A Royal Air Force Boeing C-17 strategic transport has made its first flight into Bamako airport in Mali, as part of the UK's provision of logistics support for a French military contingent in the conflict-affected African nation.

Flown from Evreux air base in France on 14 January, the 99 Sqn-operated aircraft delivered personnel and equipment including three French army VAB armoured personnel carriers. Each of the wheeled vehicles weighs about 13t.

 RAF C-17 unloads VAB - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

Two of the RAF's eight C-17s have been made available to provide non-combat support during France's military intervention in Mali, which was launched on 11 January.

"We are sending C-17s because they are an asset that the French cannot replicate, so they have to charter such aircraft," UK armed forces minister Andrew Robathan said on 14 January.

 RAF C-17s - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

"This deployment has a limited time scale of one week, although that could increase," he added, also noting that there are no plans to also commit UK land forces to support the French action.

French air force assets involved in the nation's Operation Serval include Dassault-Breguet C160 Transall and Lockheed Martin C-130H tactical transports. The service is due to take delivery of its first of 50 Airbus Military A400Ms during the second quarter of this year. With a maximum payload capacity of 37t, slightly less than half that of the C-17, the type will be capable of carrying up to two VAB vehicles.

Meanwhile, a Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 was due to depart the service's Trenton air base in Ontario on 15 January to provide further support for the French operation in Mali. The USA is also expected to give logistics and airlift support during the campaign.

Source: Flight International