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Tunisia - Navy - Modernization

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 fishery control.

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 2005, 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.

At a meeting on 12 May 2015, US Ambassador Jake Walles informed Minister of Defense Farhat Horchani about the recent delivery to the Tunisian military of 52 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, also known as HMMWVs, and a 65-foot patrol boat. The Tunisian Navy will use the boat manufactured by SAFE Boats International to improve the security of the countrys territorial waters. This delivery is the first of a total of 4 boats to be delivered over the next year. These vessels will join a fleet of twenty two other US manufactured boats ranging in size from 25 to 65 feet delivered since 2013. Together these vessels enhance Tunisias maritime security by further enabling the Tunisian Navy to patrol maritime borders.

Tunisia ordered four MSOPV 1400 vessels from Damen in 2016. Damen was building them at its Galati shipyard in Romania. Their estimated cost is thought to be around US$50 million apiece. Key project milestones for the lead pair of vessels, Jugurtha and Syphax (with pennant number P 611) include steel cutting on 13 December 2016 and keel-laying on 7 March 2017. By February 2018 the lead ship had commenced sea trials. Syphax commenced sea trials in the Black Sea in late March 2018. From these timelines, Damen is clearly able to build these OPVs within a very short build period of around 14-15 months. The next pair of OPVs Hannon (with pennant P612) and Sophonisbe (with pennant P613) were slated for delivery later this year or by early 2019.

In August 2018 the Tunisian Navy received another Multi Service Offshore Patrol Vessel (MSOPV) from Damen the third of four destined for the North African nation. The MSOPV 1400, named Hannon (P612), began sea trials on the Black Sea on 26 June and was delivered by the Galati shipyard on 27 July, a day earlier than stipulated in the contract. The vessel departed Romania on 11 August, according to ship tracking websites, and arrived in Tunisia on 17 August. IHS Janes Defence Weekly noted that it had a slightly different configuration to the first two ships, Jugurtha (P 610) and Syphax (P 611). It did not have a helicopter deck. Syphax was commissioned into service at the beginning of July 2018.

The locally built patrol vessel Kerkouane (P212) was commissioned into service at the beginning of July 2018. Kerkouane or Kerkuane (Arabic: Karkwan) is the site of an ancient Punic city in north-eastern Tunisia, near Cape Bon. Kerkouane (P212) was launched on 8 May in the port of Sfax in a ceremony attended by the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Abderraouf Atallah. In March 2018 SCIN launched its second locally made patrol boat, the Utica (P211). The first, Istiklal (P201), was launched in August 2015. The 80 ton vessels are 26.5 meters long and 5.8 meters wide. They are powered by two Rolls-Royce engines, each of which produces 3,200 horsepower, giving a top speed of 25 knots and a range of 600 nautical miles. Armament includes 20 mm cannon and two machineguns. Accommodation is for a crew of 12 sailors. The vessels are fitted with a thermal imaging camera.



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