Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters have been supporting the French forces in Mali on operations countering the ongoing insurgency, say the RAF.

The Chinooks have been transporting French personal to the forward operation bases as the French military conduct a changeover of troops.

In addition, the heavy lift helicopters have been transporting supplies and equipment.


Squadron Leader Matthew Wight-Boycott said in a release:

“Supporting French operations against violent extremists is an important and satisfying mission.  Our aircrew, engineers and support staff are making a big impact: whether moving large numbers of troops and equipment to remote bases, or re-supplying a patrol in the desert, we are playing a vital part in this operation.

We help reduce the reliance on road moves, typically vulnerable to Improvised Explosive Devices and some ground patrols can only be effectively sustained by helicopter.

One of the other pilots is Flight Lieutenant Matthew Williams.  He said: “This is my first frontline deployment and it has not disappointed.  The job calls for flying heavy payloads over long distances, in intense heat and above some pretty inhospitable terrain; in many respects the environment is a greater threat than the enemy.

Working with the French is an absolute privilege and builds on a shared history; 18 (B) Sqn saw action in France during both World Wars whilst Odiham served as a base for Free French flying training from 1940.  Here in Gao we are continuing that tradition and are absolutely integrated within the French GDT-A (Groupement Tactique Desert-Aerocombat) – whether eating, briefing, flying or even on parade – we are here shoulder to shoulder with the French.”


  1. Interesting article. I wonder if our EU friends and allies appreciate the fact that even France, often touted as the EUs premiere military, still requires help from those pesky annoying Brits?
    UK helping out an EU country is commonplace occurrence, not sure when it was last reciprocated?
    On a military note though the RAFs lift capability is now probably 2nd to just the USA. Great platform the Chinook. Fast, relatively long ranged for a helo and able to lugg a heavy underslung load or carry large number of troops.
    Looking at the French order of battle and they have nothing but light or medium helicopters, ditto airlift. No strategic air transport fleet.

    • My thoughts exactly Mr Bell….

      I always wondered if the British Military capabilities/assistance was just given away during the Brexit negotiations…. we don’t seem to have got much back for giving away a lot during the negotiations….

      • Course they so, it’s all hot air and politics.

        Europe, as a people, are still our friends and allies.

        The EU is a political club. NOT Europe.

        The negotiation fiasco lies with the government being defeated before it begins.

        Don’t forget I believe the French did help with MPA when we have had none.

        If Britain was in a situation when we actually asked for military assistance would France assist? When was the last time we asked?

        I would say yes. For Macron to flatly refuse would be pretty damning!

        • The British and french will work more closely than ever in future, even making up joint battle groups and joint expeditionary force deployments. The Lancaster House Treaties of 2010 are two treaties between the United Kingdom and France for defence and security cooperation. They were signed at 10 Downing Street on 2 November 2010 by British prime minister David Cameron. So we will see more frogs work with our millitary.

          It’s a shame the UK and France don’t work together better with designing jets, helicopters, Naval Ships and even nuclear weapons and the like, and I’m not even sure if we are still building those MCMV replacements with France anymore, we should work better in future as we are the two powers of Europe and could benefit by cost reductions ect with working together.

          • Also I hope the UK and France do work together on the Nuclear armed submarine deployments, as Europe only has two at any one time patrolling the oceans it would be handy if they were both in different places or even oceans to give best chances of survival and strike back if Armageddon happens, surely they must cooperate on that….

          • Unfortunately our friends in the EU have been busy excluding the UK from various initiatives rather than looking to keep us involved.

        • Falklands……….had to be threatened with Escalation and then helped reluctantly,
          GW1 ……..kicked out of HQ team
          Afghan ………..not much.
          Maritime patrol…….. their own deterrent floats in the same area.
          Korea………….1 Btn reserves (less than NZ)
          WW2………… not comment, 74 landed on D Day.
          WW1………….A degree of self interest
          Preceding 800 years opposition

          • “WW2………… not comment,
            74 landed on D Day”

            In fact maybe it’s best to comment as oppose to rewriting history.

            France lost over 60,000 men in the battle of France, they went down fighting well after Dunkirk (which would not of been possible if it wasn’t for French blood)

            Then even with the risk of vicious reprisals, under NAZI occupation they formed one of the largest, bravest resistances in the war, over a quarter of a million civilians were honoured after the war for playing a part in the resistance.

