Personnel from RAF Odiham have been deployed in non-combat roles in Mali since 2018 with the aircraft contributing a unique logistical capability to the French-led operation.
The Chinooks and aircrew allow French troops to cover a much larger field of operations by moving personnel to the front-line of activity, eliminating the need for dangerous road moves, and help move vital support equipment to strategic locations.
According to the Royal Air Force:
“1310 Flight RAF is integrated into the French, Groupement Tactique Désert-Aérocombat, that provides aviation support for the French led OP Barkhane counterinsurgency mission in the region. The newly arrived Chinook aircrew have supported the operations to assist the French military with a programme of re-establishing Malian Army Forward Operating Bases that will also enable future French combat operations.
These bases are spread across the Op Barkhane area of operations and the Chinooks have been conducting numerous flights to supply the French troops at each new base with supplies, equipment and heavy weaponry. Once established these bases will be handed over to the Malian Army to enable a transition to autonomous security in each area that the base will cover. These operations have involved the Chinooks operating in formation with the deployed French and Danish Helicopters.
The Chinooks have also been conducting heavy lift operations transporting French military armoured vehicles, to avoid road moves and to enable the element of surprise by moving a unit under the cover of darkness.”
Squadron Leader Jeff “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick, the Officer Commanding 1310 Flight said in a news release:
“The Chinook offers a unique capability to our French partners. We can lift up to 34 fully armed soldiers allowing them to overcome the huge scale of Mali or equally several tons of food, water and ammunition providing the flexibility for remote troops to stay in the field longer to achieve their objective.”