Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Rafale Fighter Jets Steal The Show As Qatari Air Force Displays Its Might With French & US Aircraft

The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) held an “elephant walk” of its fleet of fighters, which included French Dassault Rafale fighter jets, transporters C-17 Globemaster III and C-130J Super Hercules, attack helicopter AH-64E and AW139 helicopters among others.

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A video posted on YouTube shows the formation of military aircraft with reports claiming AGM-114 Hellfire missile launch, probably for the first time, by QEAF’s recent acquisition AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopter gunships.

The term ‘elephant walk’ is used by the United States Air Force to denote the taxiing of military aircraft right before takeoff, when they are in close formation. It is used to identify a “maximum sortie surge”.

The video starts with opening shots of Rafale fighters followed by C-17 and then AH-64E, AW-139, C-130J Hercules, and C-17A Globemaster III. 

Qatar ordered 18 single-seat EQ and six twin-seat DQ variants of Dassault Rafales in 2015. Two years later, it placed an order for 12 more Rafales, taking the total to 36. The Gulf country received its first five French-made fighters in 2019 that landed in Tamim Air Base.

Dassault Rafale EQ

The $7-billion contract for the Qatari Rafales included a full range of missiles produced by the European consortium MBDA. Unconfirmed media reports say that the weapons include SCALP cruise missiles,  Meteor long-range air-to-air missile, MICA air-to-air beyond visual range (BVR), and AM39 EXOCET anti-ship missiles.

In 2017, Qatar signed a $6.2-billion deal with Boeing for 36 new multirole F-15QAs that will be delivered in 2021. The aircraft made its maiden flight on April 13, 2020, at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.

The F-15QA is currently under flight testing and two of those are sent to Air Force Plant 42 at Palmdale, in California to carry out intense tests focused on key areas, including “mission systems and cockpit test effort”, Boeing chief test pilot Matt “Phat” Giese told The Drive in an interview. Giese was also responsible for implementing a precise mission checklist to test the multirole aircraft’s capabilities during the fighter’s maiden flight in April.

The Qatari variant boasts Raytheon’s APG-63(V)3 AESA radar, Lockheed Martin AAS-42 Tiger Eyes infrared search-and-track system, a redesigned internal wing structure, and two additional wing hardpoints that allow it to carry up to 16 AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles.

Reportedly, the F-15QA features the new cockpit with the “all-glass Large Area Display (LAD)” and the tests will help mature it further. “It’s a 10×19-inch display that’s fitted in both cockpits, all glass, and it features an infrared [IR] touch display,” noted Giese.

C-17A Globemaster III

Qatar will also receive Eurofighter Typhoons. An order for 24 Typhoons worth £6 billion ($8.1 billon), which also includes 9 Hawk trainers and a support package has already been placed by Qatar.

Qatari pilots, engineers, and technicians are completing world-class training at a number of RAF establishments prior to joining 12 Squadron, where they will develop their technical skills and build their experience on the Typhoon. Six Typhoons from RAF’s 12 Squadron arrived in the Gulf nation on November 29, according to the information posted on the service’s website.

With an expanding fleet of fighters, the QEAF is on the path of becoming one of the most powerful air forces in the Middle East, trailing only after Israel.


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