The United Kingdom and Qatar have formally stood up a joint Eurofighter Typhoon operating unit to be based initially at Royal Air Force (RAF) Coningsby before transferring to the emirate, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced.
The MoD disclosed the activation of 12 Squadron following a ceremony held between UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, in London on 24 July.
The decision to form 12 Sqn as the new Joint Typhoon Squadron (JTS) was first announced in December 2017, at the same time as Qatar signed for the procurement of 24 Typhoons. With the first of Qatar’s Tranche 3 aircraft set to be delivered from 2022, 12 Sqn will integrate Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) personnel from 2019. The unit will not begin flying until 2020.
At the same time as the UK MoD’s announcement, the Qatari MoD released a video showing the first of its Dassault Mirage 2000 pilots undergoing conversion onto the Typhoon being interviewed at RAF Coningsby. Besides wearing new 12 Sqn JTS patches, the two QEAF pilots are shown sporting the patch for 29 Squadron – the operational conversion unit (OCU) for the Typhoon at the station.
Although the MoD said 12 Sqn will initially be located at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire before relocating to Qatar, it has not provided a timeline for this move. While the United Kingdom has to date alluded to 12 Sqn as being a training unit, the Qataris have stressed its operational nature.
In addition to its 24 new Typhoons, the QEAF is also to receive 36 new Dassault Rafales and 36 Boeing F-15QA (Qatar Advanced)-variant Eagles (with a further 36 potentially to follow) during the coming years. To help support its expanded training requirements, the service has signed for nine new BAE Systems Hawk aircraft to replace/augment its six Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jets, 24 Pilatus PC-21s, and unknown number of PAC Super Mushshak basic trainers.
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