Joint UK-Qatari Typhoon unit takes flight

The Royal Air Force (RAF) and Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) have commenced flying operations under No 12 Squadron, a joint force Eurofighter Typhoon unit based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.

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Up close with a No 12 Squadron Typhoon FGR4. The unit is now one of the few RAF units to feature squadron markings. MoD Crown Copyright/LAC Iwan Lewis

The creation of a joint unit is the result of an initiative between the British and Qatari governments to provide QEAF personnel with experience operating the Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role fighter. Qatar has 24 examples on order under a £5.1bn deal, with deliveries scheduled to commence in 2022 and conclude in 2024.

No 12 Squadron began flying operations as a joint unit on June 15. In a news release, the RAF said: “The flags of both nations were raised at RAF Coningsby this week as Typhoons with new squadron markings flew for the first time, signalling the squadrons readiness to train pilots and ground crew from both air forces.”

The squadron is the first joint unit to be operated by the air arm since World War Two and the Battle of Britain.

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A Qatari pilot, flanked by two RAF pilots, return to RAF Coningsby following a training flight. MoD Crown Copyright/LAC Iwan Lewis 

UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace MP, added that “No 12 Squadron is a testament to our enduring friendship and commitment to Qatar, the only nation with which the UK has a joint squadron. Together we are protecting populations and securing our mutual interests across the Middle East.”

Dr Khalid bin Mohammad al Attiyah, Qatar’s Minister of State for Defence Affairs, said: “The first flight of No 12 Squadron marks an important milestone in the commitment of the [QEAF] and the [RAF] to deliver on excellence… The raising of the flags of the State of Qatar and the [UK] side by side in commemoration of the first joint flight represents the alignment of vision and strategy in building for a stable and prosperous future for both nations and the world.”

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An RAF ground crew member directs a No 12 Squadron Typhoon FGR4. MoD Crown Copyright/LAC Iwan Lewis

Qatar’s Eurofighter fleet will be equipped with the new Captor-E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-33 Sniper advanced targeting pod (ATP). The Typhoons will be operated alongside the QEAF’s growing Dassault Rafale DQ/EQ fleet and will be also be complemented by Boeing F-15QA (Qatar Advanced) Strike Eagles. The air arm is acquiring these aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of 12 Dassault Mirage 2000-5DDA/EDA fighters, which entered service in 1997.

These acquisitions will increase Qatar’s combat aircraft fleet by more than ten times, with the nation having ordered a total of 132 fighters, comprised of 36 Rafale DQ/EQs, 72 F-15QA Strike Eagles and 24 Typhoons. Dassault commenced deliveries in February 2019, with 18 single-seat Rafale EQs and five two-seat DQs currently in operational service with the QEAF, according to AirForces Intelligence. On April 13, Boeing successfully flew the F-15QA for the first time.

Typhoon FGR4 (No 12 Sqn - UK-Qatar Unit) [MoD Crown Copyright/LAC Iwan Lewis] #4
The aircraft's markings feature a fox's head - the squadron's original badge - which is joined by the national flags of the UK and Qatar. The RAF roundel on the fuselage is joined by green, white and black bars. MoD Crown Copyright/LAC Iwan Lewis