Royal Air Force, April 01, 2016 - The Royal Air Force’s Puma 2 helicopters have completed the first 12 months of support to Operation TORAL in Afghanistan.
The aircraft and personnel deployed to Kabul in March 2015 and officially took over from their Chinook helicopter colleagues on 1 April 2015 to continue the UK’s contribution to the NATO Afghanistan Mission named Operation RESOLUTE SUPPORT.
This was the first deployment for the RAF’s Puma 2 fleet as part of the Toral Aviation Detachment, which comprises aircrew, engineers, armourers, force protection, flight operations staff, logisticians, administrators, intelligence staff and a meteorological forecaster.
With bases spread across Kabul, the role of the Puma Force is essential to provide an efficient method of moving coalition personnel and freight between bases. Since deploying to Afghanistan, the Puma Force has flown over 2300 hours where they have moved almost 28,000 passengers and over 42 tonnes of freight. With just 12% of the available rotary wing assets, they have provided around 24% of lift capability, highlighting the outstanding contribution the Puma Force is making to the ongoing training mission.
The Detachment Commander said “The last 12 months have seen the Puma Force operate with the upgraded Mk2 helicopter on operations for the first time. The capability provided by the new aircraft is well beyond that of the Mk1, and it has proved itself to be extremely effective at 6000ft above sea level in the confined locations of Kabul city. We have been able to provide a critical service to the NATO training, advisory and support mission. The professionalism of the personnel on the detachment has been second to none and it has been the highlight of my career to work with such committed individuals.”
With operations comes sacrifice and this has been more poignant than ever for the Puma Force both in Kabul and at home at RAF Benson over the past few months. Sadly, the tragic deaths of Flight Lieutenants Alan Scott and Geraint Roberts on 11 October 2015 following a helicopter crash in Kabul, prove that even though combat operations in Afghanistan have finished and UK Forces have moved into a support role, the tasks carried out by the men and women deployed are not without their dangers.
The Puma Force Commander, Group Captain Simon Paterson, said, “The contribution of the Puma 2 has already been outstanding and I am incredibly proud of all they have achieved so far. Deploying a new aircraft to operations overseas for the first time is not an easy task yet the Puma Force have delivered exceptionally well in what has been, at times, very difficult circumstances. I am certain that they will continue to deliver the same excellence to Defence for many years to come.”