|By Dave Taskis|
Puma development by Aerospatiale in France was well under way when a collaboration agreement for a battlefield transport helicopter was signed at governmental level in Feb 1967. The flight control system was jointly developed and Aerospatiale delivered a pre-production SA330E to Yeovil in 1968 as a pattern airframe for the first production order by Westland at its Hayes plant. (All RAF Pumas are shown under Aerospatiale).
An inital order for 40 was placed with Westland. The SA330E Puma HC.1 is powered by twin Turbomeca Turmo IIIC4 engines, in a side by side mount, above the cabin. It is a versatile airframe with many roles, including battlefield mobility for troops and supplies, CASEVAC and support for Harriers in forward operating bases. Part of the Support Helicopter Force, most Pumas are now committed to the UK Joint Helicopter Command. A further batch of 8 units was built at Westland's Weston-super-Mare plant and delivered between 1980 and 1981. One ex-Argentine SA330L was included in the inventory and a further 6 ex-SAAF SA330H make up the 2004 force. A small number have been written off.
The six ex-South African were acquired via IAR Brasov which was contracted to revert the aircraft back to basic build standard with Turmo IIIC4 engines before being passed to AgustaWestland UK for final conversion to the HC.1 type. First example, ZJ954, delivered to 33 Squadron in overall olive green colour scheme on 2009.
Eurocopter at Marignane was awarded a contract for service life extension in Sep 2009. This is to produce the Puma HC.2 by upgrade of engines, avionics, improved structural integrity and better hot and high performance, which will extend the life of type to at least 2025.
The fleet officially celebrates its 40th anniversary on 2011 having undertaken its first operational flight on 29th September 1971.
RAF Chinook and Puma Joint Flight, 07-Dec-21 : #90years The Royal Air Force (RAF) celebrated the 90 years of combined service of the Puma and Chinook helicopters with a specially painted aircraft formation flight
RAF 33 Squadron Marks 100 Years, 13-Jan-16 : Royal Air Force 33 Squadron marked 100 years since its formation. They fly the SA330 Puma since 1971, currently in their HC.2 variant.
Eurocopter Romania Delivered First Refurbished RAF Puma, 06-Jul-04 : Eurocopter Romania delivered to the Royal Air Force the first SA330 Puma completely refurbished and overhauled at Brasov
|Years||Units||bold : Current base of the Unit|
|2004/09||1563 Flt|| Basrah International Airport|
|1993/98||27 Squadron|| RAF Odiham |
|1992/94||18 Squadron|| Laarbruch / Niederrhein|
|1981/93||1563 Flt|| Philip S W Goldson International Airport (PGIA)|
|1972/93||240 OCU|| King Khaled Air Base|
|1971/12||33 Squadron|| Nanyuki Show Ground|
King Khaled Air Base
|1971/12||230 Squadron|| RAF Benson |
King Khaled Air Base
|AO RRS Ernest Shackleton|