Military


Tunisia - Navy

The Tunisian Navy is a coastal defence force without the submarine or major combatant capabilities deployed by its neighbours, and which has not had its ability tested in combat. Its main mission is to contribute to the defence of Tunisian territorial integrity and to protect the country's national interests in its maritime approaches. The Tunisian Navy specialises in patrolling the 1,148 km of coastline against smuggling and people trafficking, tasks it performs in collaboration with the coast guard element of the National Guard.

The mission of the Navy is primarily to stop ?shermen from other Mediterranean countries from poaching in Tunisian territorial waters. In the absence of recent operational experience against other forces it is not possible to offer an evidential analysis of how the Tunisian Navy operates against conventional or asymmetrical forces in different environments. This is almost certainly a function of the strengths and weaknesses of their neighbors, Algeria and Libya, neither of whom are maritime powers.

In the mid-1980s the navy had undergone a far more modest modernization than the other services, and much of its inventory was approaching obsolescence. The navy had a relatively limited mission concentrating on coastal protection, enforcement of customs regulations, rescue operations within territorial waters, and protection of the country's maritime boundaries. The 4800-man Tunisian Navy is based at Bizerte. In 1985 it had a manned strength of 2,600 including 500 conscripts.

Established in 1959, the navy initially received French assistance, including advisory personnel and several small patrol vessels. In the mid-1980s the force included the frigate President Bourguiba (a World War II vintage destroyer escort transferred from the United States), two United States-built coastal minesweepers, and a variety of fast-attack and patrol craft. In October 1973 DE-326 Thomas J. Gary was decommissioned in ceremonies at the Quai d'Honneur, Bizerte; and moments later, the ship was commissioned by the Tunisian Navy as the President Bourgiba. Her name was struck from the US Navy list that same day. She suffered a major fire on April 16, 1992 and is no longer operational. The most important additions to the fleet in the 1980s were three Combattante III fast attack craft armed with Exocet surface-to-surface missiles. Apart from these vessels, however, most of the fleet's units were old and capable of little more than coastal patrol duties.

During the 1960s and 1970s the navy was primarily involved in combating the smuggling of contraband, the illegal entry of undesirable aliens, and unauthorized emigration as well as other security activities affecting the coastal areas. In these matters the overall effort was shared with agencies of the Ministry of Interior, especially the customs agents and immigration personnel of the Sarete Nationale.

Throughout the 1970s the navy also responded to government concerns over unauthorized use of Tunisian fishing waters through aggressive actions against encroaching foreign fishing fleets. In what many observers described as the "sardine war," armed patrol boats repeatedly engaged Italian vessels from Sicily, firing on them and forcing them into Tunisian ports for the imposition of heavy fines. During this period a longstanding dispute over the maritime border with Libya also resulted in shows of force by Tunisian naval vessels. Although the issue was later referred to international arbitration, its reemergence as a point of conflict could put the navy in the center of a future Tunisian-Libyan clash.

The Tunisian Navy fell well behind the Army and Air Force when American FMS dollars were prioritized by the Government of Tunisia. The acquisition of three sophisticated Fast Patrol Boats from the French lent a much needed credibility to the Tunisian Navy. It also allowed the Tunisians to start participating in a series of exercises with the U.S. Sixth Fleet. In August 1992, the Tunisian Navy hosted an amphibious exercise with the Marine Expeditionary Unit operating in the Mediterranean, as well as a Surface Warfare exercise with two U.S. Navy cruisers. The big news in the Tunisian Navy in 1992 was the offer by the USN to lease them a USNS hydrographic ship. The Tunisians would transform this into a training ship to replace a 1955 destroyer that was no longer usable. The Ex-US Navy ship, initially commissioned 1971, was commissioned into the Tunisian Navy as training ship A700 Kheireddine in 1995. Other Navy FMS funding was used for an ongoing hydrographicstudy of Tunisian harbors. Future projects also included an ambitious plan to deploy coastal radar stations that would aid in ?shery control.

In the 1990's, human trafficking from Tunisia into Italy and Spain was a particular problem in the region. This trade in economic migrants continues and is now addressed through the 5+5 dialogue between the countries of the Maghreb and the Southern European axis. Through this framework, the Tunisian Navy is jointly involved in co-operation programmes with the navies of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Algeria. It also has standing co-operation programmes with the United States Navy and the German Navy, the latter of which is based upon exchange visits, port calls, training and bilateral exercises.

US Navy lighter YF-446 was built by the Erie Concrete and Steel Supply Co. Erie, PA in 1944. Eventually renamed USCGC White Lupine, she was decomissioned on 27 February 1998, transferred to the Tunisian Navy on June 10, 1998 and renamed the Tabarka where she is believed to be in service to this day.

The German Navy commissioned 10 S143 classes of fast patrol ships, but due to operational problems, all 10 were tied up in 2005.The ships have a length of 7.8 meters, a displacement of 398 tons, speed of 40 knots (74m/h), a capacity of 2x OTO Melara 76mm gun. Due to wear and tear over the last 34 years, most of these excellent features are either not working or were stripped down by the German Navy when they were decommissioned.

In 2005r, six of the decommissioned ships were sold to the Tunisian Navy and two to private individuals at undisclosed prices. An initial two Type 143Bs, S-65 Sperber and S-66 Greif were sold at a cut-throat price of $30 million and delivered to the Tunisian Navy in June 2005. A further four surplus German Navy Albatros-class (Type 143B) missile fast attack craft were sold under a EUR33 million (USD40.3 million) agreement. The second batch, consisting of S-63 Geier and S-68 Seeadler, was officially handed over to the navy on 29 September 2005. The last two vessels, S-69 Habicht and S-70 Kormoran, are scheduled to enter Tunisian Navy service on 13 December 2005. The remaining two had been earmarked for scrapping in 2007 after no interest was shown for their purchase. Miraculously, the two survived the scrapping and three years after, the government of Ghana (GoG), through the ministry of Defence, is purchasing the scrap-bound ships at a basic price of $22,990,500, plus an additional refurbishment cost of $14,877,000 for the two ships.

Kamel Morjane, Minister of Building Defense, gave the launch on 08 January 2010 for the building of a 14 meter long navy patrol boat at the Bizerta ship yard. The boat, whose estimated cost amounts to 500,000 dinars, will be achieved by May 2011. The building of the ship in a Tunisian ship yard will enable considerable savings, knowing that the price tag for a similar patrol boat abroad amounts to 3 million dinars. In a related event, Mr Morjane was also briefed on the refurbishing of an old patrol boat by the same boat building and repair unit within the Tunisian navy.



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