The first two Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) AH-64D Apaches have arrived in Mali where they are contributing to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). They will be joined by another two aircraft in the first time the type has been used for UN peacekeeping operations.
The two Apaches flew into Camp Castor in Gao province on May 16, according to the Dutch Defence Ministry, and were in several days to be followed by the other two aircraft. They were presented to MINUSMA force commander General Jean Bosco Kazura who thanked the Netherlands for sending the aircraft to help restore pace in Mali.
While United Nations peacekeeping operations utilise various attack helicopters, the Dutch deployment marks the first time Apaches are being used to support a UN peacekeeping mission, according to IHS Janes.
The first two Apaches, from 301 Squadron, departed the Netherlands on May 8 aboard an Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan transport aircraft and were flown to Mali’s capital Bamako before being reassembled and deployed to Camp Castor.
The Apaches are under the control of the MINUSMA commander and will be tasked with supporting ground troops and gathering intelligence.
Although painted with UN markings, the Apaches have not been painted in white UN livery.
In November last year the Dutch government announced it would contribute to MINUSMA at the request of the UN and deploy 380 personnel who will remain with the mission until the end of 2015. The majority of these forces will apparently be used to gather, process and analyse intelligence.
A number of Dutch police officials and civilian experts are also taking part in the mission. Their focus is on police training, fostering the rule of law, and security sector reform.
The 380 military personnel include special forces and intelligence personnel, marines and 60 air force personnel with the Apaches. In October, 70 air force personnel and three Boeing CH-47D Chinooks from 298 Squadron will deploy to Mali. The Chinooks will primarily be tasked with medical evacuation (medevac) of MINUSMA troops, Air Forces Daily reports. Until the Chinooks are operational, French helicopters operating in Mali may be called upon for medevacs.