Qatar is executing a major upgrade and expansion of the United States’ largest overseas air base, Al-Udeid Air Base:
Qatar will spend $1.8 billion upgrading the major air base used by the United States for its ongoing military and counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf kingdom said Monday.
According to Defense Minister Khaled Mohammed al-Attiyah, expansion of the base, which houses about 10,000 U.S. military personnel, will include new housing and expanded operational capabilities:
New family housing facilities for more than 200 officers and other infrastructure enlargements, along with “operational” improvements, Defense Minister Khaled Mohammed al-Attiyah said in an interview.
The improvements, to be formally announced at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, were previewed this year in meetings between Attiyah and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The base is key to U.S. military efforts in the Middle East and has played a central role in the Pentagon’s air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq:
In addition to the large U.S. troop presence, it is also the headquarters of Air Forces Central Command, headed by a three-star U.S. general, and a combined air operations center from which the Pentagon tracks the maneuvers of aircraft throughout the region.
Qatar’s willingness to let the United States fly bombers from Al Udeid is seen as particularly significant:
Other nations in the region do not allow bombers, but the Pentagon has had a steady rotation of bomber squadrons through the base. A unit of B-1B bombers arrived this spring, replacing B-52s that carried out airstrikes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria over the previous two years.
Qatar and the United States have spent billions of dollars together to improve and expand key U.S. combat capabilities in the region:
The U.S. military has spent about $450 million in construction at Al Udeid since 2003, expanding the facility from an expeditionary airfield in which many U.S. troops lived in tents to the more permanent structures there today. Qatar calculates it has spent $8 billion there to support U.S. operations.
In addition, Qatar is a key purchaser of U.S. defense equipment and aircraft, enabling operational cohesion and mission support between the allied militaries:
Qatar is a major customer for the U.S. defense industry, including last year’s purchase of $12 billion worth of F-15s. “We have bought a lot of military equipment from the U.S. so we can fly hand in hand with our partners,” Attiya said.
According to Qatar, a contract for 36 F-15 fighter jets “supports 50,000 total jobs and more than 550 suppliers in 42 states.” Other recent purchases include $20 million worth of Javelin guided missiles, $700 million in logistics support services and equipment, and an estimated $200 million in weapons systems “which support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States.”