The Royal Netherlands Air Force will deploy CH-47D/F Chinooks to Mali in Africa after all. Three of these medium-lift helicopters will join the 4 AH-64D Apaches the RNLAF already planned to deploy to Goa, as part of the main force.
Reason behind the change is the lack of (med)evac capacity. The Dutch forces in Mali thought other UN partners or chartered civilian helicopters might provide the necessary air assets. But the Hague was unable to get guarantees, according to the Dutch minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert in an information exchange with the Dutch house of representatives.
MINUSMA, the UN Mission in Mali, currently uses three civilian transport helicopters for medevac. At night they can only land at airfields and they are not available for combat situations. Even French Army and Air Force chopper assets of parallel Operation Serval will not be always available.
The RNLAF Chinooks and the extra contingency of 70 personnel will not arrive quickly, since the Dutch first want to adapt the infrastructure of its camp in Goa. According to a press release full mission capability will be reached in October. The first operational units will arrive already in April, with full operational capability for them in May. Until the Chinooks arrive or unless the French guarantee heli support, the Dutch units will stay within a limited range of Goa.
Meanwhile the amount of violence by warring factions has stepped up in Mali. On 7 March 2014 two rockets were fired in the direction of the airport of Goa, causing limited damage according to the Dutch MoD. The Dutch forces will use prefab protective living containers. The French – using tents so far – will also transfer to this type of housing.
Source: Ministerie van Defensie (Dutch MoD)