Agile, Versatile, Deadly: 6 MENA Airforces & Their Surgical Fighter Jets

With Qatar recently acquiring its first ever Eurofighter Typhoon military aircraft ahead of the 2022 World Cup, we decided to look around and share some of the MENA region’s jetfighter crown jewels, who has them, and what makes them unique.

Egypt 

One of the most powerful countries in the region when it comes to the airforce, thanks in large part to its modern jet fighters and the sheer number of them, totaling a whopping 1,107 aircraft, according to the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft.

The country has been one of the frontrunners when adapting to the political and military situation within the region for years; going as far back as the Pharaonic era, taking in new technologies and molding them to military needs, with the easiest example being the chariots.

Taking to the sky, the most number of craft that the country has is the American F-16A/C, also known as the “Fighting Falcon,” this multirole jet makes the bulk of the fighters within its arsenal. Versatile, agile, and highly effective, these planes took part in several key missions, including attacking ISIS weapons caches and training camps in Lybia back in 2015 as part of a retaliatory effort after the murder of 21 Egyptians.

Still, Egypt has more modern fighters that would make up the country’s crown jewels. From France, the famed Dassault Rafale DM/EM is one of Egypt’s most prized fighters, with 24 currently in the country’s arsenal arriving during the past decade, with an expected 30 more to join up to 2026.

On the other hand, the second most modern jet fighter is the Russian Sukhoi SU-35 SE. However, there are only seven as of 2022, with 21 more expected to join the roster in the coming years. The jets’ purchase caused a bit of a stir in 2021 with the US, which didn’t give its blessing when it came to making the transfer, and even threatened with sanctions, yet, nothing came to pass.

Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia comes second when it comes to the number of aircraft numbers, with a still impressive 702 vehicles in total.

Like Egypt, an American jet makes the bulk of its total fighters, with the F-15S/SA, which is a variant of the F-15S; specifically made for the country to give it capabilities to enable the Royal Saudi Air Force to deter regional threats.

VIA VPK

The F-15S/SA aircraft continues to be an integral part of the Royal Saudi Air Force, thanks to its effectiveness in several missions within the region, including air raids against the Houthi insurgency in Northern Yemen. The jets proved themselves accurate and versatile against targets, with little losses from land to air missiles.

That said, the most modern aircraft the kingdom has is the multinational Eurofighter Typhoon, which is a favorite in several Gulf countries and Europe. The Typhoon is a multi-use aircraft that has been very useful in the kingdom’s arsenal as it showed off its versatility in several missions in Yemen, as well as ISIS targets in Syria as part of a coalition.

Algeria 

The Arab country in Africa with the second highest number of aircraft, Algeria, has 541 in total; unfortunately, they’re not as modern as the first two on the list.

The country’s most advanced aircraft is the Russian Sukhoi SU-30, which is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter aircraft, that can work in several weather conditions. The Sukhois make the backbone of the Algerian Air Force since their arsenal is composed mainly of them.

The rest of the fighter jets the Algerian Air Force has is made out of older planes, including the MiG-25, MiG-29, and Sukhoi SU-24, all of which can trace back their roots to the Soviet Union.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most developed countries in the region, and its air force seemingly depends on two aircraft, creating a more adhesive and unified front.

The UAE has a total of 327 aircraft, depending on the impressive capabilities of the American F-16E, informally dubbed the “Desert Falcon.” However, the version the UAE has is specifically created for the country, with better radar capabilities and a weapons management system that provides the ability to simultaneously track and destroy ground and air threats.

Besides the F-16E, the UAE’s other multirole aircraft is the French Dassault Mirage 2000, which the country has depended on in several bombing campaigns in the region, including in Yemen, and according to the BBC and United Nations Support Mission in Libya possibly in Lybia.

While these two are what mainly comprise the UAE’s air force, in a historic contract with Dassault Aviation in December of 2021, the UAE signed a contract, acquiring 80 Rafale F4 from the company, with their delivery to be conducted in the upcoming years. Upon their arrival to the country, they will become the dominant fighting force in the UAE’s air force.

Kingdom Of Jordan 

With a total of 278 aircraft, the Royal Jordanian Air Force depends on one jet as its warhorse, the American F-16A.

This doubling down on a single fighter jet model creates cohesion amongst the ranks and efficacy when it comes to sharing and relaying information between jets, as they all work with the same systems overall.

As mentioned earlier, the F-16A is a powerful jet that is used by several countries all over the world, including Egypt, UAE, Morocco, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, USA, Netherlands, and South Korea among others. This situation makes it easier for allies to conduct training missions and collaborative efforts during coalitions.

Qatar 

As for the Qatari Emiri Air Force, it has a total of 125 aircraft, composed mostly of French and multinational vehicles.

Qatar currently has plans to extensively improve upon its air force soon, but at the moment, the airforce comprises mainly 15 French Dassault Rafale DQ/EQ as its mains force with a deal going through for 57 more in the upcoming years.

In the past week, Qatar acquired its first-ever Eurofighter Typhoon ahead of the 2022 World Cup, set to start later this November, with a deal going through for 23 more to be delivered to the country later.

“Today’s Typhoon delivery is another exciting milestone for our joint UK-Qatar collaboration, which will see the sharing of training and expertise between our respective air forces and will ensure both our nations stay at the forefront of defense capability. This joint project underlines how much Britain values its Middle East partnerships”, said Mr. Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defense of the United Kingdom.

According to AviaciOnline, the aircraft will “ provide critical security support for the FIFA World Cup, which will be held in the Emirate of Qatar from November 20.”

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