Three British Chinook helicopters have arrived in Mali in support of French counter-terrorism operations in the area under Operation Barkhane.
The UK Ministry of Defence on 18 July said three Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters from RAF Odiham, supported by around 90 British troops, are now on the ground and ready to begin providing logistical and troop movement support to Britain’s allies.
Armed Forces minister Mark Lancaster said, “The UK and France have a unique security and defence relationship that has lasted for more than a century and this deployment demonstrates our shared commitment to tackling terrorism, instability and reducing threats to European security.”
The Chinooks will provide niche logistical support and will also help improve safety by moving troops by air, rather than ground where they are more vulnerable to attack.
“The UK has been a long-standing supporter of UN and EU military operations in Mali and has worked with international partners to prevent extremists from using the ungoverned space in the Sahel to plan and launch attacks on Europe, as well as counter the illegal trade in people, drugs, weapons and wildlife,” the Ministry of Defence said.
“This is in addition to existing wider support to Africa including doubling our UN peacekeeping contribution with additional deployments to South Sudan and Somalia.”
The deployment of Chinooks to Mali will increase British support to France’s Operation Barkhane, in addition to strategic air transport flights already being carried out by the Royal Air Force. While deployed in support of Barkhane, the Chinooks will also work closely with the United Nations’ Minusma mission.
British military personnel will not be involved in combat operations, but the deployment of Chinooks will provide a niche capability providing logistical support but also saving lives by avoiding the need to move troops by ground where they are more vulnerable to attack.
Canada, meanwhile, is deploying three CH-147F Chinook helicopters, five CH-146 Griffon helicopters and up to 250 personnel to Mali where they are joining the Minusma mission, taking over from German and Belgian aircraft – Belgium’s two NH90 Caiman TTH helicopters left Mali on 6 July and the first Canadian Chinooks and Griffons arrived in Gao, Mali, on 15 July.
Canada’s Operation Presence will see the aircraft deployed for 12 months and provide Minusma with the 24/7 capability to medically evacuate UN forces by air. Canadian Armed Forces members will also support Minusma headquarters. When possible, the Canadian military could provide other services including the transport of troops, equipment, and supplies and logistics support.