A Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft has arrived at Gao airfield in Mali for the first time.
The flight was to deliver supplies to the RAF Chinook Detachment currently deployed to Mali from RAF Odiham to provide niche logistical support to French combat forces conducting counter-terrorism operations as part of Operation Barkhane.
The arrival of the C-17 marks the first time that the Royal Air Force has been able to directly support the Gao based Chinooks since they deployed in June this year. Previously, supplies would have been flown to the neighbouring country Niger and then transhipped. The C-17 flight signals an intent to now supply the detachment with monthly direct flights.
“Flying directly into Gao significantly shortens the logistics chain, which until now has relied on onward movements of freight from Niamey Air base in Niger. Being able to fly to Gao has made an immense difference to supporting operations”, said Flying Officer Matt Nowicki, the Detachment’s Logistics Officer.
Flights by the C-17 are now possible following a visit by RAF personnel from 99 Squadron, to ensure the runway and airfield facilities would safely allow the aircraft to be operated safely.
As well as carrying essential mission equipment and urgent aircraft spares, the C-17 also transported the first relief in place of RAF personnel to and out of Mali, bringing to an end the first rotation of Airmen supporting the French Operation Barkhane.
The RAF Chinook detachment are deployed over 3000 miles away in Mali and relies on both RAF and French transport support to get supplies moved from the Chinook’s base at RAF Odiham out to sub-Saharan Africa.
“This is no mean feat and the support from the French has been outstanding unloading the vast amount of freight onto a makeshift operating area located close to the UK detachment”, said Wing Commander Matt Roberts, the RAF Detachment Commander.