Dec 10, 2014
UK to deploy upgraded Puma helos to Afghanistan
The helicopters from the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) only operational Puma HC.2 unit, 33 Squadron, are to provide casualty evacuation, troop transport, and VIP movement support the British infantry battalion and training team. This team remained in Afghanistan following the main UK combat forces withdrawal from the south of the central Asian country last month.
There are three Chinook HC.2 helicopters and 51 associated personnel within the aviation detachment deployed in Kabul in support of the UK's contribution to the NATO Resolute Support Mission. In 2015 these will be replaced by three Puma HC.2 helicopters, which will remain until the mission concludes.
It is expected that 33 Squadron and its sister unit, 230 Squadron, will then take turns to provide detachments of aircraft and helicopters to Kabul until UK troops finally withdraw after the end of the NATO training and assistance mission in late 2016. A handful of Puma HC.1s were deployed to Kabul in the spring of 2002 to provide support to the UK contingent in the early days of the NATO peacekeeping mission in the city. Since then the RAF Puma Force has concentrated its efforts on supporting the UK mission in Iraq, including supporting special forces operations in Baghdad from 2003 to 2009.
Airbus Helicopters was originally contracted in 2008 to convert 30 Puma HC.1s into the new configuration. This was subsequently cut to 22 as an economy measure, but later revised up to 24 helicopters. The enhanced type is due to remain in operational service until 2025.