The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has deployed its Chinook heavy-lift helicopter fleet to support the French counter-terrorism operations in Mali.
Three RAF Chinook helicopters, in addition to approximately 90 British personnel, are currently fully operational as part of the UK’s support for France.
Set off from RAF Odiham air station in England, the three Boeing-built aircraft are delivering niche logistical support to French combat forces deployed to carry out counter-terrorism operations as part of Operation Barkhane.
UK Armed Forces minister Mark Lancaster said: “This deployment demonstrates the vital role our armed forces play, working alongside our French allies to tackle terrorism and reduce threats to European and UK security.”
To support the operations of the Chinooks, the British forces have set up three temporary aircraft hangers on the ground to enable the helicopters to conduct a number of different missions each week.
The current deployment is in addition to the country’s long-standing support of the United Nations, European Union, and G5 Sahel Joint Force operations in Mali.
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Operations are aimed at preventing extremists from using the ungoverned space in the Sahel to plan and launch attacks on Europe.
UK Minister of State for Africa Harriett Baldwin said: “The UK is committed to fighting poverty and bringing stability to the Sahel region, working closely with our partners to tackle threats to European security.
“This helicopter deployment demonstrates the UK’s commitment to do more in the Sahel, alongside £50m of UK aid providing lifesaving humanitarian support, and a bigger diplomatic network.”
In January 2013, the UK RAF deployed two of its C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft to France as part of the country’s logistical support for French military operations in Mali.