The Royal Air Force Odiham based Chinooks deployed to Mali in support of the French military have begun operations and are now contributing a heavy lift helicopter capability for the counter insurgency mission there.
The three RAF Chinooks are being used to transport French troops and supplies around the country, providing vital logistical support in the ongoing campaign against the insurgents.
The RAF helicopters have already conducted 30 sorties, flying for up to 6 hours on each trip and so far have moved over 700 French troops and more than 70 tons of equipment.
The commander for the deployed British Military personnel in Mali is Wing Commander Matt Roberts.
'With the Chinook Mk 5 we can move a huge amount of stores around the area of operations and increase the in-theatre manoeuvrability of the French.'
Wing Commander Roberts explained that during one week during just three missions the Chinooks lifted just short of 25 tons in support of French ground troops.
The RAF Chinooks have worked operationally with many allies around the world previously, but this is the first time that the helicopters have been deployed on a French operation. Wing Commander Roberts added:
'Our French partners have done absolutely everything to ensure we are integrated into this operation with all the support required to reach full operating capacity.'
Wing Commander Roberts reflecting on the operation so far: 'Working with other countries so closely is fascinating, it gives you the opportunity to look at yourselves from a totally different perspective. We have learnt a huge amount from the way they operate and I hope they’d say the same thing about us.'