On 29 January 1971, the first two Royal Air Force Puma helicopters were delivered into service. Today, a formation of up to 10 Puma helicopters departed RAF Benson as part of a training sortie that incorporated flypasts of notable locations for the Puma Force over the past 50 years.
This included those that hold historical significance as well as those that provide support to delivering current Puma operational capability. The flypast locations included:
- RAF Odiham, Hampshire.
- RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire.
- RAF College Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
- RAF Museum, Hendon.
- National Arboretum, Staffordshire.
- RAF Shawbury, Shropshire.
- Joint Helicopter Command Headquarters, Andover.
“Since the Puma first came into service in 1971, it has successfully contributed to operations and humanitarian missions around the globe. Today is a poignant day for all who have served and continue to serve on the Puma Force as we mark 50 years of outstanding service. The commitment and professionalism of the whole team, whether aircrew, engineers, or support staff, has been exceptional. They deserve to be proud of everything they have achieved together over the past five decades.”
Group Captain Nick Paton, the Puma Force Commander
The Puma, a medium-lift support helicopter, has flown on combat and humanitarian operations around the world over the last five decades, including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mozambique and the Caribbean. As part of the training sortie, the Puma Force worked with the Grenadier Guards to conduct an extensive troop movement for an air assault as part of their training. The Puma Force have worked with the Grenadier Guards on numerous previous operational tours having both served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The helicopters have also supported UK resilience such as providing a helicopter lift capability to flood relief efforts and more recently the COVID-19 response. Based at Kinloss Barracks, the Pumas deployed at short notice in the early stages of the pandemic to provide vital transport for personnel and equipment in Scotland and Northern England, as well as being on standby 24/7 to support any task required in the UK.
The formation was led by XW224, the aircraft that has recently been unveiled with a special Puma 50th paint scheme. The scheme was designed to pay homage to the aircraft’s history, with the colours replicating those used on the Puma HC Mk 1 and the badges of all Squadrons who have flown the Puma HC Mk 1 and Mk 2 emblazoned on the engine housing.