The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has now begun training with the latest version of its Eurocopter Puma helicopter, the Puma Mk2.
A £260-million (around $420-million) investment by the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) will see 24 new Puma Mk2 conversions from the older type of aircraft, which will allow the type to overcome obsolescence issues so that it can continue its role as a battlefield support helicopter.
The upgrade includes new Turbomeca Makila 1A1 turboshaft engines, which according to the MoD will result in 35 percent more power and added fuel efficiency, giving them twice the range of the Puma Mk1s. Other upgrades include digital glass cockpits and improved ballistic protection.
RAF Puma Mk2s. Photo courtesy of UK Royal Air Force
So far crews from 33 and 230 Squadrons based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire have flown the new helicopter. Eurocopter UK handed over the first aircraft to RAF back in September 2012 at Eurocopter UK’s base at Oxford airport.
Said Philip Dunne, Minister for Defense, Equipment, Support and Technology: “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.”
According to the MoD, seven of the 24 Puma Mk2s have been delivered with the rest being delivered before the official enter service date of 2015.
In June, Eurocopter UK announced that it had been given a €60 million (approximately $81 million), three-year contract to maintain the new helicopters.
While the upgrade was begun at Eurocopter’s facilities in France and Romania, specialist UK companies have benefited from the program including: Eurocopter UK (LEP Prime contractor; secure communications, TES and role modifications); Ferranti Technologies (helmet mounted display); GKN Aerospace (self sealing fuel tanks); Permali (ballistic protection); QinetiQ (qualification and testing); Selex (defensive aid suite); Thales (avionics components); Cobham (antenna systems); GE Aviation (aircraft management systems); and Rockwell Collins UK (communications/navigation equipment).
Related: Military Training News