The Royal Air Force Chinooks currently deployed in Mali in support of French Military Operations there have passed a significant milestone after recording 3000 hours of operational flight time.
The milestone was passed by 1310 Flight, the RAF detachment that operates the CH-47 Chinooks in Mali and is primarily committed to conducting flight operations in support of the French Operation Barkhane, a counter-terrorist operation across the Sahel region of West Africa.
The RAF Odiham based helicopters from Joint Helicopter Command, first arrived in West Africa during July 2018 to provide a heavy lift helicopter support capability to Op Barkhane. The Chinooks therefore regularly carry out troop movements, resupply missions and logistical support to the French forward operating bases and desert locations around Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Since the inception of the task in 2018, the CH47 detachment has have moved over 1,500 tonnes of freight and over 18,000 French soldiers. The aircraft are currently flown by pilots and aircrew from 27 Sqn, supported by personnel from across the RAF, British Army and Royal Navy drawn from Joint Helicopter Command.
The RAF Detachment Commander, Squadron Leader Sam Bennett, said: “the crews and individuals who are deployed on Op Newcombe have maintained a high tempo of operations throughout our time in theatre, delivering support to the French in their efforts to counter the militant Islamist threat”.
Sqn Ldr Bennet added: “This deployment has been particularly challenging due to COVID-19, however, our mitigations have kept the detachment 100% free of the virus, resulting in no lost sorties. In addition, the harsh conditions in which we operate have added a number of substantial technical issues, that test the engineers on a daily basis. Despite this, the team has managed to provide over 100 flying hours per month and so achieve our mission to support our French allies”.
Since arriving in mid-January 2021, the current detachment has transported over 1000 soldiers while operating in temperatures over 45°C and overcome frequent dust storms. The Chinooks are an important asset to the UK’s French partners, with missions covering a range of tasks including large-scale combat troop moves, VIP transport, under-slinging armoured fighting vehicles and deploying Commando formations into pre-assault forming up points.