Mali’s military has officially taken into service the four Mi-171 helicopters it received from Russia at the end of September.
The four helicopters, along with weapons and ammunition, arrived in Mali from Russia on 30 September as part of a December 2020 contract.
The aircraft were officially handed over to the armed forces by transitional president Assimi Goita at a ceremony on 26 November at Air Base 101. Also in attendance were Russian representatives and senior government and defence officials.
Defence minister Sadio Camara said the acquisition was proof of the Malian military being strengthened and would help ensure the country does not “sink into the abyss of history.” He added that the helicopters’ baptism of fire took place on 1 November when they helped secure the release of three Chinese hostages.
The helicopters and training were acquired for 36 billion CFA ($61 million).
The new aircraft will be used to support Mali’s counter-insurgency and terrorism efforts. The country has been in turmoil since 2012, when Tuareg rebels took over the north and advanced towards the capital, Bamako.
The rotary wing acquisition follows on from four Mi-35 attack helicopters acquired by Mali from Russia in recent years.