The United States has delivered four Defender patrol boats to Djibouti’s military, weeks after delivering Humvee vehicles to the Horn of Africa nation.
The four 27 foot (8 m) Defender boats were delivered to Djibouti City in two batches in late February as part of a train-and-equip partnership between the US Department of State and the Djiboutian military, the US military said.
The boats were handed over to the Armed Forces of Djibouti (FAD) on 22 February and will be used by the Djiboutian Navy, joining two Metal Shark 28 Defiant coastal patrol boats donated by the US in April 2013. Djibouti’s small navy also includes half a dozen Sawari class inshore patrol vessels, half a dozen fast launches and a single ex-French landing craft. Japan donated two 20 metre patrol boats to Djibouti’s Coast Guard in December 2015.
A Defender requires a minimum crew of two, but has a carrying capacity for 10 persons. The boat can be transported by a C-130 Hercules aircraft or truck. Although superficially similar to a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, the Defender is actually an aluminium-hulled vessel, equipped with a hard foam-filled floatation collar. The boats are built by SAFE Boats International (Secure All-around Flotation Equipped) of Port Orchard, Washington, a vendor of government and law enforcement boats.
They are used extensively by the US Coast Guard and other Department of Homeland Security agencies and have also been supplied to other African nations including Liberia, Togo and Benin.
The Defender delivery, facilitated by US Embassy Djibouti, US Africa Command, US Naval Forces Africa, and Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa, reflects the enduring security relationship enjoyed by the United States and the Republic of Djibouti, the US military said.
As Djibouti is located next to one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, it is an important location in the fight against Somali piracy and its port is used by foreign navies patrolling shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Due to its key location, Djibouti’s small navy has received training, equipment and assistance from foreign countries.
This has included the delivery by the United States of 54 new Humvee vehicles as part of a $31 million aid package, with the vehicles to be used by the Djiboutian Rapid Intervention Battalion (RIB). The vehicles were delivered to Djibouti City in late December, seven months ahead of schedule. Djibouti is also due to receive Oshkosh Defence FMTV trucks.
The US military said its direct and indirect payments total over $200 million annually to Djibouti, equivalent to around 10 percent of Djibouti’s gross domestic product. The US government is also Djibouti’s second largest employer, behind only the government of Djibouti, including its port operations.