Qatar will buy US Patriot missiles for the first time in a major arms deal worth $11 billion, officials said Monday, as Washington awaits a decision by the Gulf state on a lucrative fighter jet contract.
The sale will provide Qatar with roughly 10 batteries for Patriot systems designed to knock out incoming missiles, as well as 24 Apache helicopters and 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles, the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
Qatar’s minister of state for defense, Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, committed to the sale in a signing ceremony Monday in Washington after talks with his American counterpart, Chuck Hagel.
“Today’s signing ceremony underscores the strong partnership between the United States and Qatar in the area of security and defense and will help improve our bilateral cooperation across a range of military operations,” said Hagel’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby.
It was also the first time Qatar had acquired Patriot missiles, which other Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have purchased in the past.
The weapons deal was the biggest for the United States in 2014 and came as Qatar weighs proposals in a fighter jet competition, with US aerospace firm Boeing vying against British BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation of France.
The sale follows a visit to Qatar last December by the US defence secretary, and talks in May between Hagel and Qatari and other Gulf defence chiefs.
Qatar hosts a vital hub for the US military, the Combined Air Operations Centre, where officers oversee combat aircraft in Afghanistan and track air traffic across the Middle East.
The Patriot missile sale, involving 247 PAC-3 and 117 GEM-T missiles, was worth more than $7 billion. The Apache helicopters and related gear came to more than $3 billion and the Javelin anti-tank missiles over $100 million, according to officials.
The deal signals Qatar’s ambition to take up a greater role in International Affairs, one of the goals of Vision 2030. Qatar is the United States’ favoured partner in the Gulf region and has played a vital role in various issues of global significance including the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap, the Darfur peace agreement etc. Qatar is also actively involved in the economic and social revival of several war ravaged nations in Africa and the Middle East.