OP NEWCOMBE: UK task force enters Mali, deploys exotic combat systems

British troops numbering about 300 has arrived in Mali to support the United Nations’ Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), the troops will provide enhanced reconnaissance capability to the mission as proposed earlier this year.

Majority of the 300 personnel were primarily drawn from the Light Dragoons, the Royal Anglian Regiment, and supported by specialist trades from across the Armed Forces. Their main mission includes providing a highly specialized reconnaissance capability, conducting patrols to gather intelligence and engage with the local population to help the UN respond to threats from violent extremism, and weak governance.

“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council this deployment is a demonstration of our firm commitment to peacekeeping and the importance we place on improving security in the Sahel by protecting local communities,” says Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

“Our land forces are the best in the world, and we are one of a small handful of nations able to provide this specialist capability in a challenging environment which will help prevent the spread of conflict across the region.”

The 300 strong Light Dragoon task group is joining over 14,000 peacekeepers from 56 Nations as part of this challenging UN mission in Mali to help protect the people from violence and support political dialogue.

We bring years of experience on operations, first class equipment and exceptional people says Lieutenant Colonel Tom Robinson, Commanding Officer of the Light Dragoons.

“We’ve trained hard for the last year to make sure that we are ready for this challenging mission. We’re proud to be the first British soldiers to join in this team effort to help combat instability in the Sahel.

Prior to their deployment to Mali, the Light Dragoons and Royal Anglians conducted an MRX (Mission Rehearsal Exercise) at the Salisbury Plain and Stanford Training Areas with several new weapons and combat systems.

The MINUSMA contingent are equipped with Spectra Group Slingshot communication system, Harris T7 EOD UGV, DefendTex D40 UGL-launched Drone, Vallon VMR3 detectors, and Avinc Puma AE UAV.

The UK Task Group Signals Officer tests the new Slingshot communications system
[Crown Copyright: Dan Harrison]
Harris T7 EOD UGV
DefendTex D40 underbarrel grenade-launched Drone
Avinc Puma AE UAV

“The troops were put through a range of realistic scenarios that they may encounter in Mali while supporting the UN, from engaging with locals in a complex social landscape to conducting patrols and dealing with suspected IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices),” says the Ministry of Defence.

Most of the British contingent arrived UN camp in Gao, Mali on 2 December aboard an A400M airlifter, the rest will be flown in on or before 8th December. The troops deployment was initially delayed due to logistics challenges.

They will be based in the newly formed Camp Bagnold, which is named after Brigadier Ralph Alger Bagnold, the desert explorer and first Commanding Officer of the British Army’s Long Range Desert Group.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “This new deployment of 300 British troops to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali is part of our ongoing work in the Sahel region to build stability, improve the humanitarian response and help protect innocent civilians from violence.

“British troops will reinforce our development and diplomatic work, to maximize our impact on the ground.”

For years, the United Kingdom has been supporting the Sahel countries with financial, military, and economic aids – in 2020 the UK gave £14.65m in humanitarian aid to Mali and is currently in the process of increasing the size of the UK embassy to reinforce its diplomatic strength in the country.

Also, 3 Chinook helicopters and 100 highly equipped personnel are in Mali supporting the French-led Counter-Terrorist mission, Operation BARKHANE.

Slingshot communications system

Spectra’s SlingShot is a unique, low size, weight and power (SWaP) system that enables existing UHF and VHF tactical radios to extend their reach into the realm of Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) Communications on the Move (COTM).

By utilising Inmarsat’s commercial L-band Tactical Satellite (L-TAC), SlingShot allows a tactical net to be created over 1000s of kilometers to deliver a comprehensive range of tactical and operational network capabilities. SlingShot provides voice and data capability for Command and Control (C2), encrypted if required, and to support wide-ranging mission-critical applications. 

Commanding Officer Lt Col Robinson said: “The UN mission is all about stabilizing Mali, attempting to deliver that political reconciliation and protecting the people from the consequences of violence.

“No one in Africa or indeed Europe wants a failed state in North Africa, spreading instability throughout the region, so our mission is just a part of that wider mission in order to prevent that from happening.”

Kazim Abdul

Former Sudanese Army captain, now tasked to sustain the peace. Peace is Golden.

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