April 24, 2013 By Think Defence
So we know the RAF Puma helicopters are currently being upgraded (and you can argue the value for money of that endlessly) but at some point, they will have to be withdrawn.
Depending on what life extension we can expect from the makeover they are currently getting (planned out to 2025) a replacement is eventually required.
The cynic would suggest at the end of the Puma era the UK will have Wildcat, Merlin and Chinook as the three main rotary wing platforms and we will be lucky at that so first question is, do we actually need a Puma replacement?
One of our regular commenters (thanks Paul G) reminded me about the Agusta Westland AW 189 (it coming into service on the new SAR contract) and wondered if the MoD would be able to leverage the support arrangements from that sizeable fleet.
With the contractual framework I am sure it would be complex but with a bit of joined up thinking, who knows.
By the time the Puma goes out of service the competitive landscape will be very different today, the US search for a Blackhawk replacement may well have concluded, the various X designs on both sides of the Atlantic might have matured, the NH90 will have limped into service and the strategic, political and economic picture might be equally different.
All the UK Chinooks will have been upgraded by then by JULIUS, Wildcat will have been in service some time, the Merlin HM2 upgrade will have been completed and maybe by then, the Merlin HC3′s will have been fully marinised and transferred to the CHF.
Loads of what ifs but the first question is, do we need to be looking for a Puma replacement now, something in the 8-9 tonne category, 12-16 seats and about 4 or 5 tonne lift?
This is an off the cuff post, apologies for not thinking through any answers but instead, just asking a question.
Have a few nice videos to oil the discussion wheels!