Two medical evacuation German Army NH90s landed in Gao, Mali, on 31 January after a 1,200km flight from Bamako where they had been delivered by an Antonov An-124-100 transport aircraft from Leipzig/Halle in east Germany to join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). They will be followed in the next few days and weeks by another two medical evacuation NH90s and four Tiger combat helicopters.
This airborne force will, from 1st March, replace the three Dutch CH-47F Chinook transport helicopters and four AH-64D Apaches deployed in Mali since April 2014.
The Netherlands had announced their decision to withdraw these helicopters from Mali in July 2016 following a high rate of wear on the helicopters and a degraded security situation, according to official sources quoted by Reuters.
The German helicopters will undertake transport, evacuation and close air support missions for the Dutch Task Group Desert Falcon until 31 January 2018. The Bundeswehr is already well represented in Malian skies with its Heron 1 surveillance remotely piloted air systems (RPASs) deployed from 1 November 2016 until February 2018. These RPASs, also operated from Gao, contribute to the surveillance of a territory twice the size of Germany.
This deployment, approved on 26 January by the Bundestag, will be accompanied by an extra 350 soldiers for MINUSMA, taking the German contingent from 10 in January 2016 to 1,000 by 1 March 2017, and making Mali the Bundeswehr’s major foreign theatre of operation, ahead of Afghanistan (890 soldiers), and Irak (150 soldiers). The additional troops will start arriving in Gao from 15 February.
Created in April 2013 by UN Resolution 2100, MINUSMA and its 10,732 military personnel’s strategic priority is to stabilise Mali’s main urban centres and contribute to the re-establishment of the state’s authority throughout the country.