The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has flown 30,000 hours on its Westland-Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC2 medium-lift helicopters over the last five years, with 10,000 of these having been accrued on operations in Afghanistan.
Having received the first of 24 upgraded Pumas from Airbus Helicopters in 2015, the RAF announced on 28 January that it had achieved the almost unheard of feat of amassing a third of its hours on the type during real-world combat operations.
"A third of all flying done on operations is quite unprecedented. I don't think, to my knowledge, there is another platform in our inventory that has completed a third of its total flying hours on operations," Group Captain Adam Wardrope, Station Commander RAF Benson and Puma Force Commander, was quoted as saying.
The United Kingdom deployed three Puma HC2 helicopters (crewed by personnel from 33 Squadron and 230 Squadron from RAF Benson) to Afghanistan in March 2015, taking over from the Boeing Chinooks that had been flying in support of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) and Afghan Security Ministries in Kabul since late 2014. One Puma HC2 helicopter crashed in October 2015 with the loss of five of the nine personnel on board but was replaced in-theatre.
"The Puma has been in Afghanistan for nearly five years and we have two aircraft out of three flying on a daily basis so 10,000 hours in five years is impressive," Gp Capt Wardrope said. "The real statistic that shows the capability of the Puma for me, and what really drives home the serviceability and the spares and everything else that keeps the aircraft going, is that we've met over 95% of our flying task. We have never failed to deliver on operations in that entire five years. We've never been let down by the logistics or the engineering because we've always had a robust method in place to get any problem solved, which is a significant achievement on top of the 10,000 hours as well."
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