The contenders are :
* Lockheed Martin F-35
* Boeing F/A18E and F-15 (SE ?)
* Eurofighter Typhoon
* Dassault Rafale
* Saab Gripen (NG ?)
First thought to be for 40 planes, the order will most probably be for 24 to 36 jets.
The competition to supply a new fighter to the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) is now formally underway.
Evaluation of program candidates has begun, the service’s commander, Brig. Gen. Mubarak Bin Mohammed Al-Khayarin, tells the Shephard Air Power Middle East conference here. The goal is to make a type selection before the end of 2012.
The size of the program is still under discussion, with 24-36 fighters likely to be acquired. The aircraft would replace Dassault Mirage 2000-5s.
The service is evaluating a broad spectrum of aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15, Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale, says Al-Khayarin. Saab officials note they also have entered the competition.
Qatar’s is only one of several military aircraft contests in the region. The United Arab Emirates’ effort to buy a new fighter appears open again, after an apparent impasse between front-runner Dassault and the government following prolonged negotiations. The UAE has signaled interest in the F/A-18E/F, with European officials also believing the type selection is again in play.
Likewise, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain remain potential buyers of new aircraft.
Meanwhile, discussions continue between the U.K. and Saudi Arabia regarding a follow-on purchase of Typhoons on top of the 72 already on order.