A British military aircraft bound for Mali loaded with military equipment and foreign troops has been grounded due to a technical fault as David Cameron hailed it as "our most advanced and capable transport plane".
The C-17 is the first of two aircraft being sent to the west African country to support French efforts to halt an advance by rebels as insurgents affiliated with al Qaida push south from their northern base against the Mali government.
The plane took off from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and was being loaded with military equipment at a French base on Sunday night. It was due to leave for Mali on Monday morning but has been delayed due to a "minor technical fault", a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
News of the delay came shortly after the Prime Minister made the comments about the military transport aircraft. The huge four-engine jet can carry large equipment, supplies and troops directly to small airfields and is known for its robustness and capabilities for travelling long distances. The problem is thought to be a short-term one and the plane is expected to be ready to depart later, the spokesman added.
Mr Cameron said Britain would also share intelligence with France as part of its efforts to tackle the "dangerous Islamist regime".
"I spoke to (French president) Francois Hollande over the weekend and offered the use of two C-17 transport planes - our most advanced and capable transport planes - because France is a strong ally and friend of Britain but (also because) what is being done in Mali is very much in our interests," he said.
"There is a very dangerous Islamist regime allied to al Qaida in control of the north of that country. It was threatening the south of that country and we should support the action that the French have taken. So we were first out of the blocks, as it were, to say to the French 'We'll help you, we'll work with you and we'll share what intelligence we have with you and try to help you with what you are doing'."
The second plane was due to set off from RAF Brize Norton for France, before continuing on to Mali.
Downing Street has stressed that no UK troops will engage in combat operations there, but the transport planes will provide logistical assistance. Mr Cameron and President Hollande have agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security, given terrorist activity there.
Hundreds of French troops were deployed on Saturday after state forces lost control of the strategically important town of Konna to Islamists last Thursday. The rebels seized a swathe of northern Mali last spring.