Qatar purchased a record US$655 million worth of weapons and military hardware in 2015, ahead of a huge projected drop in government revenues, according to newly released figures on global arms sales.
That’s more than double the amount the Gulf state has ever spent on defense equipment in a single year.
The 2015 purchases also exceed the amount spent in the preceding four years combined, according to data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The figures actually understate how much Qatar and other countries spend on defense equipment, as SIPRI reports production costs, rather than sale prices.
SIPRI also only includes a sale when the weapons are actually delivered. That means it didn’t count Qatar’s recent purchase of 24 Rafale fighter jets – reportedly worth €6.3 billion (QR25.7 billion) – or the government’s multibillion-dollar shopping spree at a 2014 defense show in Doha.
In a report released Monday, SIPRI found Qatar’s imports of missiles, military aircraft, armored vehicles and other arms increased by 279 percent from the five-year period 2006-10 to 2011-15.
US largest arms supplier
The United States is Qatar’s largest arms supplier by a wide margin, having sold the Gulf state nearly half of its $2.62 billion worth of military hardware over the last 25 years, according to SIPRI.
Recently, that’s included deals for Hellfire anti-tank missiles and Boeing’s last C-17A Globemaster-III heavy transport aircraft, SIPRI records show.
Analysts have previously suggested that Qatar is increasing the size of its armed forces to ward off any potential threat from Iran as well as reinforce its economic influence with military might.
SIPRI suggests another factor is the conflict underway in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula:
“The military intervention in Yemen by a coalition of Arab states, which began in 2015, was facilitated by high levels of arms imports to several of the states leading the intervention. These states include Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” the organization stated in its report.
In addition to its 24 French-made fighter jets, Qatar has outstanding orders for 52 German tanks as well as 24 combat helicopters, nine air defense systems and three airborne early warning aircraft from the US, SIPRI stated.