in Defence / Features

Tunisian National Guard forms air unit

Posted 5 June 2020 · Add Comment

The Tunisian National Guard has formed an air unit equipped with three Bell 429 GlobalRanger helicopters, and this has now been declared operational, writes Jon Lake.

The unit is a separate military force, not part of the Tunisian Armed Forces. It has a standing strength of 15,000 personnel and functions as both a defence force against external threats and as a security force protecting the nation internally, with a particular responsibility for border and coastal security.
Tunisia secured its land borders by declaring a closed military zone in some areas. It built a berm and an electronic fence to limit the infiltration of terrorists and insurgents from training camps in neighbouring Libya.
However, the coastline remained largely unsupervised, though the Tunisian National Guard now operates some 25 patrol boats donated by Italy between 2005 and 2015. These have helped to reduce the flow of illegal migration towards Italy and southern Europe.
Now the formation of the new air unit promises to help to secure inshore waters and Tunisia’s tourist beaches, whose vulnerability was highlighted in June 2015, when a Daesh-affiliated gunmen killed 39 people during an attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse.
A Tunisian Government statement said that the $17.4 million acquisition had allowed the formation of “the first air unit for the National Guard.” It said that the unit would be tasked with monitoring Tunisia’s coastline and preventing terrorist infiltration, as well as road traffic management, emergency response and medical evacuation.
The Bell 429 GlobalRanger is a light, twin-engined turbine helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of seven tonnes. It was developed by combining the advanced airframe and rotor blades designed under Bell’s modular affordable product line (MAPL) programme with the engine and rotor system from the Bell 427.
The aircraft can accommodate one pilot and up to seven passengers (six in the passenger compartment; one beside the pilot). The cabin is large and unobstructed, with a flat floor and large sliding doors.
The Tunisian Bell 429s are fitted with a wire-strike protection system (WSPS), a rescue hoist above the starboard cabin door, a searchlight under the tailboom, and have provision for an under-nose forward-looking infrared (FLIR) turret.

 

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