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Tunisian Armed Forces

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Title: Tunisian Armed Forces  
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Subject: Tunisian Air Force, Tunisian National Guard, Tunisia, August 2013, January 2011
Collection: Military of Tunisia
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Tunisian Armed Forces

Tunisian Armed Forces seal
القوات المسلحة التونسية
Founded 24 June 1956
Service branches Army
Air Force
Headquarters Tunis
Commander-in-Chief Pres. Moncef Marzouki
Minister of National Defense Ghazi Jeribi
Active personnel 35,800-45,000
Deployed personnel Unknown number in UN Missions
Percent of GDP 1.6%
Foreign suppliers  United States
Related articles
History Bizerte Crisis
Yom Kippur War
Battle of Wazzin

The Tunisian Armed Forces (Arabic: القوات المسلحة التونسية‎) consist of the Tunisian Army, Navy, and Air Force.

As of 2008, Tunisia had an army of 27,000 personnel equipped with 84 main battle tanks and 48 light tanks. The navy numbered 4,800 operating 25 patrol boats and 6 other crafts. The Air Force had 4,000 personnel, 27 combat aircraft and 43 helicopters. Paramilitary forces consisted of a 12,000-member national guard.[1] Tunisia has participated in peacekeeping efforts in the DROC and Ethiopia/Eritrea.[2] Previous United Nations peacekeeping deployments for the Tunisian armed forces have included Cambodia (UNTAC), Namibia (UNTAG), Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and the 1960s mission in the Congo, ONUC.


  • History 1
    • Following independence 1.1
  • Tunisian Army 2
  • Army Ranks 3
    • Enlisted personnel 3.1
    • Non-Commissioned Officers 3.2
    • Commissioned Officers 3.3
  • Air Force equipment 4
    • Combat aircraft 4.1
    • Jet training/light attack aircraft 4.2
    • Training/COIN piston-engined aircraft 4.3
    • Liaison aircraft 4.4
    • Transport aircraft 4.5
    • Attack helicopters 4.6
    • Naval attack/search and rescue helicopters 4.7
    • Medium transport helicopters 4.8
    • Light transport helicopters 4.9
    • Missiles 4.10
    • Military airfields 4.11
  • Navy equipment 5
    • MFPBs 5.1
    • Gun frigates 5.2
    • ASW vessels 5.3
    • Minesweepers 5.4
    • Gun boats 5.5
    • Patrol boats 5.6
    • Landing craft 5.7
    • Auxiliary vessels 5.8
    • Missiles 5.9
    • ASW Torpedo 5.10
    • Naval bases 5.11
  • Weapons of mass destruction 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Tunisian artillery and gunners, circa 1900

The modern Tunisian Army had its origins in the time of the French Protectorate (1881–1956). During this period, Tunisians were recruited in significant numbers into the French Army, serving as tirailleurs (infantry) and spahis (cavalry). These units saw active service in Europe during both World Wars, as well as in Indo-China prior to 1954. The only exclusively Tunisian military force permitted under French rule was the Beylical Guard.[3]

Following independence

On June 30, 1956, the Tunisian army was officially founded by decree,[4] in the form of a combined-arms regiment. The necessary equipment was made available to the young state from French stocks.[5]The new army initially comprised 25 Tunisian officers, 250 NCOs and 1,250 men transferred from French Army service, plus 850 former members of the Beylical Guard.[3] Approximately 4,000 Tunisian soldiers continued in French Army service until 1958, when the majority transferred to the Tunisian Army, which reached a strength of over 6,000 that year.

Intakes of conscripts for military service, made mandatory in January 1957, plus the recall of reservists allowed the army to grow to twelve battalions numbering 20,000 men by 1961.[5] Sixty per cent of those troops were deployed for border monitoring and defense duties.

Tunisian units first saw action in 1958 after French intrusions into the south in pursuit of National Liberation Army (Algeria) fighters. In 1960 Tunisian troops served with the United National Peacekeeping Force in the Congo. In 1961 clashes occurred with French forces based at Bizerte. More than 600 men fell in battle against the French forces. The French evacuated the base after subsequent negotiations with the Tunisian Government.

