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Tunisia - Army

The army is the largest and most developed branch of the armed forces. The Tunisian army had a total of 27,000 men in 2005, of which some 22,000 are conscripts with limited experience andtraining. With a manned strength of 30,000 (of whom 26,000 were conscripts), in 1985 the army was gradually continuing the expansion that had increased its size by two-thirds since 1979. More important, its units were absorbing new equipment that, it was hoped, would significantly improve the force's effectiveness.

According to The Military Balance, 1985-1986, published by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the army was tactically organized much as it had been in the late 1970s. At the core were two combined arms brigades (each of which included one armored battalion and two mechanized infantry battalions), one so-called paracommando brigade of elite troops, and the Sahara Brigade headquartered in Remeda that was trained to operate in the arid areas of the south. In addition to these units, which had been in existence for more than a decade, the army also included one newly formed armored reconnaissance regiment, one regiment of field artillery, one so-called antitank regiment, two air defense regiments equipped with antiaircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles, and an engineer regiment.

The army was reorganized in the early 1990s to create three mechanized brigades, and the chain of command flowed down from the Army Chief of staff to the First, Second, and Third Mechanized Brigades, the Saharan Brigade, and a Special Forces Brigade. The major Tunisian army base is in Tunis. The army was organized into three mechanized brigades (each with one armored regiment, two mechanized infantry regiments, one artillery regiment, and one air defense regiment). A typical mechanized brigades was supposed to have a tank battalion with 42 main battle tanks, a mechanized battalion with 45 armored personnel carriers, a motorized rifle battalion with 34 light armored vehicles, an artillery battalions with 18 guns, an anti-tank guided weapons battery with 12 fire units, an anti-aircraft battalion, an engineer battalion, a reconnaissance company, and logistic, transport,and supply elements. A Tunisian brigade generally had about 5,000 men, and a regiment of only 1,000 to 1,500 men.

In earlier times Tunisian soldiers had an excellent fighting record, as demonstrated by their service in the French army before independence, but the modern army has been largely untested. The battalions that assisted in the UN peace-keeping forces in the Congo in the early 1960s saw little, if any, combat action. Similarly a cease-fire was declared during the Arab-Israeli June 1967 War before the symbolic contingent of army troops Bourguiba offered to the Arabs could be committed. The small military contingent contributed by Tunisia to the Arab cause in the October 1973 War with Israel may have gained valuable experience in terms of wartime planning, military deployment, and logistical support, but these forces did not gain combat experience.

In the 1970s and 1980s the army saw more action in internal security situations, where its record was mixed. The army was deployed in the Gafsa crisis of 1980 to put down the Libyan-supported insurgents. Although it was successful in the operation, shortcomings were pointed out by the army's delay in deploying troops to Gafsa and their difficulty in overwhelming some 60 rebels. Similarly, when it was used in support of the police in the major civil disturbances of 1978 and 1984, the army turned in a successful, but flawed, performance. Untrained in crowd control, the troops on both occasions used what observers considered to be excessive force to put down demonstrators. Reportedly, ANT officers and conscripts alike resented their role in these situations where their enemies were not foreign invaders but fellow countrymen.

In May and June 1992, the United States Liaison Office Tunisia (USLOT) Army Section was involved in assisting the Tunisian Ministry of Defense prepare for a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping deployment to Cambodia. Following the UN's unexpected acceleration in its deployment schedule, USLOT, in cooperation with anumber of other Security Assistance agencies, was instrumental in rapidly providing combatrations, tents, cots, jungle fatigues, and boots.

In the early nineties the Department of Defense stood up the National Guard-managed State Partnership Program whose goal was to connect NG units from each state with a partner nation in hopes of mutually beneficial civil-military affairs. After a NG unit was paired with a partner nation, they would assist them with tasks such as: engineering, military personnel training and development, aviation, security, and disaster preparedness. The Wyoming National Guard and Tunisia partnership is now just one of 73 partnerships that has formed since 1993.

Tunisia - Army - Modernization

Although the army had undergone organizational changes, the infusions of manpower and equipment received in the early 1980s were thought to have filled out what had long been an undermanned and ill-equipped force. Most striking was the addition to the armored units of over 50 M-60A3 tanks and 14 older but equally capable reconditioned M-48A5 tanks from the United States. Other newly acquired armored vehicles included a large complement of M-113 armored personnel carriers, some of which were armed with TOW anti-tank missiles. Artillery had been upgraded by the acquisition of new weaponry, and the force's air defense capabilities had been vastly improved by the addition of relatively sophisticated surface-to-air missile systems purchased from Sweden and the United States.

