Royal Air Force C-17 operations in support of the French military in Mali are continuing from Evreux Airbase near Paris
Since the short notice commencement of Op Newcombe, C-17 Globemaster aircraft operated by 99 Squadron have been flying 5000 mile round trip missions on a near daily basis, transporting armoured vehicles, freight and personnel.
Less than 50 hours after the announcement by the Prime Minister that the UK would provide logistical support to French military operations in the West African State, 50 tons of military equipment was delivered to the capital Bamako, equivalent to a week’s worth of freight delivered to Afghanistan.
Wing Commander SimonBellamy, the RAF Liaison Officer at the French military headquarters, said:
"The deployment demonstrates the decisive contribution that air power can make to any emerging operation. The pace of our response to the formal French request for logistical support illustrates not only the professionalism of our personnel but also the increasingly strong and operationally focussed links we have generated with the French Air Force since the Libyan campaign.”
For Squadron Leader Spence Wild, a Flight Commander on 99 Sqn, the C-17 is tailor made for the operation. "The type of tasking we're undertaking here is what the C-17 was designed and brought into service for. Being involved in a multi-national fast paced build-up of forces over a great distance demonstrates the benefit of the C-17 and what it brings to our current inventory of air transport assets.”
He added, "Flying into Bamako is not routine but the support provided by PJHQ and the French Forces has ensured that it's running smoothly. We're now reducing time on the ground because of how efficient it's become.
"We only have a small fleet but we are contributing in such a large way to both Op Herrick and Op Newcombe. A 99 Squadron C-17 goes into both Afghanistan and Mali every day in addition to supporting medevac and other short notice taskings.”
Detachment Commander at Evreux is Squadron Leader Tom Walker. "We have a small team held at high readiness to deploy at short notice. On this occasion the scale of the operation required 1 Air Mobility Wing to deploy a much larger team to establish a detachment at Evreux .
"We're helping the French because they don't have the capability that we do to lift large vehicles and heavy loads in one aircraft and transport them long distance at speed. Every single aircraft which has left here for Mali has done so with either a maximum payload or a maximum bulk against the priorities the French have given us.”
As the Commander, Sqn Ldr Walker is responsible for a small team which includes movement personnel, signallers, aircrew, force protection and security personnel, all of whom work from office accommodation nicknamed ‘The Bungalow’. “These disparate branches have come together to deliver the output and each one brings something vital to the task. They have had to work very closely with their French counterparts at every level in order to get the job done.”
And with unfamiliar vehicles and equipment to transport, another RAF Brize Norton based unit has been deployed to assist.
"Absolutely everything we fly on the C-17 has to be cleared by the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit” said Sqn Ldr Walker. “They have deployed a small team here to clear all of the French vehicles for transport. We apply our on rigorous vehicle and freight regulations to the French equipment. Everything is prepared to the same standard as if it were a UK load.”
The success of the support operation has been achieved despite a language barrier which sees great reliance on hand signals between personnel. Wg Cdr Bellamy said: "The enthusiasm of everyone has been tangible. People are really giving the language a go and I genuinely think the French have warmed to us and enjoyed having us around.”
Editor: Wg Cdr Dylan Eklund
Photographs: Wg Cdr Dylan Eklund
A French Army VAB armoured personnel carrier is driven off a Royal Air Force C-17 aircraft at Bamako, Mali on 27 Jan 13 watched by Senior Aircraftman Alec Cecil of 1 Ai rMobility Wing based at RAF Brize Norton.
Wing Commander Simon Bellamy, Air Command Liaison Officer to the French military Headquarters pictured at Evreux Airbase from where RAF C-17 aircraft are transporting French military equipment to Mali.
Three French Army VAB Armoured Personnel Carriers aboard a Royal Air Force C-17 of Brize Norton based 99 Squadron en-route Bamako, Mali.
Squadron Leader Tom Walker (left), RAF Detachment Commander at Evreux Airbase from where RAF C-17 aircraft are transporting French military equipment to Mali.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013