C17 aircraft Mali
RAF

RAF C-17 Aircraft Gives Support To French Mission In Mali

Three RAF Chinooks deployed in Mali last month to help the French air force in a counter insurgency mission.

C17 aircraft Mali

Op Newcombe was originally announced more than five years ago by David Cameron (Picture: MoD/Flt Lt Chris Warr).

A Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft has arrived at Gao airfield in Mali for the first time.

The flight was to deliver supplies to the RAF Chinook Detachment currently deployed supporting French operations there.

Three RAF Chinooks deployed in Mali last month to help the French air force in a counter-insurgency mission.

France’s deployment in the Sahel region of West Africa began in 2013 after the Malian government asked for military assistance.

At the time French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, predicted that Operation Barkhane would last "a matter of weeks".

Britain's support to French operation, named Operation Newcombe, was originally announced in January 2013.

The arrival of the C-17 marks the first time that the RAF have been able to directly support the Gao-based Chinooks since they deployed earlier this year.

The C-17 will enable a monthly supply to the detachment through direct flights after previous supplies had to be flown to Niger and transhipped.

Previously supplies have been flown to neighbouring Niger and then transhipped.

C17 aircraft Mali
The C-17 is operated by 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton (Picture: MOD/Flt Lt Chris Warr).

Flying Officer Matt Nowicki, detachments logistics officer said: "Flying directly into Gao significantly shortens the logistics chain, which until now has relied on onward movements of freight from Niamey Airbase in Niger.

"Being able to fly to Gao has made an immense difference to supporting operations."

Flights by the C-17 are now possible following RAF personnel from 99 Squadron ensuring the runway and airfield facilities would safely allow the aircraft to be operated.

As well as carrying essential mission equipment and urgent aircraft spares, the C-17 also transported the first relief in place of RAF personnel to and out of Mali, bringing to an end the first rotation of Airmen supporting the French Op Barkhane.

The RAF Chinook detachment are deployed more than 3,000 miles away in Mali and relies on both RAF and French transport support to get supplies moved from the Chinook’s base at RAF Odiham out to sub-Saharan Africa. 

Wing Commander Matt Roberts, RAF detachment commander said: "This is no mean feat and the support from the French has been outstanding unloading the vast amount of freight onto a makeshift operating area located close to the UK detachment."