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U.S. battles Eurofighter over Qatar’s tender for 72 jet fighters

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The United States is battling to win Qatar’s
multi-billion-dollar fighter-jet competition.

Industry sources said the administration of President Barack Obama has
been lobbying the Gulf Cooperation Council emirate to select a U.S. warplane
for Doha’s largest combat air project.

F/A-18 Super Hornet.

F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The sources said the administration has succeeded in delaying Qatar’s tender, which included proposals from Britain and France.

“After Saudi Arabia, the Qatar project will be the biggest aircraft procurement for years to come,” a source said.

The sources said Qatar, which established an evaluation panel, was moving slowly in a tender for up to 72 advanced fighter-jets, a project that could cost up to $20 billion. They said Washington was lobbying Doha to select either the F-15 or the F/A-18 Super Hornet, both produced by Boeing. Qatar’s fighter-jet fleet has been based on the Mirage 2000 by France’s Dassault Aviation.

Qatar has agreed to a U.S. demand to delay the deadline for submission
of Request for Proposals. The sources said the
deadline for the RfP was September 2013, but Washington obtained a
three-month extension that could last even longer.

The U.S. aircraft faces competition from the Eurofighter by Britain’s
BAE Systems and France’s Rafale. The Qatari tender called for 36
fighter-jets with an option for a similar number of platforms.

Over the last two years, Qatar, under its new emir, Tamim Bin Hamad, has
moved from France to the United States as the prime supplier for the
emirate’s military. Doha has ordered the C-17 strategic air transport,
C-130J tactical transport and the AH-64 attack helicopter.

“Tamim clearly wants to move quickly on the fighter-jet project, but he
understands that his country is very limited in trained personnel,
technology and logistics,” the source said. “The likelihood is that the emir
will use any procurement as leverage for a strategic relationship.”

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