Chinook RAF helicopter in Mali Sahel region Africa - pic used on 120620 CREDIT MOD.jpg

RAF Personnel Complete 'Intensive' Four-Month Tour In Mali

Royal Air Force personnel and Chinook helicopters have been working alongside French forces in Mali since 2018.

Chinook RAF helicopter in Mali Sahel region Africa - pic used on 120620 CREDIT MOD.jpg

Royal Air Force personnel have completed four months of "intensive operations" in Mali.

Air personnel and Chinook helicopters have been in the West African country supporting Operation Barkhane - the French-led counter-insurgency mission in the region. 

The airmen and women, made up of 18 (Bomber) Squadron, Tactical Support Wing and Joint Helicopter Support Squadron, have now returned to RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

Together, they formed 1310 Flight RAF and operated from a base in Gao, east Mali.

UK National Component Commander, Wing Commander Si Elsey, handed over command of the RAF detachment.

He said: "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."

During the tour, the Chinooks and crew from 1310 Flight carried out several "significant" operations, including company-sized airlifts of French units across central Mali.

RAF CH-47 Chinook in Mali
The RAF had to work in extreme weather conditions during the deployment, including soaring temperatures and thunderstorms (Picture: RAF).

One operation included flying through the night alongside French Caiman helicopters to deliver more than 130 troops to conduct a clearance patrol.

They were also involved in assisting the French military with a programme aimed at re-establishing Malian Army Forward Operation Bases.

The bases are spread out across the Op Barkhane area of operations, with the Chinooks conducting numerous flights to deliver French troops at the bases with supplies, equipment and heavy weaponry. 

Once established, the bases will be handed over to Malian forces.

The RAF first began working with the French military in Mali in 2018.

RAF Chinook at Gao, Mali on Op Barkhane 250919 CREDIT RAF.jpg
The Chinook aircraft operated from a base in Gao (Picture: RAF).

Last month, the UK extended its military support to the counter-terrorism mission in the country.

The mission across the Sahel region is focused on providing long-term stability and tackling the threat from militants linked to groups such as Al-Qaeda or so-called Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh.

Over the past months, forces deployed on the mission killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as other high-profile members of the group.

Later this year, around 250 British troops will deploy to Mali as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. 

Cover image: RAF Chinook in Mali (Picture: MOD).