DOHA, Qatar – Qatar is in the midst of designing a major expansion to Al Udeid Air Base that seeks to improve the living conditions of U.S. Air Force personnel stationed there with plans to build additional living quarters, new schools and improved facilities, military officials told reporters here this week.
Qatar Armed Forces Staff Brig. Fahad Hamad Al Sulaiti, head of the International Military Cooperation Authority, said Nov. 28 that the plan involved building 200 additional villas that would make the base “more comfortable” and “attractive” for U.S. servicemembers. The country’s Ministry of Defense is in the final design phase of the expansion, he added.
Currently, airmen and women who are on station for an extended period of time – for example, field grade officers who are spending two years on base in command positions, as opposed to typical four- to six-month deployments for other personnel – live outside the gates in Doha or other locations nearby with their families. Additional and improved living quarters, along with new amenities including schools, more shopping options, a sophisticated medical center and recreation facilities, could make it more tenable for those families to live on base, he noted.
The groundbreaking event took place in July, and Qatar has previously announced a commitment of $1.8 billion toward the expansion. A timeline for construction and subsequent opening of the base was not provided, but the development is part of Qatar’s “National Vision 2040” strategy, Sulaiti said.
Meetings are ongoing with senior officials at U.S. Central Command and Air Force Central Command to determine the extension of alterations to the friendly forces areas, he said. The Qatar Armed Forces are in discussions with the Defense Department to ensure they are complying with U.S. standards, and some current plans may need to be altered after those discussions, he added.
“Something we will be very proud of is the support we provide to our partners,” he said.
This is separate from the planned development of a new campus to house the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s forthcoming F-15 fighter fleet. (Defense Daily, Nov. 26) That construction will take place within the current footprint of Al Udeid, officials told reporters this week at the base.
Col. Benjamin Jonsson, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid, deferred to the Qatar Armed Forces for details on the planned base expansion in a Nov. 26 briefing with reporters at the base. He called it a “generous” offer from the Qatar Ministry of Defense to improve the facilities, and said it would help the Air Force be “a more lethal force.”
Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, the country’s deputy prime minister and minister of state for defence affairs, noted that the base hosts around 10,000 U.S. service members.
“His Highness the Emir [Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani] always instructed us that whenever we are engaging with our friends and allies to do our utmost best in the MOD to make their operation comfortable. And this is what we tried to do,” he said in a Nov. 27 interview with reporters at the Ministry of Defense in Doha.
The priorities are to expand the number of living spaces and improve facilities such as the mess hall, Attiyah said. He did not comment on any potential plans to enhance or expand operational portions of the base, such as the Combined Air Operations Center, stating that “any expansion on the operations side will be … considered as classified.”
“Whatever we are doing at Al Udeid is just to improve the quality … to make it comfortable for our friends and allies,” he said.