Eurocopter has performed the first flight on an upgraded Puma HC2 transport helicopter for the UK Royal Air Force, with the enhanced type to enter operational use next year.
Conducted at the EADS company’s Marignane site in southern France in late June, the flight was the latest milestone in a programme which will extend the service lives of at least 28 Pumas by a decade.
Eurocopter said enhancements including the integration of more powerful Turbomeca Makila 1A1 engines, a digital flight control system and enhanced navigation and communications equipment will significantly enhance the Puma’s operating capability, “particularly in demanding hot and high conditions”.
Flight test activities with the first modified aircraft are due to continue through the rest of this year. “Puma Mk2s are planned to enter service with the Royal Air Force in 2012, and achieve full operating capability in 2014,” Eurocopter said.
The UK Ministry of Defence signed a £300 million ($480 million) deal with prime contractor Eurocopter UK in late 2009 to modernise the RAF’s Puma HC1s to the new operating standard.