UK sends third plane to help French action in Mali

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An RAF surveillance aircraft has been deployed in support of the French military action in Mali, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday.

The Sentinel – which usually has a crew of five – has been added to two C17 transport aircraft that have already been sent to the region.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged extra help for the mission, amid concern over the threat posed by Islamist militants in north Africa. But he has insisted Britain does not intend to deploy ground troops.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “As the Prime Minister has made clear, the UK supports France’s decision to provide military support to the Malian government.

“He also said we would be looking at further French requests for additional logistical and surveillance support for this operation, over and above the two C-17s.

“Following NSC [National Security Council] on Tuesday and discussions with the French, we have now decided to deploy Sentinel, a surveillance capability that has proved its worth in Libya and on an ongoing basis for counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan. We have also agreed to continue to make available a C-17 heavy lift transport aircraft which has already provided important logistical support.”

Wing Commander Al Marshall, who is in charge of 5 (AC) Squadron, said: “Sentinel is deploying to provide a unique intelligence capability in support of French operations within Mali.

“We look forward to working closely with our French allies, building upon the working relationships established during training and previous operations.”