Personnel based at RAF Odiham have returned from a demanding and intense 4-month operational tour in the West African state of Mali supporting the French-led Op Barkhane counter insurgency operations in the region, say the Royal Air Force.
According to a news release, the personnel from 18 (Bomber) Squadron RAF, together with supporting elements from the Tactical Support Wing and Joint Helicopter Support Squadron, formed 1310 Flight RAF to operate the RAF CH-47 Chinook helicopters that are currently based at Gao Mali.
Wing Commander Si Elsey, the UK National Component Commander, has also handed over command of the RAF detachment and reflecting on the tour was quoted as saying:
“The ongoing Chinook operations in Mali are extremely challenging due to the environment in which we are operating. This tour has however been extremely successful due to the professionalism of all the service personnel deployed here. They have managed to maintain a high operational tempo throughout, which has been acknowledged by our French Allies.”
The RAF say that during the tour, the Chinooks of 1310 Flt have carried out several significant operations. One of them saw the Chinooks conducting a series of company sized air lifts of units of the French Army’s Groupement Tactique Desert 1 across central Mali. During one phase of the operation a Chinook flew through the night alongside French Caiman helicopters to insert over 130 troops to conduct a clearance patrol in force. After 36 hours on the ground the French troops were recovered back to Gao the Chinooks main operating base.