Royal Air Force Chinooks operating in Mali, West Africa have recently passed a significant milestone in the ongoing UK mission to support the French led counter insurgency operations there.
The RAF Odiham-based helicopters have now completed 2,000 hours of flying in support of the French military. RAF Chinooks began operating in Mali with the French military during July 2018 and since then have moved over one-thousand tonnes of freight and over twelve-thousand passengers.
Currently, the CH-47 Chinooks are being flown by aircrew drawn from 18(B) Squadron and are supported by ground-based personnel drawn from across the Army and RAF who carry out three to four-month tours. The current RAF detachment commander is Wing Commander Si Elsey.
“We have not lost a sortie due to COVID-19 and the French have maintained a high tempo of operations throughout. Once their troops are in the field, we re-supply them and can lift vehicles in and out as required.
“The deployed personnel have endeavoured to maintain communications with their families and generate a level of mutual support for isolated loved ones back home during this period of worldwide turmoil caused by COVID-19. Unfortunately, terrorism does not recognise pandemics, so the deployed personnel have maintained their operational focus while observing COVID-19 measures,” said Wing Commander Si Elsey.
The current detachment this year has flown three-hundred and forty hours, lifted two-hundred and forty seven tonnes of freight and transported one-thousand one-hundred and fifty passengers since arriving in January. During this time the detachment has operated in temperatures up to forty seven degrees centigrade which have been accompanied by frequent dust storms.