1025 GMT July 20, 2019
“Qatar has fortified its skies with a new shield and receives the first regiment of the fighter planes (Rafale), which is headed today to the homeland,” Qatar’s Ministry of Defense tweeted in Arabic on Wednesday.
Furthermore, an unnamed diplomatic source in the capital, Doha, also said in an interview with AFP that “the first five Rafales” had arrived in Qatar “at 4:45 pm (1345 GMT)” on Wednesday “directly from France.”,Presstv Reported.
Back in 2015, Qatar ordered 24 of the fighters from France — the third-biggest arms exporter in the world — and added 12 more last year, the source said, adding that Doha had an option to buy yet another 36.
Qatar sealed a number of major arms deals with France and other countries after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt cut off diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5, 2017, after accusing it of “sponsoring terrorism.” The quartet also blacklisted dozens of individuals and entities purportedly associated with Doha.
Qatar has strenuously denied the charge.
The standoff with the Saudi-led quarter of countries has sometimes sparked fears of a military confrontation.
France formally gave the first five aircraft to Qatari officials during a ceremony held in Merignac, in southwestern France, where the planes are built, back in February. The twin-engine jets, however, remained there until now as Qatari pilots were being trained for the platform.
The Rafale has been in service with the French air force since 2004.
Qatar has also purchased Mirage F1, Alpha Jets, and Mirage 2000 fighters from France.
The Persian Gulf Arab country hosts a major United States air base, home to the headquarters of CENTCOM, the US’s regional command.