DOHA, Qatar – The Qatar Emiri Naval Forces are moving ahead with plans to expand its fleet, along with its base footprint, over the next four years, a service spokesman said Wednesday.

The navy in 2016 signed a deal with Italy’s Fincantieri worth about $4.5 billion to build seven new service vessels over the next 10 years including four corvettes, two offshore patrol vehicles and one landing platform/dock (LPD) amphibious transport ship, along with relevant services. The company began work on the first “Doha”-class corvette this past July at its Muggiano shipyards, according to a press release. fincantieri-multirole-corvette

The service also plans to invest in six fast boats of various sizes, as well as a new coastal defense system involving four different batteries outfitted with a range of missile options, the navy spokesman told reporters on Wednesday here. It is pushing an aggressive timeline in accordance with Qatar’s “National Vision 2030” strategic plan and as the Gulf state prepares to host the 2022 World Cup tournament in Doha, he said.

Preliminary and critical design reviews for the LPD ship are expected to occur in about eight months, he said.

The naval expansion is a result of shifting responsibilities for the Qatar Armed Forces amid “changes in the region,” the spokesman said. The service plans to broaden its reach as it looks to protect its lucrative oil and gas fields and be more involved in humanitarian efforts, logistics support, exercises and other assignments in its vicinity.

The Qatari navy is planning to build new bases to accommodate the additional ships and personnel and to upgrade the infrastructure.

By 2020, the main naval hub will move from its current location at the Doha base to a new base called Um Al Houl, which will be adjacent to the new Hamad commercial port in development south of Doha, the spokesman said. That is where the crux of its fleet will be located, although the Doha base will still be used, he said.

 One new naval platform is being built in the Persian Gulf to protect Qatar’s oil fields. Another new base will be built to the north of Doha in Al Ruwais, along with a new naval school, set to open within the next two to three years.