The RAF’s fleet of Puma helicopters will receive a £300M upgrade that will enhance performance and enable it to operate in the toughest and most demanding conditions, the MoD announced today.
The upgrade includes a £220M contract to equip the Puma fleet for at least ten years’ further service. Around £45M will also be spent on the new engines with the remaining £35M being spent on other contracts in support of the upgrade.
The new Puma engines will give 35 per cent more power and 25 per cent better fuel-efficiency than the existing engines.
Twenty-eight Pumas, which can each carry up to 16 infantrymen, are to be updated with new and more powerful engines, new flight control equipment and modern cockpit and communications technology and the MOD has options to add two further aircraft to the programme. Deliveries are due to start in 2011 and the first 14 aircraft are planned to be in service by the end of 2012.
Minister for Defence Equipment & Support, Quentin Davies, said: “Upgrading the Puma is part of a series of improvements to our battlefield helicopter force and shows our determination to give our Forces the equipment they need.
“This programme will provide the RAF with 28 helicopters that are able to meet the requirements of battlefield commanders to transport troops in the hottest and most demanding conditions that we encounter in Afghanistan. The upgrades amount to a significant capability enhancement for the aircraft.”
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, said: “Today’s announcement confirms a significant uplift to the capability of Puma with more powerful engines and modern avionic and flight control systems to ensure it can operate effectively in the toughest conditions, including Afghanistan, for at least another decade.”
1. The RAF currently operates a fleet of Puma support helicopters in two operational squadrons, 33 Squadron based at RAF Benson and 230 Squadron based at RAF Aldergrove. The Pumas are used as battlefield helicopters within the Joint Helicopter Command.
2. Prime contractor for the Puma Life Extension Programme is Eurocopter UK. UK sub-contractors include Thales at Raynes Park, London and Leicester, Chelton at Yatton near Bath, Smiths at Gloucester, Rockwell Collins in South Wales, QinetiQ at Boscombe Down, Wilts and Selex at Luton. The new Puma engines will be supplied by Turbomeca.
3. The Puma can carry up to 16 troops and their equipment. Across a range of missions there are significant improvements in the range and payload capability of the aircraft, with a three-fold overall capability improvement. These improvements are most evident in the hottest and highest conditions. This will enable the Puma to be deployed worldwide to meet the demands of the Armed Forces.