The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), is in urgent need of armed helicopters to protect civilians following the untimely withdrawal of the Ukrainian helicopter fleet.
MINUSMA’s air capabilities are significantly degraded and are looking for countries that could provide it with armed, transport, and utility helicopters.
A few days prior, Ukraine withdrew its troops and equipment, including helicopters, involved in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa and Europe to counter Russia’s invasion at home.
Around 308 Ukrainians were deployed across six missions with the UN, with the Congo having the highest number.
While six helicopters including Mi-24 gunships, and Mi-8 transports deployed with the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali, have been requisitioned by Kyiv.
The helicopters provide vital functions for the UN mission overall, including troop and personnel deployments, logistics and food supplies for bases, and medical evacuations of peacekeepers, and civilians.
At the time, the spokesperson for the UN, Stéphane Dujarric, said it was “in the process of finding replacements for all of the departing Ukrainian assets.
Military air assets are critical in peacekeeping operations, as they are fundamental to accomplishing the objectives of the United Nations (UN) Mission in Mali.
Helicopters represent one of the most important air assets for any peacekeeping mission, which could be used to transport wounded civilians and peacekeepers to near medical facilities; they rapidly deploy ground troops to respond to early warnings and provide situational awareness of threats to civilians, but they also improve mission personnel’s engagement with local communities by promoting social cohesion.
So far, MINUSMA is left with eleven helicopters to work with, with only four being armed with light weapons.
The four-armed helicopters are El Salvadorian MD500E helicopters armed with only rocket pods and a single Canadian CH-146 Griffon helicopter.
In 2019, six Salvadoran Air Force (FAS) MD 500E armed reconnaissance helicopters arrived in Gao, Mali, to support the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
One of the MD500E helicopters of the Fuerza Aérea Salvadoreña crashed in November 29, 2019 near Gao in Mali. El Salvador has eight MD500s in its inventory.
Germany had deployed four Tiger utility helicopters in Mali to protect troops on the ground, all have been removed from the theater after one of them crashed. The Netherlands also had four Apache attack helicopters but has been pulled out.
Other helicopters in the mission include four Canadian Army-armed CH-146 Griffon helicopters to escort and protect the two CH-47s about to be deployed to Mali.