The Belgian Air Force has deployed two NH90 helicopters to Gabon as part of Exercise Tropical Storm, which takes place between 15 September and 15 October.
Three C-130 Hercules, two A109 helicopters and soldiers from the Belgian Army have also been deployed. The NH90 TTHs from 18 Squadron at Beauvechain Air Base performed their first training flights in Africa on 25 September, the Belgian defence ministry said.
They were transported to Gabon via an An-124 transport aircraft on 11 September.
Exercise Tropical Storm 2017 is focusing on special operations and specific tactics of para-commandos in Africa’s typical climatic conditions ahead of deployment to Mali in 2018. Two NH90s will be deployed next year in support of the United Nations mission there (Minusma). They will replace German helicopters at Gao between March and July next year.
Belgium received its final NH90 in March, of eight ordered in June 2007. The country now has four NH90 Caimans in naval configuration, which will from 2018 replace its Sea Kings. Also acquired were four NH90s in tactical transport (TTH) configuration. The latter are operated by 18 Squadron from Beauvechain air base. The first TTH entered service in October 2013 and the last was delivered in November 2014.
Belgium has 240 personnel deployed in Africa, including Mali, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Central African Republic, with the majority (182) in Mali.