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Joint maritime operations for US and Tunisian navies in the Mediterranean Sea.

| 2020

According to information published by the United States Africa Command on November 23, 2020, USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) Expeditionary Sea Base ship class from the U.S. Navy and Tunisian Navy partners with its OPV Sophonisbe (P613) conducted joint maritime operations to enhance maritime security, critical lifesaving capabilities, force readiness, and Tunisia's ability to protect its maritime borders, November 23-24, 2020.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The Tunisian Navy ship OPV Sophonisbe (P613) pulls alongside the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) during a replenishment-at-sea exercise in the Mediterranean Sea on November 23, 2020. (Picture source United States Africa Command)

The Hershel "Woody" Williams from the U.S. Navy participated in a simulation of suspicious merchant activity that enabled partners at the Tunisian Regional Operation Centers to exercise their radar capabilities. The navy ship also participated in a naval exercise with the Tunisian Navy OPV Sophonisbe (P613) focused on developing both nations ability to conduct maritime security operations in the Mediterranean, as well as to conduct joint search and rescue operations. 

The Sophonisbe (P613) is an OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) 1400 manufactured for the Tunisian navy by the Dutch shipyard Damen. The ship was commissioned in December 2018. The 1,470 tonne OPVs have a length of around 72m, a beam of around 13m, and a draught of 3.8m.

The Sophonisbe is powered by four Caterpillar 3512C diesel driving two controllable pitch propellers. Their maximum speed is estimated to be between 21 and 23 knots. Range is thought to be around 4,000nm and endurance around 25 days. The ship's complement is 40 +12.

U.S. forces worked with Tunisian partners on a search-and-rescue exercise, while U.S. Special Forces conducted simulations to bolster counterterrorism capabilities, perform critical lifesaving tasks, and improve cooperation between U.S. and Tunisian forces.

Demonstrating a shared commitment to enhance critical lifesaving capabilities in a COVID-19 degraded environment, all missions were conducted with respect for protocols protecting both U.S. and Tunisian forces against the spread of the virus.

Hershel "Woody" Williams is homeported in Souda Bay, Greece, and conducts U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) missions in the Mediterranean and the waters around East, South, and West Africa to include the southern Mediterranean, operating with regional partners. The ship supports security cooperation missions and operations in and around the African continent.

The USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB-4) is a Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary mobile base, currently in service with the United States Navy. The Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship class is highly flexible that may be used across a broad range of military operations supporting multiple operational phases, similar to the Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD) class.

The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) is optimized to support a variety of maritime-based missions, including Special Operations Forces (SOF) and Airborne Mine Counter Measures (AMCM). The ESBs, which include a four-spot flight deck, mission deck and hangar, are designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts joint and naval operations in order to support regional allies and partners and U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

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