RAF Benson’s Puma Force Marks 20,000 Hours With Puma 2
October 2017 saw the Puma Force celebrating a significant milestone as they reached an astounding 20,000 hours of in-service flying with the Puma Mk2 helicopter.
The extensively upgraded helicopter declared Initial Operating Capability in February 2015 and just over three weeks later deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation TORAL. RAF Benson based crews from 33 and 230 Sqn have flown more than 25% of the Puma Mk2’s total hours in support of the ongoing NATO training and support mission.
The impressive flying rate continues back at home as well, with the Operational Conversion Unit on 28 Sqn, the Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron at Boscombe Down, and the Trials and Standards Evaluation units at Benson all supporting Puma Mk2 frontline operations.
Declaring Full Operating Capability in early January 2016, the Puma Force has maintained a continual readiness for contingency operations and a national standby commitment alongside the ongoing Afghanistan deployment, emphasising their key contribution to Defence.
More recently, the Puma Force deployed on its’ first contingency operation in the Caribbean after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, where 3 Puma Mk2s were deployed within 20 hours of being called upon. Operation RUMAN has provided stability to the areas worst hit, delivering life-changing humanitarian aid to those in need.
The Puma Mk2, defence’s only medium sized medium lift helicopter, has proven its value on operations and exercises both at home and in overseas theatres.
The Force’s achievements during 20,000 hours in-service flying illustrate how vital this aircraft is in supporting the UK national interest anywhere in the world at very short notice.
Group Captain Hamish Cormack, the Puma Force Commander and RAF Benson Station Commander, states: “The milestone of 20,000 flying hours on the Puma Mark 2 helicopter includes many hours flown on operations in Afghanistan, where 3 Puma’s remain today providing vital support to the NATO mission, and most recently in the Caribbean providing relief following the devastating hurricanes. This achievement is a testament to the outstanding teamwork and dedication of RAF Benson personnel, the Delivery Team and industry.”