UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and his Qatari counterpart, HE Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, have announced an expansion of the relationship between the air forces of their countries.
The agreement will see a joint Royal Air Force (RAF) & Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) Hawk training squadron established at RAF Leeming in Yorkshire, and regular RAF Voyager deployments to Qatar to provide air-to-air refueling (AAR) opportunities for the QEAF.
“In the face of new and emerging threats, it is vital we collaborate with our international allies to tackle our shared security challenges and our long-standing relationship with Qatar exemplifies this. By working together we continue to share skills and expertise whilst promoting global security and driving prosperity at home,” UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.
“I’m delighted RAF Leeming has been chosen to base the historic second UK-Qatari joint squadron, which recognises the globally-held high regard of RAF flying training,” he added.
His Excellency Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs in Qatar, said: “An important step in the ever growing military partnership that joins QEAF and RAF. The joint Hawk training squadron is an integral component in increasing interoperability and coordination between both air forces, leading to closer cooperation and alignment in future military and peacekeeping efforts.”
The joint Hawk training squadron at RAF Leeming is expected to stand up in September this year. The squadron will deliver Advanced Jet Training (AJT) to QEAF and RAF pilots and will be home to Qatar’s recently acquired nine Hawk T2 Mk167 aircraft, which are currently being built by BAE Systems at Warton, Lancashire.
The formation of a second UK-Qatar joint squadron will provide additional flying hours for RAF pilots and see long-term international investment in new infrastructure and training facilities at RAF Leeming. This will include a Hawk training simulator, and the refurbishment of existing facilities.
The decision to base the new squadron at RAF Leeming represents a long-term commitment to the base, which provides a strategic and operational Main Operating Base for the RAF.
Starting in July 2021, RAF Voyager aircraft are expected to deploy to Qatar periodically to provide air-to-air refueling training for the QEAF’s fleet of fast jet aircraft. These deployments will provide a valuable training opportunity for both air forces; enhancing their interoperability with other nations.
The RAF Voyager fleet already supports Defence activity around the world and the Qatar AAR service over the next two years will be part of this. The deployments will be planned to co-ordinate with the UK’s operational and training needs and will benefit the RAF by enhancing its interoperability with international personnel and equipment.
Building upon the success of 12 Sqn, the joint RAF-QEAF Typhoon squadron at RAF Coningsby, the strengthened defence partnership will boost Qatar’s ability to tackle our shared security challenges in the Middle East, contributing to regional stability and protecting the prosperity and security of the UK at home.