Qatar signs contract for four C-130J transports

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Qatar's air force modernisation efforts have been boosted by a new contract for four Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports, with the aircraft to join two C-17 strategic airlifters recently ordered from Boeing.

Announced on 7 October, the latest deal is worth almost $394 million and covers the delivery from 2011 of four stretched-fuselage C-130J-30s, plus personnel training services, spare parts and support equipment, says Lockheed.

"This acquisition will provide our country with a highly flexible airlift capability," says Brig Gen Ahmad Ibrahim Al Malki, chairman of the Qatar Emiri Air Force's airlift evaluation committee.

Qatar's surprise acquisition makes it the ninth nation to have ordered the C-130J, following Australia, Canada, Denmark, India, Italy, Norway, the UK and the USA. Aircraft already in service have amassed a combined total of almost 500,000 flight hours, according to Lockheed.

Industry sources say Qatar has also decided to retain an air combat capability, and has shown early interest in acquiring a new fleet of multirole fighters. Its current inventory includes 13 Dassault Mirage 2000-9s, according to Flight's MiliCAS database.