            Plan vert, tortue, violet, bleu, rouge were just some of the d-day operations the French carried out, deep behind enemy lines to boot, some even weeks before d-day began.

            Some say if it wasn’t for plan vert and tortue d-day would not of happened, they destroyed 3/4’s of northern French railway lines and cars and nearly every single bridge over the river seine, making a German counter attack practically impossible.

          • As others have pointed out. There were plenty of French soldiers fighting during the landings and beyond and countless brave people lost on the French side during the war in general. If it was not for the French Resistance it would have been far more difficult for all of us. Yes some French people decided to side with the Nazis but don’t label them all with this as there were plenty that fought bravely.

          • The French have had an on-going presence in the Pacific. Their navy visit and support British governed islands in the Pacific in addition to their own. It is only in the past couple of years has there been a Royal Navy footprint in the Pacific.

            It is a reciprocity of aid between the two countries, helping in where one has a lesser capability. It may not be well publicised, but it’s there.

      • Two posts in and we hit the BREXT jackpot!
        Second out. ding, ding!

        BREXIT aside, France and the UK are the only European military powers of note with complimentary capabilities in many areas.

        If we can assist the French smashing the Islamist extremists, then why not.

    • What the report doesn’t say, is that this is a multi-national effort, although French led. The Canadians along with us are providing Chinook support. We are also providing heavy lift air transport to France with A400M and C17, which again is not mentioned. There is even a contingent of Chinese troops in Mali, who although have not been conducting specific counter-terrorism patrols are using it as a training environment. I’m pretty sure it won’t be long until Reaper is pulled away from Syria/Iraq to Mali as its an ideal environment for a close air support aircraft with no direct ground threat.
      The Chinook has been in service with the RAF since 1981 and has been continuously upgraded since then. It was Afghan over Iraq that proved how good a battlefield support helicopter it is. It was able to soak up a lot of damage and still come “home”, due to it being an all metal airframe, so was very easy to repair compared to the composite Merlins. Its funny how our Chinooks always seem to deploy to really naff parts of the World on Operations.
      However, aerodynamically there isn’t really much more scope for development as the airflow through the rotor discs is restricted by the pitch angle of the rear disc, which limits its airspeed (can’t tilt it anymore or it will start hitting the cabin roof). It will be interesting to see what route the US go down for their future heavy lift.

        • The guys called Mike, he started crying and was in a bad way after flying in that great chinook “Bravo November” over Afghanistan, I don’t think he’s cut out for combat ops. That chinook on the other hand is, I hope they keep Bravo November in a museum once it retires, doesn’t it have a great and lucky history, and it served in the falklands war also didn’t it?. I wonder if it’s still operational, it would be funny if it was one of the Chinooks helping the Frogs.

          • Last I heard BN was still operational and back in her old stomping ground in the Falklands. Believe she will go to the RAF Museum at Hendon when she finally retires – they already have an exhibit dedicated to her.

          • I thought it had been confirmed a couple of years ago that za718 (BN) was going to IWM duxford on retirement, might be wrong but I bloody hope it does as they MIGHT be able to keep her airworthy.

  2. Good.
    People regularly criticise our defence spending, and size of our forces… But France would be in a mess if we did not help them in Mali. I believe we also help with heavy transport aircraft. I don’t think the French have any Chinooks do they? We have 60.

    • Also interesting how some of the concept designs in that linked article look somewhat like the Fairey Rotodyne from the 1950s. Imagine if that hadn’t been cancelled.

      • For me aerodynamically the Rotodyne is still the best compromise for a heavy lift VTOL aircraft.

        This is because the coaxial design will face severe limitations if it tries to push past 250 knots without taking the load of the rotors. For example the S97 Raider and the Defiant combine the coaxial rotors with a pusher propeller. However, the Wiki design description is incorrect. Close coupled rotors do not decrease drag, but increases drag due to the airflow interaction between the upper and lower blades, much like a biplane generating very strong vortexes around the tips. The S97 was described as a compound helicopter, this is also incorrect. To qualify as a compound helicopter, lift must be supplemented by a wing to reduce the load on the rotors. The S97 was a brute force helicopter using the additional thrust of the pusher propeller to overcome the retreating blade stall. The aircraft suffered severe vibrations because of this. The defiant will suffer the same problems, it does not have an additional wing to supplement the wing and therefore the rotors must generate all the lift.

