RAF Pumas arrive in Cyprus to replace Griffin helicopters

Puma helicopters have arrived at RAF Akrotiri ready to replace Griffin helicopters.

Three Pumas have flown 3,500km from their base in RAF Benson, in South Oxfordshire, to their new home at the RAF base in Cyprus.

The Pumas are going to be taking over search and rescue duties from the Griffin helicopters operated by 84 Squadron.

Wing Commander Sam Fletcher, Officer Commanding, 33 Squadron, said that the arrival was the culmination of months of planning and that it felt "glorious".

84 Squadron welcome Puma arrival CREDIT MOD
84 Squadron welcomes Puma arrival (Picture: Ministry of Defence)

According to Wng Cdr Fletcher, the Griffin is a "supremely capable aircraft" but the Puma is "just a little bit bigger, it can go further and it can go faster".

The deployment of two Puma helicopters was announced on 6 February, with the third Puma joining them this week.

In 1970, 33 Squadron became the RAF's first Puma Squadron and, since the upgrade to Puma HC2 helicopters in 2014, 33 Squadron has been flying Puma 2s around the world.

Six of the aircrew who currently work with the Griffin helicopter will remain at Akrotiri to work with the Puma helicopter when it takes over search and rescue duties.

"Over the course of the next six months they are going to train us, teach us the way, teach us the island and help us to get to where we need to be," Wng Cdr Fletcher said.

He added that the toughest challenge will be learning the ropes of a new job, saying that 33 Squadron are "absolute beginners" while 84 Squadron, which has been on the island for many years, includes "search and rescue masters."

"But we have trained at RAF Benson and are ready for the challenge," he added.  

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