Qatar turns to Italy to train pilots for its fighter jet cocktail

Ryan Fletcher

The Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini met his Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, to discuss the training of the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) pilots. The acquisition of a number of Leonardo T-346 jet trainers could reportedly be in the talks.

The meeting, attended by both ministers of defense and several senior members of each armed forces, aimed to improve military cooperation between the two countries, Gulf Times reported. An agreement was signed by the Qatar Emiri Air Force and the Aeronautica Militare, the Italian Air Force, regarding the training of Qatari fighter pilots. 

The instruction would take place at the International Flight Training School (IFTS), a joint initiative by the Aeronautica Militare and Leonardo. The infrastructure is located in Galatina, southern Italy. It involves instructors from the Italian Air Force and T-346 jet trainers developed by the Italian manufacturers Aermacchi and Leonardo.

A second agreement was signed between Barzan Holdings, an investment fund of Qatar’s Ministry of Defense, and Leonardo. The content of the agreement was not revealed, but it could relate to the acquisition of T-346 trainers.

Qatar, more wings than heads?

In the last couple of years, Qatar has been an Eldorado for fighter jet manufacturers. The Gulf country ordered 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets, 24 Eurofighter Typhoons, and 36 Boeing F-15QA. It remains a mystery how the nation of 2.8 million inhabitants will be able to fly and maintain the esoteric fighter fleet. Other Gulf countries have relied on foreign pilots in the past.

Qatar recently signed a $68 million contract with Boeing regarding the training of its F-15QA pilots in the United States from 2021. The F-15QA aircraft is the most advanced variant of the F-15 jet to date, developed specifically for the QEAF.


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