By Clement Charpentreau
Qatar is reportedly considering the acquisition of a new batch of 24 Rafale fighter jets and an upgrade of its existing fleet to the latest standard.
The potential order to be placed as early as 2024 or more likely in 2025 was first reported by La Tribune. Although not yet officially confirmed, the acquisition would have been discussed during the visit of France’s Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, to Doha, Qatar’s capital city, on July 17, 2023.
“Intense discussion with my counterpart [Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah], on the Dukhan airbase which hosts the 36 Qatari Rafale,” Lecornu tweeted during his visit. “At the heart of our exchanges: the multiplication of operational interactions between our armies and new projects to nurture capability cooperation.”
The Qatar Emiri Air Force already ordered 36 Rafale jets in 2015, which have all been delivered by Dassault Aviation between 2019 and 2022. Following this contract, another option, unveiled in 2017, was to purchase 36 additional aircraft. The emirate is now mulling firming up these options.
Qatar is also reportedly keen on upgrading its existing Rafale fleet to the F4 standard, a modernization effort already undertaken by France. The F4 standard has been selected by the United Arab Emirates, who signed a contract in December 2021 to acquire 80 Rafale F4 jets, scheduled for delivery between 2027 and 2030.
The main focus of the F4 standard is to enhance the connectivity of the Rafale with other systems by introducing new satellite and intra-patrol links, a communication server, and software radio.
Following his visit to Qatar, Lecornu also visited Iraq. Through the years, the Iraqi Air Force has expressed its interest in the Rafale. On May 23, 2023, Major General Rasool, Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, hinted that France is one of the countries from which Iraq is considering purchasing “modern military equipment.”