        The Valor tilt rotor, like the V22 Osprey is also a compromise, as the size of the two rotor discs limits the maximum weight it can take off vertically with. The rotor disc diameter is limited by two factors the distance from the propeller hub to the cabin and the strength of the wing. The prop-rotor must do two functions, be a propeller when horizontal and be a rotor when vertical. To do this the blade geometry is compromised so it can achieve both making it inherently less efficient than either a true rotor or propeller. This then limits the amount of lift it can generate in the hover, thereby limiting the all up weight it can take off with. The option for improvement would be to extend the wing length to allow for longer propellers is then limited by the amount of strength that can be built into the new wing. The quad tilt rotor may be the easiest solution, if vortex interaction between the forward and aft prop-rotors can be controlled.

        The Airbus X3 is nearly a true compound helicopter. It uses the main rotor for vertical take off and landings. As the forward airspeed increases the drive to the rotor shaft is “reduced” to slow down the rotors. The lift is then supplemented by the fixed wing and the forward airspeed dictated by the drive from the two propellers.

        The Fairey Rotodyne was a true compound helicopter. It used the main rotor for vertical take off and landings transitioned to forward flight with the aid of a fixed wing and two propellers to provide the thrust. Once drive is removed from the rotors the aircraft effectively turns into a giant autogyro, with the lift being shared between the rotors and the fixed wing. The rotors will be driven by the airspeed therefore the tips won’t reach the critical mach speed to cause tip stalling and significantly reduces the retreating blade stall problem. The Rotodyne concept may have been ahead of its time, but the principle was sound and with today’s blade technology would make a massive difference to the efficiency and performance of the aircraft. Westlands bought out Fairey, who are now owned by Leonardo, so I guess they now own the design. Would it be a massive leap to modernise the Rotadyne using today’s technology? The aircraft completed over 800 successful flights and relied on a completely mechanical system and the pilot’s feel to control the transition between helicopter and autogyro modes. There were going to be two production models, a civil airliner and military version, which replaced the rear clam shell doors with a ramp.
        Therefore I believe aerodynamically, the Rotodyne principle has the better vertical lift capabilities over both the tilt rotor or co-axial offerings.

        • Davey,

          Kept waiting for you to mention what was so revolutionary about the Rotodyne, but you never did. That was how the main rotors were driven. They weren’t mechanically linked to the Napier Eland engines but were driven by jets on the rotor tips…

          I remember building the Airfix kit back in the 1960’s. Great model for it’s time.

          • In a way it was revolutionary, because by forcing the rotor to turn from the tip via the jets, meant that there was no torque reaction. The yaw was controlled whilst hovering by differential control of the engines and propellers. Which for the day was quite an achievement when it was purely manually controlled. Especially when you consider how difficult it was to finely control the early gas turbines which were prone to either flooding or flaming out.
            It is possible today to drive the Rotodynes rotor shaft to turn the rotors and provide the counter-torque by differential pitch of the propellers as the Airbus X3 does. The rotor shaft would be completely de-clutched when sufficient lift is generated from the wing.
            My thoughts are that the design is still very relevant today, except we don’t have anybody in this country with the will to invest in its development – which is incredibly sad, as I believe it would be highly competitive! I was thinking that the prototype was cancelled by the ministry of supply back in the day, who then had it broken up. Does that mean the design isn’t owned by Westlands (Leonardo) but by UK Gov?

  3. The reality is none of the nato nations outside the US can now mount a sustained solo operation. Capabilities have been constantly cut, so whilst assets are there for short term operarions, they aren’t there in the numbers requires to sustain an operation without support from other nations. This includes the UK, which will require support from NATO nations to escort our carriers and US jets to fill them etc etc and that’s on a regular deployment and not even as sustained operation.

  4. France/EU need to start buying heavy lift airlifters, refuelers and helos in meaningful quantities so the Brits and the Americans don’t always have to provide this for them. The EU keeps saying what a great organization they are well then prove it and start funding your own defense. The state of the EU militaries is a disgrace especially Germany’s.


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