Saturday, 11 May 2019

RAF Chinook helicopters in West Africa with French and Estonian troops.

Photo RAF

The UK's Royal Air Force currently has some Chinook helicopters based in Mali in West Africa, in support of French counter-insurgency operations and most recently they have been conducting exercises with a Malian based Estonian Army detachment.

The RAF Chinook helicopter detachment has been conducting an air mobility exercise with the Estonian Army Force Protection platoon that is based at Gao airfield and provides part of the guard force for the airfield. The exercise gave the Estonians the opportunity to board and deplane from the Chinook in operational conditions and also experience a short flight in the aircraft. Welcoming the opportunity, the Estonian platoon commander said: “We aim to train as we would fight so this is an excellent opportunity to practice what we could be called upon to do.”

Documenting the training, Flight Lieutenant Andy Donovan, one of the pilots said “They were highly professional and seized the opportunity to board and disembark aggressively, as they would in the field if they were called upon. They seemed to find it a very valuable training experience.”

Photo RAF
The Chinooks have also been transporting French personnel to the forward operation bases as the French military conduct a changeover of troops.  In addition, the heavy-lift helicopters have been transporting supplies and equipment.
“Supporting French operations against violent extremists is an important and satisfying mission.  Our aircrew, engineers and support staff are making a big impact: whether moving large numbers of troops and equipment to remote bases, or re-supplying a patrol in the desert, we are playing a vital part in this operation.

 “We help reduce the reliance on road moves, typically vulnerable to Improvised Explosive Devices and some ground patrols can only be effectively sustained by helicopter.

"One of the other pilots is Flight Lieutenant Matthew Williams.  He said: “This is my first frontline deployment and it has not disappointed.  The job calls for flying heavy payloads over long distances, in intense heat and above some pretty inhospitable terrain; in many respects the environment is a greater threat than the enemy.” Said Squadron Leader Matthew Wight-Boycott
Photo RAF

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