The RAF has begun training on the Puma Mk2 helicopter following a £260 million upgrade programme.
Pictures released today show crews from 33 and 230 Squadrons carrying out training flights of the upgraded aircraft from their base at RAF Benson in Oxford.
The multi million pound upgrade means that the helicopters benefit from new engines which give them 35 per cent more power and improved fuel efficiency to allow them to fly faster and twice as far as the Puma Mk1. They also have state of the art digitised glass cockpits and upgraded LCD instruments.
The Puma Mk2 can fit into a C-17 which means that it can be transported anywhere in the world and, crucially, can be ready to deploy in support of both combat and humanitarian missions in just four hours. The aircraft, with improved ballistic protection, is capable of carrying up to 16 fully equipped troops. Twin cargo doors and low rotor downwash make it ideal for transporting personnel and equipment in and out of confined urban environments.
Minister for Defence, Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne said:
“With its greater range, endurance and payload the Puma Mk2 helicopter will give the Royal Air Force significantly enhanced, agile capability in support of combat and humanitarian operations in even the most austere conditions.
“In 2012 we committed to spending £12.1 billion to ensure our helicopter capability remains up to date. The delivery of the Puma Mk2 will further strengthen our world class helicopter fleet which recently saw the introduction of the upgraded Merlin Mk2 and upgraded Chinook Mk4s.”
Puma Force Commander Group Captain Nigel Colman said:
“The Puma is a remarkable aircraft and its ability to operate in urban and harsh conditions will see it play a key role in any future deployments. Needless to say the Puma Force are really enjoying getting to grips with the aircraft and are reporting that it is outperforming expectations.”
Seven of the RAF’s fleet of 24 Puma Mk2s have so far been delivered to RAF Benson and the remainder will be handed over during the next two years ahead of the helicopters entering service in 2015.
Almost a third – around £78m – of the upgrade carried out by Eurocopter (UK) has taken place in the UK with companies in Oxford, Oldham, Redditch, Gloucester, Boscombe Down, Basildon, Surrey, Marlow, Cheltenham and Reading contributing to the work. The remainder has taken place Eurocopter (UK)’s plants in France and Romania.