AL RAYYAN, Qatar – The Qatar Armed Forces have begun to receive new Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) units that are part of a 2014 deal totaling 10 systems to be delivered within the next two years, a Qatari military official said Nov. 27.

At least one PAC-3 battery was delivered in 2018, Maj. Gen. Hamad Mubarak Al-Dawai Al-Nabit, Qatar Emiri Air Defence Forces commander, told reporters in a Tuesday briefing at As Sayliyah Army Base outside Doha.

Launch of PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement interceptor. Photo: Lockheed Martin
Launch of PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement interceptor. Photo: Lockheed Martin

“It is already starting to be delivered, and it is already fielded,” he said. He did not elaborate on how many of the 10 on order have been delivered so far, but said he expects the units to be “totally fielded” within two years. The Missile Defense Advocacy Organization, a non-profit advocacy group for missile defense testing, development and deployment, said in an October report that two PAC-3 batteries are in country to date.

The Defense Department in 2014 awarded Raytheon [RTN] a $2.4 billion contract to supply the Patriot missile system to Qatar. Lockheed Martin [LMT] serves as the primary contractor.

Qatar has ordered a number of Raytheon-built guided enhanced missiles (GEMs), along with Lockheed Martin’s missile segment enhancement (MSE) interceptors, Nabit said.

The Gulf nation is also pursuing new upper-tier and short-range air defense (SHORAD) missile defense systems to complement the PAC-3 units and form a multi-layered defense, he said.

Lockheed Martin’s Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system is a “very high possibility option” for the upper tier defense, he noted. He added that senior government officials will make the final decision on a system.

Qatar is considering several mid-tier options — one from the United States and two from European NATO countries, he said. A SHORAD product will be chosen ahead of the 2022 World Cup tournament, which will be hosted by Doha, he added.

“If it does not come before the World Cup, the benefit is limited,” he said.

Doha has reportedly been considering procuring Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense system. The two countries signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation in October 2017, according to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network.

Nabit would not confirm whether Doha still planned to procure the system. “Are we going to take it, are we committed to take it, are we still willing to take it – that’s a very high decision,” he said. Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, Qatar’s deputy prime minister and minister of state for defense, also declined to comment on the status of the S-400 talks in an interview with reporters later on Tuesday in Doha.

The Qatar Armed Forces began to work to upgrade its air defenses to include an integrated missile decision back in 2014, Nabit said. “Of course, many studies happened before that, but the final commitment to purchase these … was early in 2014,” he said.

The missile defense upgrades are but one facet of the country’s efforts to modernize its military over the past four years and into the future as it becomes increasingly self-reliant in the wake of cooling relations with its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners beginning in 2014. That came to a head when several Gulf countries, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, initiated a blockade on Qatar in June 2017.

Nabit noted that “air defense is a necessity” in a modern military. The Qatar Armed Forces elected to shift the air defense efforts out of the air force and create a new military branch in 2016, he said.