The Tunisian Navy, founded in 1958, received its first ship in the fall of 1959. The Air Force acquired its first combat aircraft in 1960 . While the Tunisian armed forces obtain equipment from several sources, the United States remains the largest single supplier.[5] Officer and specialist training for Tunisian personnel was formerly undertaken in French and American military academies. Tunisian trainees are now gradually being assigned to newly established military schools within the country.

The January 10, 1957, a law prohibits any military officer to be a member of a group or a political party.[5] However after 7 November 1987 when the former Prime Minister, General Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali took power senior officers such as Abdelhamid Escheikh and Mustapha Bouaziz took up ministerial appointments.

On April 30, 2002, at around 18.15, the direction of the Army - Brigadier General Abdelaziz Skik who led the Tunisian contingent to Cambodia, two colonels - majors, three colonels, four majors, two lieutenants and a sergeant-major - disappeared in a helicopter crash near the town of Medjez el-Bab.[6]

Tunisia has contributed military forces to United Nations peacekeeping missions, including an army company to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the Rwandan Genocide. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil, Canadian force commander Roméo Dallaire gave the Tunisian soldiers high credit for their work and effort in the conflict and referred to them as his "ace in the hole".

During the 2011 Libyan civil war, Tunisian forces, mostly border guards, saw some limited action when fighting between Libyan rebels and loyalist soldiers spilled over the border.[7]

Tunisian Army

The Tunisian Army is 27,000 strong and is composed essentially of:[8]

  • three mechanised brigades baséd at Kairouan (1st), Gabès (2nd) et Béja (3rd) ; each is composed of:
    • one armoured régiment (M60 Patton tanks)
    • two regiments of mechanised infantry (M113 armoured personnel carriers) (11th-17th Mechanised Infantry Regiments have been reported)
    • one artillery regiment (M198 howitzer)
    • one reconnaissance company (AML 90)
  • one Saharan territorial group at Borj el-Khadra and Remada, consisting of two light infantry regiments
  • one special forces group (Groupe des Forces Spéciales)
  • one military police régiment

Army Ranks

Général de corps d'armée Général de division Général de brigade Colonel-major Colonel Lieutenant-colonel Commandant Capitaine Lieutenant Sous-lieutenant
Arabic: فريق أول Arabic: فريق Arabic: أمير لواء Arabic: عميد Arabic: عقيد Arabic: مقدم Arabic: رائد Arabic: نقيب Arabic: ملازم أول Arabic: ملازم
Other Ranks
Adjudant-major Adjudant-chef Adjudant Sergent-chef Sergent Caporal-chef Caporal Soldat de première classe Soldat de deuxième classe
Arabic: وكيل أعلى Arabic: وكيل أول Arabic: وكيل Arabic: عريف أول Arabic: عريف Arabic: رقيب أول Arabic: رقيب Arabic: جندي أول Arabic: جندي

[9] with editing the source

Enlisted personnel

  • Privet
  • Privet 1st Class
  • Corporal
  • Master Corporal

Non-Commissioned Officers

  • Sergeant
  • staff Sergeant
  • Sergeant 1st class
  • Master Sergeant
  • Sergeant Major

Commissioned Officers

  • Second-lieutenant
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain
  • Major
  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • Colonel
  • Colonel-Major
  • Brigadier General
  • Major General
  • Lieutenant General

Air Force equipment

Combat aircraft

Jet training/light attack aircraft

Training/COIN piston-engined aircraft

Liaison aircraft

Transport aircraft

Attack helicopters

Naval attack/search and rescue helicopters

Medium transport helicopters

Light transport helicopters

  • 2 SNIAS AS-355 Ecureuil-II
  • 12 SNIAS AS-350B Ecureuil
  • 8 SNIAS AS-316B Alouette-III
  • 7 SNIAS AS-313 Alouette-II


