The United Kingdom will keep its three Chinook transport helicopters in Mali for another six months, where they will continue to support the French-led Operation Barkhane counterterrorism operation.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the decision on 8 July, saying that on a visit to Northwood Headquarters in North London, the Prime Minster announced that UK forces would be staying in the region for at least another six months.
Three Chinook HC.5 helicopters and almost 100 service personnel have been deployed to the French-led operation in Mali since July 2018.
“The UK’s helicopters bring a unique logistical capability to the operation, allowing French ground forces to operate more effectively across the Sahel including in Niger and Burkina Faso. French forces, with UK support, are leading the fight against violent extremism in a region where militants linked to Al-Qa’ida and Islamic State pose a constant threat,” the UK MoD said.
According to Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, “Increasing instability across the Sahel is causing pain and suffering to local communities and posing a real threat to European security. It is right that we extend our commitment to the counter-terror operation in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. By providing essential support to our French partners our Armed Forces are helping to build stability and deny terrorists a haven from which to plan attacks.”
Royal Air Force Chinooks have been providing transport services to French forces, working alongside French Gazelle, NH90, Puma and Caracal helicopters. Some 4 500 French troops are deployed in the Sahel region.
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.
In their first two months of flying in Mali, Royal Air Force Chinooks transported over 40 tonnes of freight and nearly 700 men of the Barkhane force.