The rich oil monarchy would become a great naval power, but there is a serious problem
Qatar has reason to increase its naval capabilities.
The country is one of the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas, so it must be able to secure passage for its commercial ships through the unstable Strait of Hormuz. Meanwhile, Doha has a traditionally bad relationship with neighboring Arab states. And so with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. This has also led to several diplomatic clashes or even trade embargoes in the past decade.
Although the blockade surrounding Qatar ends in 2021, the distant approach remains.
To increase the capacity of the navy, Doha relies mainly on two partners: Italy and Turkey. In 2009, Qatar’s naval capabilities included 7 fast attack vessels and a few coast guard vessels. In 2017, during the blockade, with the Italian company Fincantieri link 5.9 billion contracts for 4 cruisers, 2 offshore patrol vessels and 1 landing platform dock. The agreement was completed with the purchase of a missile worth $1.1 billion. Later, they also signed a contract with the Italian company Leonardo for the purchase of 28 NH90 helicopters. According to some speculations, Doha will soon add Italian submarines to its capabilities. Meanwhile, the from the Turks Coastal patrol ships have arrived, and it was recently announced that additional interception and landing ships have been added to the Qatari fleet.
Doha is also expanding its infrastructure, with several new facilities opening in recent years.
However, the rapidly increasing capabilities have one problematic component, namely training and maintenance personnel. The country’s population mainly makes it difficult to provide defense capabilities; Only 3 million people live in the country and about 10% of the population are Qatari citizens. Since the country’s defense forces depend on the local population, serious changes are needed.
In 2022, the Qatari fleet will number less than 3,000 people, and by 2025 it will need at least 7,000 people. This challenge forced the Islamic State to change the legal system: it increased mandatory military service and allowed women to join the army. However, according to experts, it is fundamentally inevitable that the staff will not be filled exclusively with Qatari nationals, so Indian and Filipino sailors may soon join the ranks of the Qatari forces.
Moreover, Qatar is making great improvements in other armed forces as well, so reform is inevitable.
In addition, the country continues to pay great attention to the relationship with its allies, and will conduct military exercises with the United States in the future.
The cover image shows joint military exercises in 2017 with Qatar and the United Kingdom. Cover photo credit: Qatar Ministry of Defense/Hiba/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images