RAF Eurofighter in Qatar
Copyright: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2020 / UK Ministry of Defence 2020

Royal Air Force and qatari pilots operate for the first time ad a joint squadron in Qatar

Typhoons from Number 12 Squadron have arrived in Qatar for Exercise Epic Skies. Pilots from the Royal Air Force and Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) will fly the Typhoons together for the first time as a joint squadron in Qatar, strengthening the close ties between both nations.

More than 130 personnel from the Royal Air Force have deployed to Qatar to support the two-week joint exercise, which will see Qatari pilots and engineers fly and maintain the Typhoon alongside their RAF colleagues. Pilots from the joint squadron will be challenged in a range of air to air, and air to surface scenarios which will put their training to the test.

The Government of Qatar has ordered 24 Typhoons as part of a £6 billion deal, which also includes 9 Hawk jet trainers and a bespoke support and training package. Qatari pilots, engineers, and technicians are completing world-class training at a number of RAF establishments prior to joining 12 Squadron, where they will develop their technical skills and build their experience on the Typhoon.

12 Squadron reformed in 2018 as the RAF’s first joint squadron since the Second World War. Qatari pilots and groundcrew have been learning how to fly and maintain the Typhoon at RAF Coningsby since June 2020, with RAF personnel providing world-class training both in the air and on the ground.

Wing Commander Chris Wright, Officer Commanding 12 Squadron, said:  It has been fantastic to return to Qatar this year and receive such a warm welcome from so many familiar faces. Considerable progress has been made since last year’s Epic Skies, with many pilots and engineers from the Qatar Emiri Air Force thoroughly embedded into 12 Squadron. The first of the Qatari pilots to begin flying the Typhoon are eager to put their new skills and training to the test, flying alongside their colleagues in a series of challenging scenarios on home turf.

Lt Col Faisal Al-Ghanim, Deputy Officer Commanding 12 Squadron, said: “This year’s Epic Skies is particularly unique. I’ve been involved in several of these exercises in the past, but this year is the first time I return home to fly the Typhoon alongside my RAF and Qatari colleagues, wearing the 12 Squadron crest. We joined the Squadron earlier this year to a very warm welcome, quickly integrating into day-to-day life and operations. Returning to fly from Qatar at a familiar air base is an absolute privilege, and I look forward to the challenges the exercise brings to our joint squadron.

Stability in the Middle East is a priority for both the UK and Qatar. 12 Squadron’s joint operational training will boost Qatar’s ability to tackle our shared security challenges, ensuring regional stability and protecting the security of the UK at home. 

The Government of Qatar has committed to a £6 billion package which includes 24 Typhoons, 9 Hawk jet trainers, and a bespoke support and training package. They also have a contract with MBDA for an associated weapons. Typhoons ordered by the Government of Qatar are being assembled in the UK, supporting thousands of jobs at locations including Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire.

The first Qatari pilots to fly Typhoons with 12 Squadron started in June 2020 at RAF Coningsby. Several of the pilots have returned home for Epic Skies IV as part of the joint squadron. Over the course of the two-week exercise, 12 Squadron will conduct a variety of air to air and air to ground missions against and alongside Qatari Rafales and Mirage 2000-5s.