The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) recently received its first 3 Leonardo M-346 trainers. The first aircraft in Qatari colors was spotted parked next to a Dassault Rafale on January 26, 2021, during a ceremony of the Al Zaeem Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Attiyah Air Academy at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
In November 2020, the QEAF announced its intention to train its pilots at the International Flight Training School (IFTS), a joint initiative by the Aeronautica Militare and Leonardo. The school is located in Galatina, southern Italy. It brings together instructors from the Italian Air Force and T-346 jet trainers developed by the Italian manufacturers Aermacchi and Leonardo. The first QEAF pilots arrived at the IFTS in June 2021.
The acquisition of the Leonardo M-346, though alluded to at the time, was never formally announced. It is now confirmed. “The QEAF has ordered six aircraft as part of an agreement for the Qatari pilot training at the International Flight Training School,” Leonardo told defense publication Janes “The first three aircraft […] are now in Qatar.”
In the last couple of years, Qatar has amassed an impressive fighter fleet, ordering 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets, 24 Eurofighter Typhoons, and 36 Boeing F-15QA, the latter being a variant specially developed for the QEAF. While Boeing and Dassault are respectively in charge of training for the F-15QA and the Rafale, Britain’s Royal Air Force teaches Qatari pilots how to operate the Typhoon.