Upgraded RAF Puma takes to the skies
- The RAF has begun training on the Puma Mk2 helicopter following a multi-million pound upgrade programme.
Crews from the RAF’s 33 and 230 Squadrons are carrying out training flights on the upgraded aircraft from their base at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.
The £260 million upgrade means that the helicopters benefit from new engines which give them 35% more power and improved fuel efficiency to allow them to fly faster and twice as far as the Puma Mk1. They also have highly advanced digitised glass cockpits and upgraded liquid-crystal display instruments.
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The Puma Mk2 can fit into a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, 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 4 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.
The 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 2 years ahead of the helicopters entering service in 2015.
Almost a third 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 in Eurocopter UK’s plants in France and Romania.
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Source : Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)