VAB modernisation surge: Qatar amplifies military strength with comprehensive upgrade of 180 vehicles and strategic push for local production

The Qatar Armed Forces (QAF) are undergoing a significant upgrade of their VAB Mk1 fleet, in collaboration with the French defence company Arquus. This modernisation effort, initiated in 2018, marks a pivotal step in Qatar’s military strategy to enhance the longevity and performance of its armoured vehicles.

The programme encompasses a comprehensive approach, including the modernisation and modification of existing vehicles, extensive repairs, and the training of both industrial and military personnel. While the initial phase of upgrades is taking place in France, Qatar is setting up a production line to facilitate future modernisations locally.

To date, the upgrade has been applied to 126 vehicles, with discussions underway to extend this to an additional 54 units. This phased approach indicates the strategic role of the VAB fleet within the QAF’s operational framework and Qatar’s broader objective of achieving a more self-reliant defence capability.

The initiative gained broader visibility during a visit by French Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, to the VAB assembly line in July 2023. His visit highlighted the ongoing discussions around expanding Qatar’s local production capabilities, including the potential manufacture of 8×8 armoured vehicles.

This move towards local production reflects an interest in expanding Qatar’s defence manufacturing capabilities, albeit the complexities of such an endeavour in terms of technology transfer and local skill development. A defence industry analyst, preferring anonymity, noted, “The efforts to localise production underline a growing trend among nations to secure their military supply chains. However, the effectiveness and efficiency of these ventures can vary significantly based on the extent of technology transfer and local expertise.”

Part of the modernisation programme’s broader strategy includes training initiatives, such as the completion of a six-month training course in France for 25 Qatari cadets. This training focused on the maintenance of the modernised VABs, aiming to bolster the QAF’s technical proficiency.

Arquus’s engagement with Qatar extends beyond the armed forces to the Internal Security Forces, supplying vehicles like the HIGUARD 6×6 and SHERPA 4×4. At the lastMilipol Qatar trade fair, Arquus showcased its VAB Mk3, a vehicle that embodies the latest in armoured vehicle technology but also signifies the deepening military cooperation between Qatar and France.

The VAB Mk3 highlights advances in armoured protection and mobility, aligning with Qatar’s ambitions to modernise its fleet. However, such advancements underscore the challenges and considerations involved in adopting and integrating new military technologies, from operational adaptation to cost implications.

This upgrade programme is part of Qatar’s broader efforts to enhance its military capabilities amid evolving regional security dynamics. As Qatar navigates these challenges, the success and impact of its modernisation and local production efforts remain a topic of interest within defence circles.

Photo credit: Arquss

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