Three Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters, supported by around 90 British personnel are now fully operational and are supporting French counter-terrorism operations in Mali.
The helicopters, from RAF Odiham, are providing niche logistical support to French combat forces conducting counter-terrorism operations as part of Operation Barkhane. UK forces have built three temporary aircraft hangers on the ground, enabling the Chinooks to fly multiple missions each week.
“This deployment demonstrates the vital role our Armed Forces play, working alongside our French allies to tackle terrorism and reduce threats to European and UK security”. said Mark Lancaster, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces.
The deployment is in addition to the UK’s long-standing support of UN, EU and G5 Sahel Joint Force operations in Mali aimed at preventing extremists from using the ungoverned space in the Sahel to plan and launch attacks on Europe, as well as countering the illegal trade in people, drugs, weapons and wildlife.
“This helicopter deployment demonstrates the UK’s commitment to do more in the Sahel, alongside 50m pounds of UK Aid providing lifesaving humanitarian support, and a bigger diplomatic network”, said Harriett Baldwin, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office.
Operation Barkhane is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel region, which commenced 1 August 2014. It is named after a crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert.
The operation consists of a 3,000-strong French force, which will be permanent and headquartered in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.
Barkhane has been designed with five countries, and former French colonies, that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. These countries are collectively referred to as the “G5 Sahel”.