United States-based SAFE Boats International has delivered a single 65 foot Full Cabin Inboard boat to the Tunisian Navy and is in the process of delivering a second, the company has announced, as the Tunisian Navy bolsters its fleet with US assistance.
“These new vessels will provide the Tunisian Navy with enhanced capability to conduct search and rescue operations (SAR) and extended offshore patrols. These extremely versatile boats feature dual 1 600 hp diesel engines, shock mitigating seating, climate control, navigation package, and are capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots,” SAFE Boats said. Each MTU 10V2000 engine drives a Hamilton HM521 water-jet with 340 kW impellers through a ZF 2060 transmission. Range can be up to 400 nautical miles.
“We are extremely honoured to be a continuing part of the Tunisian Navy and providing products that allow their personnel to accomplish the challenging missions they face,” said Dennis Morris, CEO of SAFE Boats International.
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.
The two new boats were acquired through the US Foreign Military Sales system with the project managed by the US Coast Guard. 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.
The United States is donating equipment to Tunisia’s military to enhance security in the face of terrorism concerns in the region. 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 previously donated five 7.6 metre boats in August 2013 and will provide another seven in the next six months, according to IHS Jane’s.
Earlier this month the United States announced it would increase military aid to Tunisia threefold this year and help train its troops, weeks after the country suffered its deadliest militant attack in more than a decade. Assistance will cover equipment, weapons and technical support.
Since a 2011 uprising that toppled Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has, in contrast to much of North Africa and the Middle East, experienced a comparatively trouble-free transition towards democracy. But it has also seen a rise in Islamist militancy, and last month gunmen stormed the national Bardo museum in the capital Tunis, killing 21 foreign tourists in an attack for which Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Tunisian authorities are concerned that violence will spill over from Libya too, where two rival governments and several armed groups are embroiled in a bitter power struggle four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.
US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken said this week that the Obama administration would offer the Tunisian army training in border management, the first time it will be involved in training Tunisian soldiers. Blinken gave no figure for military aid, which he said would rise 200 percent in 2015. Another U.S. official said last year’s package amounted to $60 million.
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.
Last month 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.
Apart from the United States, Italy has provided assistance to the Tunisian Navy and National Guard, supplying 12 patrol boats in an attempt to curb the flow of immigrants from North Africa. These comprise six P270TN patrol boats for the Tunisian Navy and six P350TNs for the National Guard, all of them built by Cantiere Naval Vittoria (CNV) in Adria. Deliveries began in December 2012.