The two NH90 Belgian helicopters were welcomed in Gao last weekend. After arriving at Bamako airport early last week, the two helicopters were prepared for flight in just two days.
The climate conditions in Mali require additional measures. Systems expert Chief Warrant Officer Steve explains, "One of the great risks for pilots is the brown-out: a maneuver on a sandy terrain where a large cloud of dust (created by the rotor downwash) reduces visibility to zero. These operations also are responsible for the accelerated wear of the rotor blades."
To remedy this, a special coating was applied to the blades before leaving for Mali. This coating however requires a specific adjustment. To further protect the engines, additional sand filters and an anti-FOD (foreign object damage) grille have also been installed.
The next stage for the pilots will be their UN flight qualification. Their main task will be to evacuate the wounded from the combat zones (forward airmedevac) from the German contingent confined to Gao.
Captain Aviator Pieter explains, "We can install some stretchers in the aircraft as well as a nurse and a surgeon. We thoroughly tested the device during pre-training in Fasberg, Germany, where our Air Mobile Protection Team (AMPT) worked closely with the Germans. AMPT provides tactical security in the field during interventions.”