The first test flight of the F-15QA Advanced Eagle, also known as the F-15QA Ababil, with serial number FMS 17-0037, took place on May 23 at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Missouri, United States.
This flight marks the start of extensive testing and evaluation to ensure that the aircraft meets the highest performance and safety standards.
The production process and the challenges encountered
Originally, the FMS production numbers for Qatar ranged from 17-0001 to 17-0036. However, during the assembly process, two aircraft were transferred to the United States Air Force as F-15EX 20-0001 and 20-0002. This posed additional challenges in meeting the Qatari order, but Boeing was able to accommodate and ensure that the 17-0037 and 17-0038 aircraft entered production.
Unfortunately, one of the aircraft, serial number 17-0010, crashed on May 18, 2021 on the runway at Belleville/Scott Air Force Base (MidAmerica Airport, IL). Fortunately, the pilots managed to eject and were safe. Repairs are currently underway, although the fighter is unlikely to be ready for delivery to the Qatar Air Force this year.
The supply contract and its strategic importance
The United States Department of State approved this major contract for the supply of F-15QA fighters to Qatar in November 2016 under the Foreign Military Sales program.
The deal includes up to 72 F-15QA multirole aircraft, as well as related weapons and services, with an estimated total value of $21.1 billion. This acquisition will significantly strengthen Qatar’s defense capability and enhance its regional strategic position.
The history and stages of the project
The development process of this project has been long and has involved cooperation and collaboration between various parties. On June 14, 2017, United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Qatari Minister of State for Defense Khaled bin Mohammed al-Attiyah signed a preliminary agreement of intent for the sale of the fighter jets. F-15QA to the Qatar Air Force. This firm laid the foundations for the development and implementation of the project.
Boeing was selected in December 2017 by the United States Department of Defense to supply the 36 new F-15QA configuration aircraft to the Qatar Air Force under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Assembly of the first F-15QA, serial number 17-0001, began in August 2018, with flight tests taking place beginning in April 2020. These stages of the project have been instrumental in ensuring that the aircraft meets the highest standards of quality and performance.
The relevance of the F-15QA in the Qatari air force
These new F-15QA fighters will replace the fleet of aging French Mirage-2000-5s in the Qatar Air Force. Delivery of the F-15QAs to Qatar is expected to be completed in 2023. However, the contract includes options for the delivery of another 36 aircraft, which would extend production to 2026.
This demonstrates Qatar’s confidence, commitment to acquiring state-of-the-art defense capabilities, and determination to strengthen its air force.
The future of the partnership between Boeing and Qatar
Boeing has not only supplied these state-of-the-art fighters but also has plans to establish a training center in 2024 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. This center will be used to train the flight and technical personnel of the 51st Ababil Squadron (“Flock of Birds”), which is part of the 5th Air Wing of the Qatar Air Force.
In addition, the company will supply spare parts and provide technical support services in Qatar after the delivery of the aircraft, ensuring continuous collaboration and quality support.
Highlights of the F-15QA fighters
The F-15QA fighters stand out for their cutting-edge technology and multirole capability. These aircraft are equipped with fly-by-wire systems, a state-of-the-art digital cockpit, improved sensors, radar and state-of-the-art electronic warfare equipment, as well as a powerful onboard computer. These features ensure that pilots have accurate situational awareness and can make informed decisions on the battlefield.
During the unveiling of the first F-15QA, designated the QA500, which took place on August 25, 2021, at the St. Louis plant, it was noted that it was equipped with a variety of weaponry, including the 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile, the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile, the AGM-84A Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision bomb. In addition, it featured the AN/AAQ-28 [V] Lightning targeting system and the AN/AAS-42 Tiger Eyes integrated infrared detection and tracking system (IRST), supplemented by the AN/AAQ-33 external targeting system. Sniper.
The completion of production of the latest F-15QA fighters for Qatar marks a significant milestone in the partnership between Boeing and Qatar. These state-of-the-art aircraft will strengthen Qatar’s defense capability and play a crucial role in the country’s security and defense. With advanced features and cutting-edge technology, the F-15QAs are ready to meet future challenges and ensure Qatar’s air superiority.