A Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook helicopter has delivered heavy equipment to extend French and Malian forces’ operational range as part of Operation Barkhane, the French counter insurgency operation in the West African Sahel region.
The recent operation saw a Chinook of 1310 Flight lift a large Air-portable Fuel Container to a Forward Operating Base to enable ground and air recces to operate at a greater distance from Gao. This operation required several days of planning before personnel from the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron and the crewman of the CH-47 were able to successfully under sling the container and transport it the 25 nautical miles to the camp.
The three Royal Air Force Chinooks based in Gao, Mali that form 1310 Flt are currently operated by personnel from RAF Odiham based 27 Squadron RAF, together with supporting elements from the Tactical Supply Wing and Joint Helicopter Support Squadron.
“The UK’s contribution to the French mission, Op Barkhane, is important by providing heavy support helicopter lift. This enables French and Malian ground and aviation elements to operate at significant range and remain resupplied,” said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Brining, UK National Component Commander.
“The key to our success has been the full integration of 1310 Flt with the French GTD-A, and latterly, the Danish Aviation Detachment, to integrate our Chinooks with the Danish Merlin and French, Cougar, Puma Tiger, Gazelle and Caiman helicopters. 2020 saw the detachment maintain a high tempo of operational sorties that delivered strong support to the ongoing mission and is a testament to the skills and professionalism of all the personnel deployed here in Mali”
Another recent operation demonstrated the integration of the French led helicopter force, when an RAF Chinook flew in formation with a Danish Merlin and a French Caiman helicopters to extract French infantry from a location south of Gao at the conclusion of their task. The whole formation was escorted by two French Tiger helicopters and demonstrated how the whole force is now integrated.
Colonel Sylvain the French Commander of the Groupement Tactique Desert – Aerocombat (GTD-A) said: “The GTD-A, takes under command all of the deployed helicopters supporting Op BARKHANE within Mali. The aim is to provide direct support to ground units, deliver MEDEVAC and possess the capability to conduct autonomous operations against armed terrorist groups.
“Given the huge scale of Mali and the operating area, these tasks are achieved on a daily basis by French, British and Danish aviation aircrew and aircraft. These personnel are fully integrated into the structure of the GTD-A, all share common missions and frequently fly as mixed formations. Sorties are standardised in order to enhance flight safety, but this also gains efficiency across the board. The excellent degree of operational success illustrates the exceptional levels of integration and synergy between the three nations. It is a fantastic example of teamwork with a common mind-set.”