The Royal Air Force (RAF) deployment in Mali has been extended, with three CH-47 Chinook helicopters set to continue working with French forces in the Sahel.
The RAF on 12 June said the three Chinooks and 100 personnel will remain in Gao, Mali. Personnel from RAF Odiham have been deployed in non-combat roles in Mali since 2018, with the aircraft contributing a logistical capability to the French-led operation. “The Chinooks and aircrew allow French troops to cover a much larger field of operations, by moving personnel to the French bases spread across Mali, eliminating the need for dangerous road moves, and helping to move vital support equipment to strategic locations,” the RAF said.
Since arriving in Mali in July 2018 the RAF has reported clocking more than 2 000 hours of flying (including 350 hours this year), and moved over 13 000 passengers and 1 100 tonnes of equipment. Currently, the Chinooks are being flown by aircrew from 18(B) Squadron and are supported by personnel drawn from across the RAF and British Army. The conditions are often challenging, with over 40 degree heat in the summer months and regular sandstorms, the RAF said.
“Alongside international partners, French forces operate across the Sahel to counter the threat from militants linked to groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh. Forces deployed on this mission have had a number of successes and recently killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and several other high-profile members of the group,” the RAF said.
“West Africa is as important to the United Kingdom as it has ever been and we have many friends and allies in the region who share our desire to promote peace and prosperity. Combating extremism in the Sahel is vital for the security of the wider region and the UK will play it’s part tackling the declining security situation,” said Armed Forces Minister James Heappey.