft equipped with the latest technical means. Boeing will also provide a domestic version of the fighter jet, called the F-15EX Eagle II, which the USAF is set to order up to 144 units.
While the aging airframe is not up to par with 5th generation fighter jets, it should eventually provide the USAF with a cheaper alternative to carry out missions of airspace and base defense.