The Royal Netherlands Air Force on 27 May sent a single AH-64D Apache attack helicopter to Mali to replace the one that crashed on 17 March, killing both crewmembers on board.
The Dutch defence ministry said the Apache was loaded aboard a NATO C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. Once the helicopter arrives in Mali, it will bring up the Dutch contingent’s helicopter strength to the required numbers.
The Netherlands has been involved in the U.N. mission in Mali since last year. The Dutch contingent of around 450 personnel in Mali is mainly involved in conducting reconnaissance and gathering intelligence, serving, as it were, as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the mission. The Dutch contribution chiefly consists of Special Operations Forces; intelligence personnel; four Apache attack helicopters; three Chinook transport helicopters (from October 2014); and police trainers. The first two Apaches arrived in Mali in May last year.
Troops from the Dutch Commando Corps and the Marine Corps, working in three teams, make up the operational core in the field. They have various types of vehicles at their disposal, including lightly armoured Bushmasters; Mercedes Benz tactical wheeled vehicles; Fennek tactical wheeled reconnaissance vehicles; and quad bikes.
The main task of the three Chinook helicopters is medical evacuation. The Dutch Chinooks have been fully deployed since October 2014. Until the arrival of the Chinooks, Dutch units only operated at distance from their base in Gao on condition that the French Operation Serval was able to guarantee medical evacuation.