First mission for Belgian NH90 helicopter

Belgian military sources have told VRT News that a Belgian NH90 transport helicopter has been deployed for the first time in Mali. The helicopter got its first taste of operational duty in the African country last week when it was deployed to protect a German NH90 helicopter that was evacuating an injured German serviceman.

The serviceman was flown 160 kilometres back to base in Gao in the northeast of the country.

It was the first mission involving a Belgian NH90 since 50 Belgian soldiers and two NH90 helicopters were sent to Mali in February. Their task is to provide air transport for the UN peace mission in Mali, Minusma. The mission started on 1 March and will run until the end of June with the possibility that it could be extended for a further two months.

The Minusma peace keeping mission got under way in 2013. It is the 4th biggest peace keeping mission currently being carried out by the UN. It is also one of the most dangerous. Over the past five years more than 100 UN peace keepers have been killed in Mali. Until October of this year the military component of Minusma will be under the leadership of the Belgian Major-General Jean-Paul Deconinck.