The Royal Air Force logistical operation in support of French forces in Mali will provide real benefits to future joint operations according to a senior RAF Officer
As the Air Command Liaison Officer to the French Air Force Operational Headquarters, Wing Commander Simon Bellamy is well placed to comment on how the current support operation is improving the relationship between the RAF and French Air Force.
“Exercising air logistics aspects is always inherently difficult and so the contribution we're making to the French Operation Serval not only reinforces our co-operation with a strategic partner, it also undoubtedly accelerates our objectives particularly in the logistics domain as part of the development of the Joint Expeditionary Force.”
At the Lancaster House Summit in London in 2010 the UK and France signed a treaty for future defence and security cooperation which has since seen the Armed Forces of both nations work closer together on a variety of levels.
"Since the Treaty was signed our co-operation has been steadily increasing such that, for me personally and for my colleagues, it as familiar now to work with the French Forces as it has in the past been to work with the US Forces, our efforts are completely complimentary.”
"Yes there are differences but ultimately our operational outputs are the same. I find the French incredibly professional, very operationally focussed and importantly able to compromise so that we can work in a co-operative manner. There are more similarities than differences now. Our co-operation has reached a level such that we understand just how each Air Force functions day to day. This operation will reinforce those incredibly strong links at every level.”
The Wing Commander was also keen to stress that the current operation is markedly different to operations in Libya in 2011 where British and French forces operated closely together.
"This is different to Op Ellamy on a number of different levels. France is supporting Mali and we are supporting France alongside other partners. As this is not our operation we don't control the flow and we have to remain incredibly close to our French counterparts in order to maximise the efficiency of the UK contribution.
"So compared to Libya , which was very much a NATO operation involving the full range of air power roles, for the RAF this is about logistics effort and logistics support, and specific non-combat air power roles.”
Following the announcement by the Prime Minister that the UK was going to provide support to French military operations in Mali , RAF C-17 aircraft have been flying daily missions from France to West Africa transporting vehicles and equipment.
Editor: Wg Cdr Dylan Eklund
Photographs: Wg Cdr Dylan Eklund
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Senior Aircraftman Tom Patterson of 63 (The Queen's Colour Squadron), RAF Regiment.
Under the direction of RAF movements personnel a French Army VAB armoured personnel carrier is offloaded from a Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster at Bamako Aiport, Mali.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013