Major Milestone in Puma HC Mk2 Programme
Whilst it may be called a Puma and even look like a Puma, the Puma HC Mk2 is a wholly different beast!
The Puma Life Extension Programme (LEP) will significantly enhance the aircraft’s performance, mission capability and safety, particularly in hot and high environments. The LEP offers a more capable aircraft for both the RAF who operate it and the Army formations supported by it.
The LEP work is being undertaken by Eurocopter France for the first four aircraft and the remaining 20 aircraft are being converted at a Eurocopter facility in Romania. The Combined Test Team have successfully completed over 150hrs of test flying on the Puma HC Mk2 in Marignane, France and Boscombe Down. The MoD has seen a major step towards an improved battlefield helicopter capability with the first modified aircraft recently delivered to QinetiQ’s Boscombe Down facility where it will support trials. The first modified production aircraft in Romania has also recently made its first flight.
The Puma HC Mk1 was first purchased by the MoD in 1971 and has since been commonplace on many operations and in recent years in the skies over Oxfordshire, near their RAF Benson base. The RAF has deployed it to Northern Ireland, Belize, Mozambique, Gulf War 1, Bosnia, Zaire, Kosovo and Op Telic as well as on many exercises home and abroad. It has proven to be a key battlefield helicopter and has provided one third of the JHC medium battlefield support helicopter capability.
The Puma Mk2 programme is primarily for life extension and will see unsustainable equipment replaced in order that it remains in service until 2025. In mitigating the obsolescence issues associated with an old airframe, the programme has significantly upgraded the aircraft’s capabilities. The Mk2 helicopters will remain a key element of the UK’s medium battlefield support helicopter capability, and will be deployed for tactical troop and load movement by day and night. The new Puma with its low rotor downwash and twin cargo doors makes it ideal for insertion and extraction of personnel in urban operations and its ability to be rapidly deployed by C17 (two airframes can be transported and rebuilt within four hours) make it the ideal platform for fast moving contingent combat and humanitarian operations.
Brig Illingworth, Dep Cdr JHC said “Puma 2 will provide a significant capability enhancement to Defence’s Battlefield Helicopter fleet. Both the JHC, RAF Benson and the Puma Force greatly look forward to fielding this ‘new’ platform with its vastly improved modifications, lift capability, as well as deploying it in support of UK ground forces across the globe much as its predecessor – the puma Mk1 – has been utilized”
“This delivery milestone marks another important accomplishment in a programme that is vital for the UK’s combat capabilities, and it results equally from Eurocopter’s commitment to its success and our close cooperation with the Ministry of Defence,” said Markus Steinke, the Managing Director of Eurocopter UK.
Enhancements for the Puma HC Mk2 include major performance and safety improvements with the use of new Makila 1A1 turboshaft engines; the integration of a full glass cockpit, instead of an analogue one, incorporating modern avionics and a flight management system; the implementation of a digital automatic flight control system; as well as the incorporation of a secure communications suite, new defensive aids and ballistic protection for crew and passengers. Additionally, the helicopter’s greater onboard fuel capacity and lower fuel consumption will increase the Puma Mk2’s operating range. The Puma HC Mk2 will be able to carry twice the payload over three times the range than its predecessor even in the most demanding of environmental conditions.