RAF 33 /230 Squadron - Special Forces Helicopter Support
Puma HC1 helicopters, operated by 33 and 230 Squadrons, RAF, are understood to have supported UK Special Forces, notably 22 SAS (Task Force Black), during Operation Telic, in Iraq, 2003-2009. There were at least 4 Pumas stationed in Baghdad, with one of their roles being the insertion and extraction of British Special Forces. TF Black were also supported by Lynx helicopters operated by 657 Squadron AAC.
Puma HC1 Helicopters
For the special operations role, some Puma HC1s were fitted with a FLIR thermal camera. One RAF Puma (XW223) is fitted with larger sponsons which house additional fuel tanks. (see photos below for examples of RAF Puma HC1s). It is likely that additional/improved communications and countermeasure systems were fitted to special forces Pumas, however the details of such fitments remain classified.
Puma HC1 Specifications
|Engine||2 x Turbomeca Turmo 111C4 turbines|
|Width (rotor diameter)||15m|
|Crew||3 (2 Pilots, 2 Aircrew)|
|Max Speed||261 kph|
RAF Pumas, Iraq Losses
While supporting UKSF in Iraq, RAF Pumas have been involved in a number of crashes:
- 15th April 2007 - 2 RAF Puma HC1s, serial numbers XW211 & XW218, colided with each other while coming in to drop off SAS soldiers. 2 servicemen died in this incident.
- 20th November 2007 - 1 RAF Puma HC1, serial number ZA938, crash-landed during an SAS operation against insurgents. The crash-landing resulted in the deaths of 2 servicemen.
more info : inquest into Puma Crash