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British helicopters in support of Operation Barkhane in the Sahel (V2)

A British army Chinook helicopter soon to be in the Sahel in support of French forces (credit:

(B2) The UK could soon send Chinook helicopters in support of France's Operation Barkhane in the Sahel. This decision should be announced tomorrow (Thursday) at the Franco-British summit. Meeting which will take place in a place that could not be more symbolic: the military academy of Sandhurst.

Helicopters and other means

« To make up for the lack of available French helicopters, the British offered means of transport “, explains the daily The Telegraph which relies on sources within the UK Ministry of Defence. RAF Chinook heavy helicopters were offered to transport French troops as well as equipment. This support could also concern strategic transport by C-17. " The United Kingdom had opposed the sending of a C-17 plane to ensure rotations in the region because of the commitment of operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan recalls Roger Boyes of Times. This support from across the Channel could also concern ISTAR means (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, reconnaissance) with in particular Watchkeeper surveillance drones, specifies the follow-up British.

A new presence in Estonia

In order to ensure a certain reciprocity, the French could return to Estonia, participating during a future rotation (in 2019 for example) in the battle group led by the British in Estonia within the framework of the NATO operation, “ Reinforced Forward Presence (EFP)”, aimed at showing the muscles of the Atlantic Alliance against Russia (read: Tapa: reassuring Estonia… and a great training ground).

(Maj*) A confirmed presence

The Franco-British summit confirmed this commitment, in part. The British will provide three Chinook CH-47 helicopters, as well as a C-17 aircraft. On the other hand, there is no question (at least officially) of Istar means. The French will be present in Estonia in 2019.

Four countries involved in various capacities

The United Kingdom would thus be the fourth European country to make a concrete commitment to the Sahel. Since the start of Operation Serval (now Barkhane), Spain has provided logistical support, with an air detachment. Germany has hired men in the Minusma. Italy has confirmed that it is engaged in Niger in a mission to train and structure the Nigerien army. The Italians are thus the only ones for the moment who want to engage on the ground, with a contingent of around 500 personnel (read: The Italians as reinforcements for the French in Niger).

Conclusion: A little time

It will have taken a little time (two to three years) to have anything other than symbolic or episodic participation on the part of the various European partners. But the terrorist threat helping and the ongoing disengagement in Iraq – which frees up resources – could thus promote a more sustained and complete commitment of Europeans alongside the French in the Sahel.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

* Updated Thursday, January 18, 23 p.m., with the results of the Franco-British summit

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

2 thoughts on “British helicopters in support of Operation Barkhane in the Sahel (V2)"

  • A few years ago there was a project dedicated to the European Defense Agency for a European heavy helicopter, indeed for the German and French air forces. And the results?

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