The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) is to procure three Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft as part of a USD24 billion procurement package announced on 27 March.
A Boeing official confirmed to IHS Jane's that the previously unspecified airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft to be procured would be the 737-derived platform, rather than the company's 707-derived E-3 Airborne Early Warning And Control System (AWACS) or 767-derived AEW offerings.
According to the announcement at the DIMDEX 2014 exhibition in Doha, the Boeing 737 AEW&C portion of the overall deal is valued at QAR6.6 billion (USD1.8 billion). It is not clear how much of this is given over to training, support, and sustainment.
The QEAF currently has no AEW capability, and the procurement of the Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft represents a significant boost in its capabilities. Already in service with Australia (six), South Korea (four), and Turkey (four), as the Wedgetail, Peace Eye, and Peace Eagle respectively, the 737 AEW&C is built around the Northrop Grumman multirole electronically scanned array (MESA) surveillance radar that is mounted in a dorsal fairing above the rear fuselage.
This MESA radar provides a 360 degree coverage at ranges in excess of 174 n miles (322 km; 200 miles) for aerial targets and 130 n miles (241 km; 150 miles) for patrol boat-sized surface contacts. These ranges can be significantly increased if the radar's power is focused in a particular direction, rather than applied in a general sweep. Boeing has also looked at upgrades to the MESA to allow the aircraft to detect and track incoming ballistic missiles, but the current status of this work is not known.
The aircraft's patrol endurance of nine hours at 300 n miles (555 km; 345 miles) from base can be extended by aerial refuelling using either the standard boom-and-receptacle method, or via a hose-and-drogue conversion. The QEAF is also procuring two Airbus A330-200 MultiRole Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, which can offload fuel using either means.
While Boeing has previously talked up export prospects for the Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft, citing interest from India, Japan and the United Arab Emirates in particular, Qatar had not been mentioned in connection with the aircraft prior to the sale announcement.