Danish Ministry of Defence, December 19, 2019 - By Julia Liberati - This week the last soldiers deployed with the Danish helicopter contribution landed in Gao, Mali.
The Danish contribution consisting of two EH101 transport helicopters and up to about 70 people is thus ready to begin work in the French-led operation Barkhane.
"This is the first time that Denmark is sending troops to Operation Barkhane and I know that it has taken a lot of preparation from the Armed Forces. That is why I am very pleased that the Armed Forces are now ready to also contribute to the counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region in cooperation with European allies”, says Defense Minister Trine Bramsen.
The mission of the Danish contribution is to support the French-led efforts in the Sahel region with transport tasks of personnel and cargo. Transport helicopters are in demand in the French Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region of Africa.
“The EH101 helicopter has a large transport capacity and will make a difference in Operation Barkhane. At the same time, it will make everyday life more secure and flexible for the soldiers on the ground, because it is significantly more dangerous to transport on land than in the air”, says Colonel Lieutenant Martin Birkedahl Nielsen, head of the Operations Staff Air Operations Section.
The troops are located in Gao in eastern Mali and should be deployable throughout Operation Barkhane's Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania areas where helicopters are a suitable means of transport.
"The operation covers a very large geographical area in a region known by the lack of infrastructure and climatic conditions, often limiting the ability to move in ground vehicles", says Martin Birkedahl Nielsen.
The Armed Forces work closely with French defense and have also previously supported French operations, including from 1999 to 2014 in Kosovo where a Danish army detachment was included in the French force. In 2013 to Operation Serval with a C-130 transport aircraft and earlier this year with the frigate Niels Juel in support of the French aircraft carrier group Charles de Gaulle in the Indian Ocean.
Prior to deployment, personnel have undergone thorough mission preparatory training where they have been prepared for the particular local conditions, coverting everything from health to safety.
One of the major elements of this preparation has been the training of pilots, crew members and aircraft mechanics in operating in a desert area where dust clouds of sand around the helicopter make it difficult to orientate and need extensive maintenance work of the helicopters.
"You have to imagine that it's like having to park a car where you can't look out the windshield and where you close your eyes the last few meters before arriving", says Captain VAN, an EH101 pilot.
Therefore, all pilots, crew members and aircraft mechanics to be deployed to Mali have trained dust landings or the so-called 'Brown Out'. Brown Out is when the helicopter lands in areas with a lot of sand, which then swirls around the helicopter, reducing its visibility to near zero.