More Caravans for Tunisian Air Force


Tunisia’s Air Force will be receiving four Grand Caravans for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, up from the two airframes initially contracted.

Textron Aviation on 7 March said it had been awarded a contract by ATI Engineering Services for four Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft for the Tunisian Air Force – ATI will modify and equip the aircraft with an electro-optical/infra-red sensor, operator console, tactical radio, video data link and night vision compatible lighting.

“The fleet of Grand Caravan EX single-engine turboprops will aid the Tunisian Air Force in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the country,” said Bob Gibbs, vice president, Special Mission Sales for Textron Aviation. “The aircraft is engineered for challenging missions, high payloads and short, unimproved runways, while delivering single-engine economy and simplicity. It is a perfect match for this mission throughout Africa.”

News of the Tunisian contract surfaced in 2019, and in response to a defenceWeb query, a US Department of Defence spokesperson said Congress was notified of a Tunisia ISR contract which included Cessna 208 Caravans “as a Section 333 capacity building initiative in support of US Africom.”

The Caravans will not be armed but will be configured for ISR purposes “to aid in Tunisia’s border security efforts.”

Section 333 programmes provide training and equipment to the national security forces of foreign countries for the purpose of building the capacity of such forces to conduct operations such as counter-terrorism.

On 30 September 2021, ATI Engineering Services was awarded a $9 690 087 order for a “Tunisia intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system. This delivery order provides for two aircraft, support equipment and spares. Work will be performed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be completed by 30 November 2022,” the contract notice read.

It appears that four aircraft are now destined for the Tunisian Air Force. A Textron spokesperson told Janes that the initial award was followed “a couple of months later” by another executing the options for the third and fourth aircraft.

The US Government previously provided grant aid funding for 14 Grand Caravan EX aircraft procured through Foreign Military Sale cases throughout Africa. Textron’s announcement this week mentioned US Government grand aid funding for 16, and not 14, Grand Caravan EX aircraft “procured through Foreign Military Sale cases throughout Africa, with Tunisia being the latest recipient.”

ATI Engineering in 2020 was contracted to convert two Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft for the Rwanda Defence Force under the US military’s African Partnership Flight initiative.

Cessna Caravans have been a popular choice of ISR aircraft amongst African countries, acquired either as donations from the United States or purchased outright.

Africom’s African partners who already possess Grand Caravan EX aircraft include Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Kenya and Uganda. These countries are co-participants in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, particularly in missions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Tunisia is also scheduled to receive eight T-6C Texan II trainers from Textron Aviation Defence by October this year. It has four AT-6C Wolverine light attack aircraft on order as well. The Wolverines are being acquired with Mk 81 and Mk 82 bombs, Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) rockets, L-3 WESCAM MX 15D Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems and 12.7 mm machineguns.