DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar announced contracts worth about $23 billion on Thursday to buy attack helicopters, guided missiles, tankers and other weapons from Boeing Co (BA.N), Airbus (AIR.PA) and other arms makers as the Gulf state accelerates its military build-up.
The world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter announced deals with about 20 global companies, including firms from the United States which were awarded deals worth 27.5 billion riyals ($7.6 billion), said a spokeswoman for a Doha defence conference where the announcements were made.
Qatar, and other Gulf Arab and Middle Eastern countries are looking to acquire new high-tech military equipment to protect themselves from neighboring Iran and internal threats after the Arab Spring uprising.
Boeing (BA.N) confirmed that the announcement included a contract to buy 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and three Boeing 737 Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.
The deal for the helicopters was valued at 8.9 billion riyals, said the spokeswoman for the conference.
In Paris, France’s Defence Ministry said Qatar had agreed to buy 22 NH90 military helicopters from a unit of European aerospace group Airbus worth 2 billion euros ($2.76 billion) and two Airbus-made refuelling tankers.
NHIndustries is 62.5 percent owned by Airbus’s Eurocopter helicopter unit, 32 percent owned by AgustaWestland, a unit of Italy Finmeccanica’s SIFI.MI and 5.5 percent by Stork Fokker.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the U.S. body which oversees foreign arms sales, had notified lawmakers in July 2012 of a possible sale of the Apache helicopters to Qatar.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. agency had no immediate comment.
Washington has been keen to deepen its cooperation with Gulf nations, who have been long-standing allies, on missile defence and increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
The Apache helicopters, fitted with longbow radar, are built by Boeing and used by the U.S. Army, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom, according to its website.
($1 = 3.6415 Qatar Riyals)
Reporting by Praveen Menon in Doha and Marine Pennetier in Paris, Editing by William Maclean and Elaine Hardcastle