Canada’s air task force supporting the French government’s Operation Serval in Mali reached the one-million-pound milestone of transported materiel on the 19th day of operations.
The Canadian CC-177 Globemaster III, which is assisting French authorities, landed at 125 Air Base Istre-le-Tubé at Provence, southern France, on January 16. Less than 24 hours later, on January 17, Canadian military personnel began their transport operations to the Bamako airport in Mali.
Based on the French army’s needs, a variety of loads ranging from medical materiel and armoured vehicles to troops is being transported, demonstrating the CC-177’s great flexibility.
A contingent of approximately 40 Royal Canadian Air Force members loads, maintains and carries out the flights. Just two teams and one ground crew working 24 hours a day, maintain a continuous air bridge, enabling the task force to carry out more than 15 return trips to Mali of approximately 180 flying hours over a distance of 134,400 kilometres.
Each airlift requires approximately 16 to 20 hours of work to load, fly the 4,000-kilometre trip from France to Mali, unload and return to France. Canadian military personnel keep up this constant pace to ensure the troops and equipment are transported as quickly as possible while maximizing flight time.
Since operations began, activity on the French air base has ramped up considerably, becoming a major logistical operations hub for transport to the Malian capital of Bamako. An American C-17 contingent has also joined the mission and is operating from the same air base as Canada.
Following the announcement to extend the Canadian mission to February 15, 2013, military personnel will continue to ensure that daily flights provide solid support to the French mission, aimed at containing northern Mali rebels and extremist groups that pose a real threat to national and international security.
The French began Op Serval on January 11, 2013, when Malian President Dioncounda Traoré issued an urgent appeal for foreign assistance in his government’s battle to rein in Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaida and retake the occupied territory. In response, French President François Hollande authorized a joint combat operation with Malian government forces to protect the capital of Bamako and take back the territory occupied by the militants.