Qatar, which has the world’s highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and been in a phase of military modernisation to keep pace with its neighbouring countries, depends mostly on US-made defence equipment, according to a report by Strategic Defence Intelligence (SDI).
Titled ‘Future of the Qatari Defense Industry – Market Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2021’, the report explains that energy-wealthy nations such as Qatar, though small in geographical area, need a strong military to protect their interest and strengthen economic influence.
Lack of indigenous capabilities in defence cause Qatar to depend on foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), dominantly those based in the US, to procure arms for protecting its critical infrastructure and assets.
US-based companies accounted for 73.4% of Qatar’s defence imports during 2011-2015. Attack and multi-purpose helicopters, missile systems, and armoured vehicles are the major items imported by the country. Aircraft alone account for 96.8% of Qatar’s arms imports from the US.
The US and Qatar renewed their defence co-operation agreement, allowing the former’s forces to operate at the latter’s Al Udeid Air Base up to 2024. Qatar has also initiated negotiations with the US for the procurement of 36 F-15 fighters. However, it continues to procure equipment from Germany, Italy and France to reduce its dependence on a single country.
SDI forecasts that fighter and multi-mission helicopters, fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, and radars will be Qatar’s areas of focus over the next five years.
The report further states that US-based companies will have new opportunities to export security systems, as Qatar is set to host the World Cup in 2022. It lists a number of potential products that Qatar is expected to import, such as cameras, biometric and video-surveillance systems, training and cyber-security software.