Saied calls for renovation of Tunisia’s Air Force after jet crash

Tunisian president emphasises commitment to ensuring needed budget.
Wednesday 07/10/2020
A Tunisian army helicopter flies over Tunis during an anti-terrorism operation in 2015. (AP)
A Tunisian army helicopter flies over Tunis during an anti-terrorism operation in 2015. (AP)

TUNIS - Tunisian President Kais Saied called Tuesday for the renovation of Tunisia’s Air Force fleet following an F-5 crash near the Tunisian-Libya border.

During a meeting with Tunisian Defence Minister Brahim Bartagi, Saied “emphasized the importance of renovating the Air Force fleet and improving the military equipment,” said a statement by the Tunisian presidency’s press office.

A Tunisian fighter jet crashed and its pilot was killed Tuesday near the Libyan border, the Tunisian defence ministry announced.

The ministry said in a statement “an F-5 military plane crashed while on an operational mission deep in the Sahara in the Remada region, causing the death of its pilot.”

The Tunisian president also stated his “commitment to ensuring the necessary budget allocations to meet the needs of the military institution.”

Tunisia faces a continuing economic slowdown and rising debt since 2011 with a major economic contraction expected this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. A recent official report revealed that economic growth dropped by more than 21% in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last years.

According to defenceWeb, a specialised African defence and security online publication, the Tunisian Air Force requested in 2015 an upgrade of its Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fleet “with new avionics and maintenance repairs under a $32 million contract.”

Work was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.

In 2013, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced a request by Tunisia of “Block 1 avionics upgrades for 12 F-5s valued at $60 million. ”

The Tunisian Air Force is said to have received eight F-5E and four F-5F aircraft between 1984 and 1985 and five ex-US Air Force F-5Es in 1989.

The F-5 is flown by 15 Squadron from the Air Force’s Bizerte-Sidi Ahmed air base, added the website.

The Tunisian naval forces take part in a military intervention drill on June 25, 2018 at the port of La Goulette in capital. (AFP)
The Tunisian naval forces take part in a military intervention drill on June 25, 2018 at the port of La Goulette in capital. (AFP)

Tunisia received between 2013 and 2015 two Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules as well as 12 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks, said defenceWeb.

Wary of possible fallout from the Libyan conflict and of the threat of cross border infiltration by terrorists and traffickers, the Tunisian army conducts regular air patrols over its border with Libya.

With the help of the US and Germany, it also erected in 2016 a sand and electronic barrier over 200km of the Libyan border.

Most Tunisian military pilots receive their training in the United States as part of an ongoing cooperation programme between the two countries.