24-Jun-2011 Source: Eurocopter
The first upgraded Puma Mk2 helicopter developed by Eurocopter in a life extension programme for the UKâ€™s Royal Air Force performed its initial flight this week from Eurocopterâ€™s facility at Marignane, France.
It is the first helicopter to be modified under the Puma Life Extension Programme, which was approved by the UK Ministry of Defence in September 2009 and placed on contract with Eurocopter UK.
This programme will extend the operational life of the Puma helicopter fleet and is to significantly enhance its capability â€“ particularly in demanding hot and high conditions. It will improve the safety and performance by providing new engines, a digital flight control system, increased platform survivability and enhanced navigation and communications.
â€œThe Puma Mk2â€™s first flight is an important milestone, marking the initial step in a test programme that will continue through the second half of 2011,â€ said Markus Steinke, the Managing Director of Eurocopter UK. â€œIt also represents the achievement of a significant and successful effort focused on design, development and programme management by Eurocopter and Ministry of Defence teams in both the UK and France.â€
Eurocopter-built Puma rotary-wing aircraft currently represent one third of the UKâ€™s medium battlefield support helicopters. They are used as battlefield helicopters within the Joint Helicopter Command to provide tactical troop and load movement by day and night.
Puma Mk2s are planned to enter service with the Royal Air Force in 2012, and achieve full operating capability in 2014.
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defense and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approximately 17,500 people. In 2010, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the worldâ€™s number one helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market with a turnover of 4.8 billion Euros, orders for 346 new helicopters and a 49 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Groupâ€™s helicopters account for 33 percent of the total worldwide civil and parapublic fleet. Eurocopterâ€™s strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 30 subsidiaries and participations on five continents, along with a dense network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centers. There are currently 11,200 Eurocopter helicopters in service and some 2,900 customers in 147 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.