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Gazelle helicopters seen in Rwanda

Qatar appears to have donated at least two Gazelle scout/light attack helicopters to Rwanda as part of the expanding defence ties between the two countries.

The Qatari Ministry of Defense released a video on 4 March showing Lieutenant General Salem bin Hamad al-Aqeel al-Nabet, Chief of Staff of the Qatar Armed Forces, during a visit to Rwanda over the previous three days. It included footage showing at least two Gazelles at Kigali Air Base. The helicopters were not seen clearly but were fitted with the engine dust filters used by Middle Eastern militaries and painted in desert camouflage.

The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) is presumed to have retired its Gazelles after the delivery of its AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from 2019, raising the possibility that they could be sold or donated to an ally.

The Pakistan Navy confirmed in January that it had received four Qatari Westland Commando helicopters, which it referred to as Sea Kings. That was around a month after the QEAF confirmed it had received its first NH90 helicopters, which are replacing the Commandos.

Neither Qatar nor Rwanda reported the transfer of the Gazelles, only saying their respective chiefs of staffs signed a memorandum of understanding to further expand defence and security co-operation.

The pre-existing military co-operation has involved Qatari officer cadets carrying out two exercises in Rwanda in 2021 and two Rwandans graduating as pilots from the QEAF's air college in January.

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