Spain has commenced deployment of its first NH90 helicopter to Mali as part of the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali.
“Spain’s firm commitment to the mission has been demonstrated by the provision of a Commanding General to the Mission in the first semester of 2021. His leadership, devotion and commitment has undoubtedly boosted the effective deployment of the ITAT in Mali,” the EUTM said.
According to the Spanish Ministry of Defence, the Spanish Army Rotary Wing Force contingent left Spain on 21 June and arrived Bamako on 26, to join EUTM Mali as members of the Intra-Theater Air Transport unit (ITAT).
The first NH90 helicopter was partly disassembled and flown in by an Antonov An-124 aircraft. Another two NH90 helicopters will arrive shortly.
Brigadier General Fernando Luis GRACIA Herreiz, Commander of the Force of the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali, witnessed the arrival of the first NH90 in Bamako.
“In the context of Mandate 5 of EUTM Mali, approved by the European Union in April 2020, a decentralization of training activities to the Armed Forces of Mali was mentioned, as well as the expansion of the mission area to the other four countries of the G5 Sahel. To make this project possible, it was considered necessary to have an air transport unit at the disposal of EUTM Mali, in order to provide freedom of movement. Spain, committed to the stability of the Sahel, offered this rotary wing unit to the mission,” the Spanish defence ministry said.
The Intra-Theatre Air Transport (ITAT) structure, under the command of Commander Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Matías, is made up of 62 soldiers in the following sub-units: The flight unit, the maintenance unit, the supply unit, the transmission unit and the command unit. The unit has three NH90 helicopters.
In Spain, the NH90s operated by the BHELMA III (3rd Manoeuvre Helicopter Battalion) of the FAMET (Spanish Army Airmobile Force) will be tasked with providing tactical transport, support for special operations forces, combat recovery and combat search and rescue, electronic warfare, logistics support, medical evacuation operations and fire support with their two M3M MK3 12.7 mm machine guns.
This tactical group will carry out support missions for decentralised training activities by EUTM Mali on the bases of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa).
This helicopter deployment is part of Spain’s contribution to stabilize the African region under the EU force structure. Although, Spain has several other aircraft in the region providing logistics services to the United Nations.
Last year, Spain deployed two C-295 tactical transport aircraft Dakar, Senegal to bolster the United Nations missions in the Central African Republic (Minusca) and Mali (Minusma) as well as the French-led Operation Barkhane.