Three British Chinook helicopters fully operational in Gao


The three British CH-47 Chinook helicopters deployed to Gao, Mali, are now officially cleared to perform operational missions for the benefit of the French-led Barkhane force.

This confers a tactical advantage by allowing the transport of substantial loads by air, making it possible to limit the use of ground convoys, and thus not to run the risk posed by improvised explosive devices, the French Ministry of Defence said on 30 August.

This Full Operational Capacity (FOC) was achieved on 16 August. The deployment of British heavy helicopters in Gao is thus seen as the culmination of a close Franco-British collaboration, made possible by the development of a dedicated aeronautical zone.

As part of the desert airmobile battle group, the “waka waka” flights – the nickname given to the Chinooks by the Royal Air Force because of the significant noise made by their turboshaft engines — have already transported over 40 tonnes of freight and nearly 700 men of the Barkhane force.

The British helicopters bring to the Barkhane force the capability to carry, in a single rotation, up to 5 tonnes of cargo, or forty soldiers, from Gao to isolated sites.

Led by the French army, in partnership with the G5 Sahel countries, Operation Barkhane was launched on 1 August 2014. It is based on a strategic approach based on a partnership with the main countries of the Sahel-Saharan region (BSS): Burkina-Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.

It brings together around 4,500 military personnel whose mission is to fight against armed terrorist groups and to support the armed forces of partner countries so that they can take this threat into account, notably within the framework of the joint G5 Sahel force currently under way.