Qatar's fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters are rarely seen, let alone photographed outside the desert kingdom. But Exercise Anatolian Eagle 14-2 in Turkey provided an opportunity to get these rare fighters in front of the lens.
Like most Middle Eastern air arms, the Qatar Emiri Air Force is extremely camera-shy.
With just 12 Dassault Mirage 2000s to protect the gas-rich desert kingdom, the aircraft rarely leave the country’s borders, where photography of military aircraft, or indeed aviation in general is strictly prohibited.
All Photos: Tony Osborne - Aviation Week
But Qatar’s decision to take part in a major international exercise in Turkey in June, allowed photographers to get up close to these rarely seen machines.
Three years after the Qataris took part in the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector over Libya, the country decided to attend Exercise Anatolian Eagle 14-2, a coalition exercise out of Konya AB, Turkey.
With its location between Europe and the Middle East, Anatolian Eagle has proved to be a useful location for NATO and Middle Eastern air arms to train together. Recent years have seen attendance of aircraft from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
This year was no exception, along with aircraft from Turkey, Spain and U.K., Qatar was also joined by three F-16s from Jordan, but a highly anticipated deployment from Oman cancelled two weeks prior.
Qatar’s Mirage 2000-5 are operated by the 7th Air Superiority Squadron, which operates a mix of single-seat and twin-seat jets and all are optimized for the air defense mission but may also have a secondary strike role.
The future of the jets is uncertain however.
Back in late March, Doha announced a series of expensive defense procurements including tankers, airborne early warning aircraft and helicopters and a fighter order is believed to be just around the corner. Under current plans Qatar will increase the number of fighters it will buy by a factor of six, with plans for 72 new combat aircraft.
The French press has reported that the order will be for Rafale, but the true outcome remains unclear and the Qatari personnel present at Anatolian Eagle were reluctant to talk about anything, let alone the country’s future fighter.
Either way, its possible that Anatolian Eagle could be one of the last opportunities to get a Qatari Mirage 2000 in front of a camera lens, at least outside of that nation.