At a ceremony on Thursday, January 8, attended by U.S. Ambassador Jake Walles, Minister of Defense Ghazi Jeribi, and Brigadier General Bechir Bedoui, the Tunisian Air Force welcomed the arrival of their second C-130J aircraft and announced their decision to purchase eight armed UH-60M helicopters.
In 2010, Tunisia signed a contract to purchase two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft along with training and logistics support from the U.S. company, Lockheed Martin. The C-130J is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft capable of operating from dirt runways and is ideal for airlifting troops and equipment. In April 2013, Tunisia received its first C-130J which marked the first-ever delivery of this new model of aircraft on the continent. With both aircraft in Tunis, the Tunisian Air Force now has an enhanced capability to conduct a full spectrum of military operations throughout the country. This “stretched” variant of the C-130J is able to transport more personnel and cargo than legacy Tunisian C-130s and will be critical in supporting ongoing counterterrorism operations, humanitarian relief efforts, firefighting and traditional tactical airlift.
Minister Jeribi and Ambassador Walles also announced that on December 18, 2014, Tunisia signed an agreement to purchase eight armed UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters along with a complete logistics support and training program from the U.S. company, Sikorsky. The versatile Black Hawk will meet the country’s need for a multi-role helicopter. These aircraft will be used to augment the Tunisian Air Force’s existing helicopter fleet and will significantly enhance Tunisia’s military capabilities in the following areas: combat operations, precision engagement, troop transport, airborne reconnaissance, operations during hours of limited visibility, air mobility, search and rescue, and medical evacuation. The purchase of this rapid-reaction asset for use along Tunisia’s border and within its military zones will improve the Tunisian Armed Forces’ effectiveness in conducting counterterrorism operations and strengthen the country’s control of its borders. Delivery of the UH-60M helicopter is expected to begin in 2016.
The C-130J and UH-60M are tangible symbols of Tunisia’s commitment to securing its future and countering violent extremism and are yet another indication of the strong and expanding partnership between our two countries.
The United States is pleased to support these efforts and help Tunisia on its pathway to a secure and prosperous future. We are grateful for the strength of our deepening strategic partnership with Tunisia.