The Royal Air Force has dispatched a C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft to Gao, Mali in support of the French Operation Barkhane counter-insurgency mission. The C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft flight was to deliver supplies to the Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook Detachment currently deployed supporting French operations in the war-torn country.
The arrival of the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft to Gao, Mali will ease logistics significantly because supplies are usually flown to the neighboring country Niger and then transported by road. The C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft will now supply the Chinook detachment directly, as well as carry essential mission equipment and urgent aircraft spares.
Flying Officer Matt Nowicki, the Detachments Logistics Officer disclosed that “Flying directly into Gao significantly shortens the logistics chain, which until now has relied on onward movements of freight from Niamey Airbase in Niger. Being able to fly to Gao has made an immense difference to support operations.”
The C-17 flights were made possible following a visit by RAF personnel from 99 Squadron, who rehabilitated the runway and airfield facilities to ensure safe aviation operations. The C-17 transported the first relief in place of RAF personnel to and out of Mali, bringing to an end the first rotation of Airmen supporting the French Operation Barkhane.
The RAF Chinook detachment is deployed over 3000 miles away in Mali and relies on both RAF and French transport support to get supplies moved from the Chinook’s base at RAF Odiham out to sub-Saharan Africa.
"This is no mean feat and the support from the French has been outstanding unloading the vast amount of freight onto a makeshift operating area located close to the UK detachment,” said Wing Commander Matt Roberts, The RAF Detachment Commander.
While the United States has already used C-17 transports to support French forces in Mali, the arrival of the RAF C-17 marks the first time that the Royal Air Force has been able to directly support its Gao-based Chinooks since they deployed in June.