February 2018

2018 February

Royal Air Force/Westland/Leonardo
Puma HC Mk.1

February 22, 1967 – Date of a joint agreement between Sud Aviation (now Airbus Helicopters) of France and Westland Helicopters (now Leonardo) of Britain to cooperate on design and development of helicopters, including the Puma

License-built version of the Sud Aviation SA.330 – first flight (SA.330E): November 25, 1970

The first flight of the twin-engine Sud Aviation SA.330 Puma was achieved on April 15, 1965. It is a medium troop/cargo transport and utility helicopter originally developed to meet a French Army Aviation requirement for a helicopter that could carry 12 combat-equipped troops or cargo in all weather conditions and cruise at 135 knots (250 km/h). It was designed with combat helicopter lessons learned from the conflict in Algeria. After the purchase of the Puma by the French Army, France and England entered into a joint production partnership that eventually included Romania (IAR 330), South Africa (Atlas Aircraft Corp. Oryx) and Indonesia (IPTN NAS 330J). The French Army received its first Puma in 1969.

The February 1967 Anglo-French joint agreement between Sud Aviation of France and Westland Helicopters of Britain led to the design, development and production of tactical scout and troop transport helicopters, which included the Gazelle, Lynx and the Puma. Sud Aviation had principal design responsibility for the Gazelle and Puma while Westland had the lead for design of the Lynx. Westland’s license-built version based on the SA.330E Puma made its first flight on November 25, 1970 for the Royal Air Force as the Puma HC (Helicopter Cargo) Mk. 1. The Yeovil, UK-based Westland factory produced 48 Puma HC Mk. 1s.

The Puma has been operational in numerous conflicts, has provided humanitarian relief around the world, and has operators in more than 40 countries. A civilian transport variant, the Sud Aviation/Aérospatiale AS332 Super Puma featured an extended fuselage, de-icing equipment, more powerful engines and composite rotor blades. First flight of the AS332 prototype took place on September 13, 1978. It received its certification in March 1981.

In September 2009, the RAF signed a contract with Eurocopter to upgrade the HC Mk. 1 fleet to the HC Mk. 2 standard through the Puma Life Extension Program that would extend the Puma’s service life to 2025. The extensive upgrade included more powerful Turbomeca Makila 1A1 engines, a glass cockpit with a 4-axis/dual-duplex digital flight control system autopilot, increased fuel capacity and other improvements.

The last RAF Puma HC Mk. 1 was removed from service in December 2012.

The UK’s Ministry of Defense announced on March 16, 2015 that its recently upgraded fleet of RAF/AgustaWestland HC.2 medium transport helicopters had begun their initial deployment to Afghanistan.

Current Airbus models based on the AS332 include the H215 (AS332) and the larger H225 (formerly known as the EC225) with approximately 70% of the worldwide civilian Super Puma fleet serving as offshore oil and gas exploration personnel transports.

Main photo: Sgt Jack Pritchard, RAF www.defenceimagery.mod.uk
Text: Ken Bartie

Go back to the previous photo or view the photo for next month

2018 History Calendar Index