U.S. delivers Humvees, patrol boat to Tunisia to boost security


The United States delivered 52 Humvee military vehicles and a 65 foot Safe Boats patrol boat to Tunisia to help it fight jihadists and tighten control over its coast, the U.S. embassy said on Thursday.

The 52 vehicles aim “to improve force mobility” of the Tunisian army, the U.S. embassy in Tunis said in a statement, adding that Tunisia has a long standing relationship with AM General, the HMMWV’s manufacturer, and operates hundreds of these vehicles in various configurations to support ground operations.

The embassy also announced the delivery of a 65-foot patrol boat to enhance maritime security and intensify the maritime border control patrols. The vessel, manufactured by Safe Boats International, is the first of four to be delivered over the next year. These vessels will join a fleet of 22 other U.S. manufactured boats ranging in size from 25 to 65 feet delivered since 2013.

The Safe Boats Full Cabin Inboard boat is powered by two 1 600 hp MTU 10V2000 diesel engines, giving a top speed in excess of 40 knots. Range can be up to 400 nautical miles. These 20.3 metre long vessels are joining a fleet of twenty SAFE Boats already in service with the Tunisian Navy: three SAFE 44 foot Full Cabin Inboards, five 27 foot Full Cabins, five 25 foot Full Cabins, and seven 25 foot Centre Console boats. The last seven were delivered in September 2014, according to the US Coast Guard, which is managing the delivery.

Another two 65 foot boats will be delivered to Tunisia in July and November this year, according to a US Coast Guard official quoted by IHS Jane’s. Tunisia has requested a fifth 65 foot boat. On 28 August last year, two 13.5 metre MetalCraft Marine Sentry 44 patrol boats worth $2 million were handed over to the Tunisian Navy by the US Ambassador.
“The United States is pleased to support these efforts and help Tunisia on its pathway to a secure future. We are grateful for the strength of our deepening strategic partnership with Tunisia,” the US embassy said.

In August last year the US donated ten tonnes of protective equipment including helmets, shields and bullet proof vests to equip the special counter-terrorism units of the Tunisian military and police.

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

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Tunisia’s defence minister Farhat Horchani announced that the country had constructed the first 100% locally built naval vessel, which would be formally unveiled next month.

Since a 2011 uprising that toppled Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has had a much less turbulent transition toward democracy than its North Africa neighbors, especially Libya.

But it has also seen a rise in Islamist militancy. Last month, gunmen stormed the Bardo national museum in the capital Tunis, killing 20 foreign tourists in an attack for which the militant Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

It was the country’s deadliest militant attack in more than a decade. After the attack, the United States said it would increase military aid to Tunisia threefold this year to $180 million and help train its troops.

Tunisian authorities are also concerned that violence will spill over from Libya, where two rival governments and several armed groups are embroiled in a bitter power struggle four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.