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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

UK and Qatar launch new air-force training squadron 


Qatar is one of the biggest buyers of UK weapons.

The UK and Qatar have announced the launch of a new Joint Hawk Training Squadron to provide advanced and high-speed jet training to pilots. 

Britain’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace and the Qatar’s Minister of Defence, Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, announced the agreement at Royal Air Force (RAF) Leeming in Yorkshire, Northern England.

“This new Joint Squadron builds on years of close partnership between the Royal Air Force and the Qatari Emiri Air Force (QEAF),” the British government said in a statement. 

“This will greatly enhance the capabilities of the two Air Forces and improve their ability to operate together,” it said in a press release on Wednesday. 

Wallace and Dr Khalid, a trained fast-jet pilot himself, visited the site to witness the rollout of BAE Systems’ new Hawk Mk167 jet.

“The UK’s defence relationship with Qatar is strong and enduring and it has been a great pleasure to welcome His Excellency Dr Khalid to RAF Leeming,” said the Defence Secretary.

Read also: Can you “mix-and-match” COVID vaccines? 

“The new Joint Hawk Squadron not only delivers greater prosperity for British industry, it will also allow our Armed Forces to build stronger relationships and create opportunities for further engagement with our Gulf partners in the future,” he added.

Qatar and the UK have maintained a close relationship on different levels throughout the years.

Speaking to Doha News Dr. Andreas Krieg an assistant professor at the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London said “the main interest for UK post Brexit is building networks outside Europe to implement the idea of Global Britain that is influencing and shaping policy globally. Qatar is seen as a strategic partner here as Qatar’s networks in the region are seen here in London as important multipliers for engagement. The UK sees Qatar as a neutral country that can help maintaining stability in the wider region”

The latest partnership comes in the framework of addressing shared security challenges and threats.Our defence relationship helps to improve regional stability in the Gulf and helps to ensure the security of the UK,” stated in the report. 

Training at RAF Leeming started last October with four QEAF student pilots. 

The new Joint Hawk Training Squadron is set to train eight Qatari pilots per year, while RAF student pilots will join in 2022 to train alongside their Qatari counterparts.

The Squadron also aims to train up to 20 Qatari pilots ahead of the delivery of Typhoons to the Gulf state in 2023.

Qatari authorities have ordered some nine Hawk Mk167 aircraft, manufactured by BAE Systems in Lancashire. 

“This is part of a £6 billion package which also includes 24 Typhoons and bespoke training,” the report mentioned. 

Qatar is one of the UK’s biggest customers when it comes to defence spending.


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