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Qatar Splurges On US Apache Helos, Missiles, Ships

April 6, 2014

US AH-64 Apache 2

With the Arabian Peninsula fast becoming a giant armed camp, its governments are barely showing restraint when spending on advanced hardware.

Last week, with the DIMDEX maritime exhibition finished in Doha, news surfaced of  Qatar’s plans to acquire 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for $2.4 billion.

A further $21 billion was estimated for 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, a pair of Airbus A330 refueling tankers, and three Boeing 737 early warning and command  (EW&C) aircraft.

Also included in its shopping list are a battery of Patriot PAC-3 missiles, 22 multi-role helicopters from the Franco-German NHIndustries, and 17 coastal patrol ships from Turkey’s Ares Shipyard.

Qatar, the world’s top liquefied gas  exporter, is a budding financial hub and media patron (Al Jazeera) that found its appetite for dabbling in regional intrigues three years ago. Even with a small military, Qatar played a crucial role enabling the so-called Arab Spring across North Africa and the Levant.

In June last year its aging ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was replaced by his 34-year-old Sandhurst educated son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Sheikh Tamim’s accession was interpreted as a move to placate Saudi Arabia’s rulers, who have long been displeased with Qatar’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Matters have taken a turn for the worse, however. Qatar was ostracized by its neighbors during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in March, weeks before DIMDEX. The combination of diplomatic snubs–Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors–and blatant threats have shaken Qatar’s reputation.

Recent large-scale purchases are part of Qatar’s emerging clout. After pouring billions on new Leopard 2 tanks and PZH 2000 self-propelled artillery systems in 2013, Qatar’s young Emir imposed mandatory national service for all male citizens aged 18-35 this March, among other reforms.  Despite allowing the US to operate an air base in Al Udeid, Qatar appears dead set on a better-equipped military.