The United States Liaison Office Tunisia (USLOT) Tunisia's Army (TA) program focused on modernizing the Army with U.S. equipment in order to build and maintain a defensive capability against its potentially unstable, hostile neighbors. By 1992 the modernization effort was centered onprocurement of the M60Al/3 tank, the M113A1 armored personnel carrier, the M198 howitzer and the Chaparral Air Defense System. Smaller programs included acquisition of the TOW and HMMWV. Tunisian participation in the U.S. Army's FY91 Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Survey resulted in the inspection and acceptance of 56 M49A2C Tanker Trucks from excess stocks in Germany. A reduction in U.S.-appropriated FMF funds caused the Excess Defense Articles Program to receive greater consideration in Tunisian Army planning. The Army was surveyed to determine requirements for excess Vulcan 20mm Gun systems, and M198 Howitzer and Chaparral parts. The reduction in U.S. funding caused the TA to concentrate on sustainment issues. A Program Management Review in 1991 resulted in reprogramming nearly $5 million from old cases to new sustainment cases. Tunisia received $10 million in concessional loans at the end of FY 199l - about one third the of the almost $30 million in grant funding in FY 1990.

By 2005 the army had slowly acquired 84 main battle tanks (30 M-60A1s and 54 M-60A3s). It had 54 obsolescent Steyr SK-105 Kuerassier light tanks, and 69 relatively low-grade armored reconnaissance vehicles, including 24 Saladins and 45 AML-90s. It had about 268 APCs, including 140 M-113 A-1/2s, 18 EE-11 Urutus, and 110 Fiat F-6614s.

For fiscal year 2008, Washington will continue Tunisia's eligibility to receive Excess Defense Articles (EDA) on a grant basis under section 516 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA). This would allow Tunisia to modernize and refurbish its military, transform it into a peacekeeping force (Tunisia had already sent peacekeepers to Haiti, Cambodia, Somalia, Kosovo and Bosnia), and professionalize its ranks.

During the military parade for the 61st anniversary of the Tunisian National Army June 30, 2017, armed forces of Tunisia presented latest acquisition of combat equipment and armored vehicles including the Bastion, Ejder 4x4 armored vehicles and Kirpi and Typhoon MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles.

The Turkish industrial complex became one of the first suppliers of the Tunisian army, which faced a jihadist guerilla in the westen part of the country. Tunisia was the first export customer of the Kirpi with an order of 100 vehicles. Kirpi MRAP's have very very limited difficult terrain capability. Turkey delivered 100 Kirpi 4x4 MRAP vehicles to Tunisia from 2014 to 2016. The Kirpi is a wheeled armoured vehicle in the category of MRAP. This vehicle is manufactured by the Turkish Company BMC.

Tunisia is a long-time user of Otokar buses. Tunisia has become Otokars largest export market, which the brand leads with most vehicles sold, after France and Italy in Europe. Otokar also delivered 300 Land Rover 110s to Tunisia in June 2001, under a contract signed on 10 October 2000 worth $9.5 million. Otokars Cobra II, which is developed over existing Cobra Vehicle, is a modular platform with superior technical and tactical characteristics. Besides outstanding mobility capability and 9 crew carrying capacity, the vehicle provides protection, firepower and mission equipment for users at different types of missions. The vehicle provides an outmatched performance in a wide range of challenging terrains and climatic conditions. In July 2016, domestic vehicle giant Otokar was contracted to supply COBRA II 4x4 tactical wheeled armoured vehicles to Turkish security forces. Reports of sales to Tunisia are not in evidence.

The MRAP of Nurol Makina would join the Cobra and Cobra 2 from Otokar and the Kirpi from BMC. The first of Turkey-made Ejder Yalin 44 armoured combat vehicles for Tunisia have arrived in-country, that was reported by on 13 June 2017. According to, the first 44 armored vehicles Edjer Yalin manufactured by Nurol Makina, entered service in Tunisia. The contract would cover 70 units equipped with teleoperated turrets. The Ejder Yalin 44 is an armored vehicles produced by Turkish company Nurol Makina. It features a V-shaped hull design, integrating floating floor plates and blast mitigation seating to provide protection against mines and IEDs. It can accommodate up to 11 personnel and can carry a payload of up to 4 tons.

The Tunisian Police and National Guard reportedly received some French armored units VAB MKIII, according to Bmpd and Tunisiadefnews websites. VAB MARK 3 is a median 6x6 armoured vehicle with outstanding performances in terms of mobility and carrying capacity. VAB MARK 3 offers a very high level of survivability to its crew with its ballistic protection, according to STANAG 4569. Army-Guide reports Tunisia has receieved 10 Renault Trucks Defense VAB MK III ELECTER 6x6 personnel carrier units.

The Tunisian army faced a serious lack of adequate resources to conduct asymmetric warfare-style operations. Therefore, by 2014 Tunisia was considering a five-year plan aimed at developing and modernizing its army. Germany announced plans to give Tunisia (and Jordan) funds to buy armored vehicles to help combat ISIS. The exact figure was not revealed but the double digit million sum would come from a 100m euro fund to strengthen southern partner states. Der Spiegel magazine reported on 06 May 2016 Berlin would give Amman 25 million euros ($28 million) to buy "Marder" armoured personnel carriers.

Russia will supply military equipment to Tunisia as part of security assistance efforts, Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi said on 05 September 2014. The supplies will include bullet-proof vests and night-vision devices, he told the Express FM radio. The Russian government also agreed in principle to provide a 500 million U.S. dollar loan to Tunisia. Military equipment was also pledged by Russia in March 2016 after Tunis requested Moscows assistance in preventing militants from crossing the border from Libya.

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Page last modified: 27-09-2018 18:40:05 ZULU