A DECISION was finally made by the Dutch government on June 11 to prolong the stay of Dutch troops within the Stabilization Force Iraq (SFIR) for another eight months from July 15. As a result, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) helicopter detachment that has supported the Dutch ground troops since August 2003 will remain at Tallil air base in southern Iraq until March 2005. The three CH-47D Chinooks operated by the Dutch Helidet were replaced by a similar number of AS 532U2 Cougars in July. The Cougars, from Soesterberg-based 300 Squadron, were airlifted to the region by Antonov An-124 in mid-July. Prior to their departure to Iraq, between July 5 and 9, the Cougar crews practised night-time gun firing at the Vliehors air-to-ground range on the Isle of Vlieland.
The six RNLAF AH-64D Apaches that started operations from Tallil in June are now also likely to stay in Iraq until next March. Accompanied by a single Chinook from 298 Squadron, the first three Apaches were flown under their own power to Tallil (adds to Dutch Apaches Deploy to Iraq, July, plO). They left their home base at Gilze Rijen on May 25, the total journey taking about 26 flying hours, during which they overflew eight countries. The second group of three was airlifted by an An-124 from Gilze Rijen on June 7. Most of the 100 or so RNLAF personnel of the Apache detachment travelled to the region from Eindhoven air base on May 28.