Qatar – Paolo Valpolini
While Qatar remains one of the most interesting countries for defence companies, as it still has to update its armed forces equipment in many areas.
However the overall contracts value announced at the end of the three-days DIMDEX exhibition, 32.58 billion Qatari Rial equivalent to 7,872 million Euro, was deeply altered by the QAR 27.75 billion (6,705 million Euro) contract “signed” on the opening day of the exhibition by the Qatari Minister of Defence, Dr. Khalid Bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah, and by his French counterpart, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian. In fact, this was a replica signature of the contract signed on 4 May 2015 by the heads of the two states, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the President of the French Republic Mr François Hollande, the contract having entered into force last 17 December. As usual at Dimdex no fixed contracts but only Memoranding of Understanding were signed, the company that by far succeeded the most in this edition of the Doha international Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference having been MBDA, which signed an MoU worth QAR 2.6 billion (636 million Euro) for a coastal defence system. This topic is described in a separate article. The European missile company also bagged a 59 million Euro MoU for a batch of new Exocet MM40 Block 3 missiles.
The presence of the French Minister for Defence was a sign of the close ties between the two nations, numerous French companies being present at the show. Beside Dassault and Rafale International, DCNS is another major player in the area, although no comments were made on the potential corvettes bid which MoU should have been signed during the show but in fact, the announcement never came. The main competitor for that programme is Italy’s Fincantieri, and according to EDR sources, the French updated their offer, causing a further negotiation iteration before closing the bid. Beside that DCNS is looking forward, and is currently working on a new 4,000-tonne class frigate, derived from the Lafayette class, which capabilities will be lesser than those of the FREMM multirole frigates but higher than the Gowind ship acquired by Saudi Arabia. Thales exhibited for the first time its Searchmaster radar in the region, which obtained an immediate commercial success. Nexter presence was aimed at promoting its naval gun mounts, its ammunition capabilities as well as its vehicles, the latter awaiting some form of decision from Qatar on a potential acquisition of 8×8 armoured infantry fighting vehicles, other companies active in the same field such as Finnish Patria being also present for the same reason. Airbus Defence and Space signed an MoU worth 40 million Euro for a long distance satellite ground imaging station. France also succeeded in the training field, as DCI signed an MoU worth 8 million Euro with Al Zaeem M.B.A.A. Air Academy for fighter and helicopter training.
Fighter pilots training is something Qatar will have to deal with following the acquisition of Rafales, and the potential acquisition of further fighters, and this is a field in which Italy’s Finmeccanica, which should soon change its name in Leonardo, is pretty active, proposing its M-346 Master, already selected by numerous countries, as well as other types of solution, in cooperation with the Italian Air Force, which training centre in Galatina is considered among the best ones, as it also integrates ground based simulation. A few days after the closure, of Dimdex on 5 April, the Italian and the Kuwaiti governments signed the contract for 22 single seat and six two-seat Typhoon combat aircraft; the MoU was signed in September 2015, the campaign leader having been Finmeccanica. The success with Kuwait may open up new opportunities in the area for the European combat aircraft. At DIMDEX Finmeccanica was exhibiting as a one-company according to the new organisational model, and for the first time, all its divisions were present at a show. The Italian defence company is fully involved in the Fincantieri proposal to Qatar, Finmeccanica providing most of the combat system, sensors and effectors. No comment from Fincantieri on the Qatari corvette issue, the company confirming its close cooperation with the country and its intention to maintain a stable presence in Qatar. Fincantieri is ready to discuss with the Qatari Navy the products that are of interest of the service and to derive those from well-proven projects that would be tailored to local requirements. Ferretti Security and Defence appeared for the first time at a defence exhibition unveiling two new products, which are depicted in a separate article. The Italian Minister for Defence, Mrs Roberta Pinotti, visited DIMDEX on Day 3 together with the Italian Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi.
Qatar maintains close ties with numerous countries. The United States are obviously a major partner, Raytheon being fully involved in the production of the Patriot system that will be delivered to the Qatari Armed Forces from 2017 on, the contract going through the FMS pipeline. The commitment of Raytheon is confirmed by the opening of a representative office in Doha days prior the DIMDEX opening. Lockheed Martin is obviously fully involved in the Qatari Patriot programme, as it provides two types of missiles and the command and control suite, LM having also signed an MoU for C-130 maintenance. US drone systems manufacturers bagged different MoUs, among them Aurora Flight Sciences for sensor integration, L-3 for MX20D and MX25 drone cameras, and Textron Systems for the Aerosonde Mk 4.7 UAS.
The ties between Qatar and Turkey are strong, and that could be seen in the number of Turkish companies exhibiting at DIMDEX, not only naval products but also land equipment such as BMC’s armoured vehicles. An MoU worth 41 million Euro was signed with the Yonca-Onuc JV for the purchase of six fast interceptor vessels, this shipyard being already busy in producing MRTP 16 class interceptors and MRTP 34 class fast patrol boats for the Qatar Naval Forces.
Also the Netherlands maintain industrial ties with Qatar, Nakilat Damen Shipyards Qatar, the joint venture between Qatari gas transport company Nakilat and Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards, signed two MoUs with the Qatari Navy, one for a second dive-support boat, one was ordered two years ago, and one for the establishment of a national naval centre for simulator training. Numerous other Turkish companies exhibited at the show, among them the Anadolu Shipyard which unveiled the model of a 9,500-tonne Landing Helicopter Dock aimed at providing amphibious capabilities to small navies, Roketsan, Aselsan and other.
One interesting move was the MoU between the Qatar Armed Forces and the Polish company WKK, specialised in manufacturing composite material and fuselage; the acquisition of 51% of its shares by Qatar shows the ambition of becoming in the medium term an active player in the aviation business.
According to data provided by the organisers, over 9,000 visitors walked through the aisles of DIMDEX 2016, and some of them along the piers of the Doha port where eight naval vessels were paying their visit to Qatar during DIMDEX. In order of dimensions, USS Ponce, a US Navy Austin-class LPD, HMS Defender, a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer, ITS Carabiniere, an Italian Navy FREMM frigate, the the Beas, an Indian Navy Brahmaputra-class frigate, the Aconit, a French Navy La Fayette-class frigate, two Pakistani units, the Dehshat, an Azmat-class missile fast patrol boat and the Quwwat attack craft of the Jurrat-class.