Tunisia is to receive two more Textron 208 Grand Caravan EX aircraft to be used for special missions over North Africa, instead of four airframes.
“The fleet will aid the Tunisian air force in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the country,” says Bob Gibbs, vice-president, Special Mission Sales for Textron Aviation.
Textron Aviation, the manufacturer of Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft, has secured a contract from ATI Engineering Services to deliver the utility airplanes.
As agreed, ATI Engineering Services will equip the aircraft with an electro-optical/infrared sensor, tactical radio, operator console, video data link and night-vision compatible lighting to meet requirements.
The deal has been conducted via a US government initiative to equip multiple African nations with a combined 16 Grand Caravan EX aircraft via the Foreign Military Sales process. Past recipients are Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, and Uganda, Textron says.
“US Africa Command intent is to field multiple iterations of this configuration throughout Africa, and to streamline logistics support and enhance partner nation interoperability,” it adds.
Textron Aviation Special Mission Sales vice-president Bob Gibbs said: “The fleet of Grand Caravan EX single-engine turboprops will aid the Tunisian Air Force in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the country.
“The aircraft is engineered for challenging missions, high payloads and short, unimproved runways, while delivering single-engine economy and simplicity. It is a perfect match for this mission throughout Africa.”
Report of Tunisia acquiring the unarmed special mission aircraft first came to the fore in 2019, the acquisition falls under a US Department of Defence Section 333 capacity building initiative in support of US Africom.
Section 333 programmes provide training and equipment to the national security forces of foreign countries for the purpose of building the capacity of such forces to conduct operations such as counter-terrorism.
ATI Engineering Services was awarded a $9,690,087 order on 30 September for a Tunisia intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system.
Work will be performed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be completed by 30 November 2022.
Concurrently, Tunisia will receive eight T-6C Texan II training aircraft in 2022, and Textron Aviation Defense is providing long-lead items to support the aircraft.
This contract comes about 19 months after the US State Department approved the sale of up to 12 Texan II trainer aircraft to Tunisia for an estimated USD234 million.
Besides the T-6C trainer approval, the US government also approved four AT-6 Wolverine light attack versions of the aircraft for Tunisia in February 2020