The Tunisian Navy has taken delivery of another two SAFE Boats International patrol boats from the United States, which will also erect 13 radar stations along the Tunisian coast to protect the country’s territorial waters.
US Ambassador to Tunisia Daniel Rubinstein handed the SAFE Boats International 65 Full Cabin Inboard patrol boats over to the Ministry of Defence during a ceremony on 16 January. “The boats on display here are the latest of a series of 26 boats that were first ordered in 2012,” Rubinstein said. “These boats represent just one facet of our security cooperation, of which we are already seeing the fruit in the recent successes of the courageous Tunisian security forces in their counter-terrorism efforts. I can assure you that the US stands together with Tunisia at this critical time, and we are determined to give Tunisia the tools and assistance to help it defeat and deter terrorism.”
The vessels delivered by SAFE Boats International from 2013 vary in size from 25 to 65 feet and include three SAFE 44 foot Full Cabin Inboards, five 27 foot Full Cabins, five 25 foot Full Cabins, and seven 25 foot Centre Console boats. Tunisia also received two 13.5 metre MetalCraft Marine Sentry 44 patrol boats from the United States.
The first of the four most recent 65 foot boats was delivered in early 2015. These Full Cabin Inboard boats are 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.
Rubinstein said that, starting this summer, 13 radar stations along the Tunisian coasts will be equipped with new costal radars which will reinforce the presence of the Tunisian navy and improve its capabilities in Tunisia’s territorial waters.
These radar stations form part of the continent-wide Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) programme being rolled out by the US Department of Defence. PAE (formerly Computer Sciences Corporation) is the prime contractor and on 12 December said it will deliver key command, control, communications, and surveillance (C3/S) capabilities to the Tunisian Navy.
The Tunisia project allows for multiple maritime sensors to be integrated into a common operating picture for the Tunisian Navy. This new capability will fully integrate and correlate multiple data sources to provide increased maritime domain awareness and allow for better tracking of small and large vessels.
In the handover speech, Rubinstein said Tunisia was to participate in Exercise Phoenix Express 17 this year involving over a dozen Mediterranean navies in the western Mediterranean. “This exercise will focus on conducting regional maritime interdictions and law enforcement operations in accordance with international maritime law, Maritime Domain Awareness, and informational sharing capabilities.
“In the coming year, we will assist Tunisia not only at sea, but on land with the installation of a border security system on Tunisia’s eastern border, and the provision of equipment and training to identify and counter improvised explosive devices, and in the air with training and equipment to allow the Tunisian Air Force to better integrate and operate in conjunction with its land forces.
“These boats, radar stations, training, and exercises represent a clear picture of the strong US commitment to standing with Tunisia at sea, as Tunisia fights terrorism, and assists in the management of unprecedented migrant flows across the Mediterranean. At the same time, these efforts and systems will enable Tunisia to better police its fisheries and guarantee the safety of maritime traffic through a close point of approach between North Africa and Europe,” Rubinstein said.