Chinooks are taking over the transport mission in southern Afghanistan from 5 smaller Cougars. The Air Force helicopters will transport people and equipment within the ISAF mission area. The last two Cougars left today [May 10] for the Netherlands in an Antonov An-124 cargo plane.
The Chinooks were flown to Afghanistan in recent weeks, also by an Antonov, one of the largest cargo planes.
A special team from the Defence Helicopter Command from Gilze-Rijen Air Base, home of both helicopter types, managed and coordinated the helicopter exchange. For example, the rotor blades were removed so that the helicopters could fit inside the airplane. The flight home had to contend with the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, which eventually led to a delay of four days.
Since October, the Cougars flew 271 missions in southern Afghanistan, spread over 1,096 flight hours. They transported over 6,400 passengers and 128,000 kilos of freight, including to forward bases in Uruzgan province. They also supported special operations units of Task Force 55 with Dutch commandos and marines.