Warplanes: Qatar Seeks Natives As Pilots

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November 11, 2014: The Persian Gulf kingdom of Qatar recently received the first two of 24 Pilatus PC-21 basic flight training aircraft. In 2012 Qatar joined its neighbors (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) by adopting the PC-21. Qatar is in the midst of expanding its combat air force from nine Mirage 2000 fighters to as many as 72 modern jet fighters. Thus the need for new trainer aircraft and the recent establishment of an Air Force Academy. This also signals more effort to train local Arabs as fighter pilots, rather than importing British pilots. The first PC-21 will begin training pilots when the academy opens in 2015.

The propeller driven PC-21 has a pressurized cockpit with a bubble canopy and a modern "glass" cockpit. The aircraft can pull 8 Gs while maneuvering. There are five hard-points, enabling the aircraft to carry a ton of bombs and missiles. The PC-21 cruises at 660 kilometers an hour and has a max speed of 720 kilometers an hour. Max altitude is 12,000 meters (38,000 feet).

Qarar has still not decided which new fighter they will buy. At the moment the leading candidate is the French Rafale. This deal would also give a shot in the arm of the French manufacturer as it had not bagged any foreign orders after over a decade of trying. For the French aviation industry this sale would be a big deal. The Rafale is a twin-engine, delta-wing jet which was first introduced in 2000 and since then produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy. Its top speed is 2,100 kilometers per hour and range is 3,700 kilometers. It can carry air-to-air, air-to-ground, and anti-submarine missiles with a total payload capacity of 9 tons. Its length is 15.27 meters (47.3 feet) and wingspan 10.80 meters (33.5 feet).   Rafale, a multi-role nuclear capable fighter aircraft that has been successfully proven in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Libya, has tri-service variants. French Air Force, Navy, and Army are currently using these three variants.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is still in the competition. This is a somewhat stealthy multi-role fighter. It is fast, maneuverable, and carries a lot of weapons. It also can be used for attack missions. This 23 ton aircraft is the principal fighter in the air forces of Britain, Spain, Germany, and Italy. The Typhoon is closer in capability to the F-15 than the F-22 and is competing with the F-35 for many export sales.

Qatar is also considering the F-35s, particularly since these aircraft are very stealthy and better for bombing missions than the Typhoon. Also in the competition is the F-16E that the neighboring UAE uses.

This importation of foreign experts for piloting warplanes and maintaining them is very common in the Arab oil nations because the locals tend to avoid heavy physical or mental labor. While many Arab men see being a fighter pilot as glamorous and worthy of some effort, the training required discourages most who attempt it. Some Gulf Arab states insist that Arabs occupy those fighter plane cockpits but foreign trainers and maintainers are ordered to do what has to be done to keep the pilots alive and the planes in one piece. Pilot skill and capability has a lower priority. This approach is losing support as the threat from Iran increases.

Foreign workers provide most of the non-government workforce and are brought in to handle most government jobs (like training pilots and maintaining weapons) that require high skill levels, a lot of effort, and lots of experience. The Arab monarchs are trying to change these local attitudes but it has been difficult. Since all of the oil states in Arabia are monarchies, the rulers quickly found that the most effective way to keep themselves in power was to keep their subjects pampered and happy. In other words, spread the oil money around and pay attention to public opinion. Most of the public backs the use of foreigners and the continued use of oil money to make life easy for the locals.

 

 


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