  • AIM-9J Sidewinder AAMs
  • AGM-65A Maverick AGMs
  • Raytheon BGM-71C Improved-Tow(for MD-500 Defender Helicopters)
  • MBDA HOT for SA-342 Helicopters

Military airfields

  • Bizerte(Sidi-Ahmad)
  • Bizerte(La-Kharouba)
  • Gabes
  • Gafsa
  • Sfax

Navy equipment


  • 3 Combattante-III-M class(with 8xMM-40 SSMs,1x76mm Gun,2x40mm Guns,4x30mm Guns)
  • 6 Type-143 Lurssen Albatros class (2x76mm Gun,Mine Laying Capability)
  • 3 P-48 Bizerte class (with 8xSS-12M SSMs (Obsolete, no longer installed),4x37mm Guns)

Gun frigates

ASW vessels


  • 6 Kondor-II class (635ton,3x2x25mm Guns) (Only one (01) unit still in service. Five (05) already decommissionned.

Gun boats

  • 3-5 Modified Hazhui\Shanghai-II class (128 ft,30 knots, 4x37mm Guns, 4x25mm Guns)

Patrol boats

  • 1 Ch.Navals De Lestrel 31.5m class (104 ft,30 knots,2x20mm Guns)
  • 3 Ch.Navals De Lestrel 25m (83 ft,23 knots,1x20mm)
  • 5 Bremse class (22.6m,2x14.5mm HMGs)[11]
  • 4 Gabes class(12.9m,2x12.7mm HMGs)
  • 4 Rodman-38 class(11.6m)
  • 2 Vosper Thornycroft 103 ft class(27 knota,2x20mm Guns)
  • 6 20meter long PCs

Landing craft

Auxiliary vessels

  • 1 Robert Conard class 63.7m Survey vessel (NHO Salammbo)
  • 1 Wilkes class (T-AGS-33) 87m (NRF Khaireddine)
  • 2 El Jem class Training ships (ex A 5378 Aragosta and A 5381 Polipo delivered by Italian Navy on 17.7.2002)
  • 1 Simeto class Tanker ( Ain Zaghouin - ex A 5375 delivered by Italian Navy on 10.7.2003 )
  • 1 White Sumac 40.5m class


  • MBDA MM-40 Exocet SSMs (no longer in use)
  • Nord SS-12M SSMs (Obsolete, no longer in use)

ASW Torpedo

Naval bases

Weapons of mass destruction

No known nuclear activity. Signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

No known chemical weapons activity. Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

No known biological weapons activity. Party to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).


  1. ^ The Military Balance 2008, Routledge ISBN 978-1-857-43461-3
  2. ^ Tunisia - Armed forces
  3. ^ a b page 710 "World Armies, John Keegan, ISBN 0-333-17236-1
  4. ^ "Décret du 30 join 1956 instituant l'armée tunisienne" (PDF). Journal official tunisien (in French) (52): 884. 29–30 June 1956. 
  5. ^ a b c d (French) [Ridha Kefi , "The army 's new clothes ", Jeune Afrique, July 13, 1999]
  6. ^ (French)Abdelaziz Barrouhi , "The army in mourning, "Jeune Afrique", May 13, 2002
  7. ^ Amara, Tarek (2011-04-29). "Pro-Gaddafi forces clash with Tunisian military". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-12-26. 
  8. ^  
  9. ^
  10. ^ "La Tunisie renforce sa flotte aérienne". Mosaique Fm. Retrieved 2013-12-26. 
  11. ^ Dienstschiffe Typ GSB 23

Further reading

  • Fernanda Faria and Alvaro Vasconcelos, “Security in Northern Africa: Ambiguity and Reality,” Chaillot Paper Series, no. 25 (September 1996),
  • Lutterbeck, 'Arab Uprisings and Armed Forces,' Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces
  • “Civil-Military Relations in North Africa,” Middle East Policy, 14, 4 (2007).

External links

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