The first Dassault Rafale for Qatar was ceremonially handed over on 6 February 2019 at the Dassault plant in Mérignac. The ceremony was attended by a large number of VIPs, including Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs, HE Dr. Khalid bin Mohamed al -Attiyah, Qatar & # 39; s ambassador in France, Sheikh Ali bin Jassim al-Thani, staff Major General (pilot) Mubarak bin Mohamed Al Khayareen, commander of the Qatar Amiri Air Force and Chief Brigadier General (engineer air) Mohamed Mubarak al-Shahwani, as well as Geneviève Darrieussecq, secretary of state at the French Minister of Armed Forces, and Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

The purchase of the Rafale by Qatar follows previous acquisitions of the Dassault Mirage F1, Alpha Jet and Mirage 2000. "For the fourth time in our long and reliable partnership with Qatar, a Dassault Aviation aircraft will be proud in the Qatari Amiri Air Force serve, "said Trappier. "This first delivery is the culmination of a relationship that started more than 40 years ago and I am very happy and grateful that the state of Qatar has renewed its confidence in our dedication and not once, but twice the choice for the Rafale confirmed to protect his country and people. & # 39;

During the ceremony the new Qatari Rafale squad "Al Adyiyat" was named after a Sura in the Koran and a new squadron insignia (a head of a stylized Arabian stallion) was unveiled on the tail fin of the Rafale. During their visit, the deputy director of Qatari and the commander of Amiri Air Force flew on board an air bridge Airbus A330 MRTT to see Qatari Rafale pilots practicing with air refueling.

Qatar signed an agreement of € 6.3 billion for the purchase of 24 Rafales (six of them trainers with two seats) in May 2015. A dozen other aircraft were added to the order in December 2017. Qatar's Rafales differ in detail of those delivered in France and Egypt and the integration of the Lockheed Martin Sniper-targeting pod and the Elbit Systems TARGO-II helmet-mounted target designation system required extensive testing.


Qatar's Rafales come with a range of advanced weapons along with Sniper's advanced targeting pod. (Photo: Dassault Aviation)

The first Rafale DQ for Qatar, a two-seater, made its first flight on June 28, 2016, while the single-seat Rafale EQ flew for the first time on March 27, 2017. The aircraft are supplied with MBDA MICA IR, MICA EM, and Meteor air -air missiles and with MBDA SCALP-EG cruise missiles and a range of air-base weapons, including laser and GPS-guided Safran AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modular) Hammer missiles.

Qatari employees are trained at Base Aérienne 118 Mont-de-Marsan in south-west France, Rochefort and the Joint Intelligence Training Institute in Strasbourg. The first set of pilots who had been trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officials. Escadron de Chasse 04.030 was founded on Mont-de-Marsan as the Qatar Rafale Squadron on October 1, 2017. The Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, visited the Qatari Rafale Squadron on Mont-de-Marsan on July 6, 2018 , accompanied by the French defense minister Florence Parly.

Under the SOUTEX program, the Armee trains the l & # 39; Air 250 staff members manning the first Qatari Rafale squadron. This unit will initially be ordered by a French officer until later this year, when the order will be handed over to a Qatari officer before the unit moves to Qatar in the summer of 2020.