Swedish outlet Nordic Monitor reported that the Turkish Air Force is set to train with Qatar Emiri Air Force Dassault Rafale jets to counter the Greek military, which has increased its air force capabilities with newly acquired Rafale fighter aircraft from its ally France. One of the reasons for Turkey’s push to strike a military training agreement with Qatar was to familiarize its air force with the Rafale fighter jet’s capabilities in a bid to a perceived threat posed by the Hellenic Air Force in the Aegean and Mediterranean. The military agreement, signed by the chiefs of staff of both countries in March 2021, allows the temporary deployment of up to 36 Qatari military aircraft and up to 250 personnel to Turkey.
It is not clear how this would play out and what the terms of the sales agreement between Qatar and France are concerning the deployment of Rafale jets to third countries and the training of pilots from those countries. It may very well be that Qatar may need the approval of France. The agreement requires that one Turkish pilot be present in each Qatari aircraft. In a similar case in 2017 the US rejected a Turkish proposal to use Pakistani pilots to train Turkish pilots in F-16 fighter jets following the government’s purge of 680 of 1,350 pilots in the Turkish Air Force, which left it with a huge shortage of combat pilots. Although Turkey and France are NATO allies, the two countries have diverged on several foreign policy issues in recent years. President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an slammed French President Emanuel Macron on many occasions and viciously insulted him.
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Introduced in 2001, the Rafale is being produced for both the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations in the French Navy. The Rafale has been marketed for export to several countries and was selected for purchase by the Indian Air Force, the Egyptian Air Force, and the Qatar Air Force. In January 2021, the official agreement with Dassault Aviation was ratified in the Hellenic Parliament and included the purchase of six newly built, and 12 used F3-R aircraft in the previous service with the Armée de l’Air at a total cost of €2.4 billion, including their armament and ground support.
Qatar originally signed a $6.92 billion memorandum of understanding covering the supply of 24 Rafales (six of them two-seat trainers) in May 2015. Twelve more Rafales were added to the original order in December 2017 and Qatar retains an option to buy up to 36 more. The Qatar Emiri Air Force Rafale aircraft are being supplied with MBDA MICA infrared, MICA EM, and Meteor air-to-air missiles, and with MBDA SCALP-EG cruise missiles, as well as a range of air-to-ground weapons, including laser- and GPS-guided Safran AASM Hammer missiles. The Qatari Rafales also have provision for an Elbit Systems TARGO-II helmet-mounted target designation system, laser designator pod instead of the French Thales Damocles, or the new Thales Talios pod (now under development).