Sikorsky receives Tunisian Black Hawk contract


The US Army has contracted Sikorsky to supply eight UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to the Tunisian government, for delivery before the end of 2016.

The US Department of Defence made the announcement on Mar 17, stating that Fiscal 2015 and other procurement funds in the amount of $93 312 100 were obligated at the time of the award, which is being handled by Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The contract is a modification to the $2.8 billion July 11, 2012, multi-year contract for up to 916 UH/MH-60 helicopters for the US Army, US Navy and Foreign Military Sales customers.

Tunisia requested 12 Black Hawks in July last year in a deal worth $700 million including equipment, parts, training and logistical support. Delivery was originally scheduled for between 2017 and 2018, a date which Tunisian says has been brought forward to later this year due to heightened terrorist activity inside the country.

The UH-60M Black Hawk variant Tunisia will receive is the most advanced model of the UH-60/S-70 series, and features the ability to be armed with rockets and missiles. The eight helicopters Tunisia will get will be in a green (unmodified) configuration but Tunisia has requested Battlehawk kits that effectively turn the aircraft into attack helicopters. As part of the deal Tunisia will get 24 7.62 mm M134 Miniguns, 24 12.7 mm (.50 inch) GAU-19 Gatling guns, 20 M299 Hellfire missile pods and 24 70 mm Hydra rocket pods with 9 100 Hydra rockets and 100 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles.

Other equipment will include 15 Wescam MX-15Di or Brite Star II electro-optical/infrared designators and 30 AN/AVS-9 night-vision goggles. The countermeasures suite is to comprise AN/APR-39A(V)4 radar warning receivers, AN/AAR-57 missile warning systems, and AN/AVR-2B(V)1 laser warning systems.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) stated that the Black Hawks will be used to provide border patrol, rapid reaction and field expedient medical evacuation for Tunisia’s air and ground forces in counter-terrorism and border security operations. The Tunisian army has been battling various militant groups allied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) since late 2012.

The Tunisian Air Force recently took delivery of a second C-130J from the US as part of efforts to boost the cargo and troop airlift capabilities. The US is also working to strengthen the operational capabilities of the Tunisian navy and donated two 13.5 metre patrol boats to that end last year.

In August last year the United States donated 10 tonnes of protective equipment including helmets, shields and bullet proof vests to equip the special counter-terrorism units of the Tunisian army National Guard and police force.

Tunisia is among the six African countries part of the new US-led Security Governance Initiative (SGI) that will help nations to strengthen security oversight and management. The US has provided Tunisia with military aid worth over $100 million since the uprising which toppled former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali early in 2011. The country is set to receive military aid worth more than $60 million in 2015 and this includes Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) detectors and detonators and an undisclosed number of boats for the navy.