RAF News

New RAF Commander takes charge of Chinook detachment in Mali

Wing Commander Sommers stands in-front of a Chinook.
Wing Commander Sommers.

The RAF Chinook detachment currently serving in Mali to support French Counter Insurgency operations has a new Commanding Officer.

During a recent handover ceremony at Gao Airbase in Mali, Wing Commander David Sommers took over as the National Component Commander for Operation NEWCOMBE, the operational name for the Chinook detachment, from Commander Colin Kiernan (Royal Navy).

French troops walk towards an RAF Chinook.
French troops embarking on to an RAF Chinook in Mali. 

Wing Commander Sommers now commands the UK’s heavy lift helicopter support to the French Operation BARKHANE.  The Chinooks are part of the Joint Helicopter Command from RAF Odiham, and are currently flown and engineered by 18 (B) Squadron personnel.  The detachment is fully integrated into the French Groupement Tactique Désert-Aérocombat in a combat support role.

"Command is always a privilege and never more so than on operations.  On arrival I was immediately struck by the quality and dedication of both the RAF and Army personnel here.  Despite being faced with the daily challenges of conducting air operations in extremely demanding environmental conditions, they deliver what I ask of them and more!"

Wing Commander Sommers
National Component Commander

Wing Commander Sommers takes over a Chinook detachment that over the last 12 months has conducted more than 1000 hours of operational tasking, delivering over 700 tonnes of freight and 6000 personnel across an extensive Area of Operations.

"Our continued presence in Mali demonstrates Britain’s continued commitment to meeting the security challenges that we share with our European partners and Allies. Here we are working closely with the French Army and other nations to improve stability and security for the people of a country whose lives are plagued by extremism and violence."

Wing Commander Sommers
National Component Commander

The UK detachment also includes small teams from the Joint Helicopter Command Tactical Supply Wing, providing forward-area refuelling to both UK and French aircraft and from the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron that enable under-slung load movements. 

RAF Chinook with lift sortie.
RAF Chinook conducting heavy lift sortie in Mali.

These lifts included French armoured vehicles and other large items of freight that cannot be lifted by French helicopters assets and would have otherwise had to be moved on roads routinely targeted using improvised explosive devices.

"I am immensely proud of the Chinook detachment’s achievements over the last 6 months.  In the face of extreme weather and heat our Armed Forces personnel continue to safely deliver operations in the Sahel.  Serving with some of the most committed and diligent service personnel has been a huge honour that I will remember for some time to come."

Commander Kiernan (Royal Navy)

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