A pair of Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apaches taking off (Image © Minsterie van Defensie)

Dutch Apaches on their way to Mali

A pair of Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apaches taking off (Image © Minsterie van Defensie)
A pair of Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apaches taking off (Image © Minsterie van Defensie)

LATEST UPDATE 28 MARCH 2014 | 3 RNLAF CH-47 Chinooks will join Dutch force in Mali

The first Dutch troops for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have left Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on 6 January 2014, to make way for the main Dutch force that will include 4 AH-64D Apache helicopters.

The group of 14 engineers will build up the Dutch encampment, including living and sleeping areas, figure out the logistics and prepare the infrastructure for the arrival of the main force that will include the four Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Apache attack helicopters plus small recon drones. In total about 378 personnel will be sent to Mali in the coming weeks, made up by 90 special forces, 70 analysts, 60 crew to support the Apache ops, 20 military police and 10 civilian police officers. Another 128 Dutch military men and women will support the operation which will likely mean frequent flights of RNLAF C-130Hs, (K)DC-10s, NATO/allied C-17s and possibly even rented AN-124s.

Transport fleet
Eindhoven AB will be the main air operations centre in the Netherlands. It is the home of the RNLAF transport fleet, comprising of 334 Squadron and 336 Squadron, and is a relatively short driving distance from the Apaches homebase of Gilze-Rijen and the Royal Netherlands Army Commandos base in Roosendaal.

334 Squadron’s main task is to operate two McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 tanker/transport with registration T-264 (Prins Bernhard) and T-235 (Jan Scheffer). 336 Squadron is the Hercules unit, flying two C-130H-30 with registration G-273 (Ben Swagerman) and G-275 (Joop Mulder) plus two into C-130H converted ex-USN EC-130Qs with registration G-781 (Bob van der Stok) and G-988 (Willem den Toom).

Pick-up
Although no official word yet from the Dutch ministry of Defence, it is likely that joint-EU/allied Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs or Antonov AN-124 Ruslans (NATO name Condor) will pick up the Apaches at the Royal Netherlands Defence Helicopter Command base of Gilze Rijen. 301 Squadron based here flies 21 AH-64Ds, while another 8 RNLAF Apaches are permanently assigned to the recently re-establised 302 Squadron based at Fort Hood/Robert Gray Army Air Field in Texas, USA, for training purposes.

Base of operations
The Dutch contribution to MINUSMA lasts until mid 2015, but the government in The Hague holds options open for a longer stay if the UN Security Council asks for it. The AH-64Ds and ScanEagle drones will mainly operate out of Gao, with Bamako-Senou as the main logistics and military analysis base. Bamako was left recently by a French fighter detachment. The 90 special forces will be scattered over a large area as the eyes and ears of the UN troops and might need some Apache air support from time to time.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger with source information of the Ministerie van Defensie (Dutch MoD)

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