Mali’s Air Force has taken delivery of its first Airbus Helicopters H215 Super Puma helicopter as part of efforts to revitalises its capabilities.
The aircraft was officially handed over on 17 October during a ceremony attended by Minister of Defence Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga at Air Base 101 at Bamako Senou International Airport. The ceremony was also attended by Chief of Staff Major General Gabriel Poudiougou and other officials.
Air Force Chief of Staff Souleymane Bamba said the helicopter will strengthen the Malian military’s capabilities and added that French personnel have been training Malian pilots and technicians.
The second helicopter will be delivered within two months’ time.
According to the Journal du Mali, the acquisition of the Super Pumas is ahead of the Netherlands withdrawing its seven helicopters with the United Nations mission (MINUSMA) next year. The publication added that the purchase is part of a larger capability improvement drive that will see the recruitment of 10 000 troops and the acquisition of additional equipment for the Air Force.
Bamba said expansion of the Air Force includes the repair of Balser BT-67 aircraft as well as helicopters. Mali is due to take delivery of a single C-295W transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space this month and will be acquiring Russian attack helicopters in 2017. The winglet-equipped C-295W was ordered in February this year.
The C295W will join Mali’s small fleet of fixed-wing aircraft, which includes nine Mikoyan MiG-21s (although most of these are believed to be unserviceable), one Alenia SF-260, one Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander, two Basler BT-67s and several An-2s, An-24s and An-26s.
In June last year Mali ordered six A-29 Super Tucano light attack and advanced training turboprops from Embraer. The aircraft will deployed for advanced training, border surveillance, and internal security missions, giving a major boost to the Mali Air Force’s combat fleet, which includes the MiG-21s and several Mi-24 attack helicopters.