A VIP reception has been held at the Palace of Westminster to honour the RAF's support to the French forces fighting insurgents in Mali.
The Mali homecoming reception was held for participating RAF units in the Houses of Parliament and hosted by James Gray MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces.
A total of 25 RAF personnel from air bases across the UK who took part in the military campaign gathered at the House of Commons to talk openly with peers and parliamentarians about their experiences of the mission, codenamed Operation Newcombe.
They were joined by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, and, representing the French Armed Forces, Air Force Colonel Emmanuel Caboche.
Speaking at the event, James Gray said:
I am delighted to welcome this representative group of Service personnel from the Royal Air Force to Parliament to say thank you for their efforts during the recent Mali campaign. I have been particularly struck by the successful deployment of the C-17 heavy-lift aircraft from their base at RAF Brize Norton and the Sentinel intelligence and surveillance aircraft from RAF Waddington.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Colonel Caboche from the French Air Force for attending, highlighting that this campaign in Mali was an immensely successful joint operation with our French partners.
In response, Air Chief Marshal Dalton, said:
This reception shows that our parliamentarians strongly support and recognise the dedication and commitment of all those Royal Air Force and Army personnel who contributed to the successful French-led operation in Mali.
The crews of the Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster and Sentinel aircraft made a highly-valued and unique contribution to the French mission in Mali. This operation demonstrated the tremendous capability, responsiveness and agility of the expert Royal Air Force personnel who operate both of these impressive aircraft.
The Royal Air Force readiness and global reach demonstrated, yet again, that the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces are ready, prepared and able to deliver critical air mobility and intelligence-gathering capability for any contingency,” he continued.
As an airman, I would find it difficult to imagine any future conflict without the knowledge that our national Sentinel capability provides.
Colonel Caboche added:
The contribution of the Royal Air Force was key to the Mali operation, in particular the availability of the C-17 during the deployment phase, and the later integration of Sentinel within the French intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance package.