From today, three RAF Puma helicopters will be stationed at Kinloss Barracks in Scotland.

The Ministry of Defence say that the Pumas will work closely with a Chinook and a Wildcat helicopter based at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, to meet any requests for assistance from NHS boards and trusts across Scotland and Northern England.

“A second helicopter facility will cover the Midlands and Southern England working out of The Aviation Task Force Headquarters at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. Chinook and Wildcat helicopters normally based at RAF Odiham and RNAS Yeovilton respectively will support the Southern areas.

The helicopter facilities have been set up to support medical transports across Scotland and the rest of the UK. The new task force will also be available for general support such as moving equipment and personnel across the wider UK.”

According to a Ministry of Defence news release:

“All the helicopter forces will be supported by the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron, normally based at RAF Benson, as well as the Tactical Supply Wing, based at MoD Stafford. Personnel from all 3 services across the Joint Helicopter Command will be coming together to support the task force. This new Kinloss-based support follows last weekend’s use of an RAF A400M transport aircraft, working with the Scottish Ambulance Service, to evacuate a critically ill patient from the Shetland Islands to Aberdeen to receive intensive care treatment.

The aviation support is in addition to a team of Army medical, logistics, supply and humanitarian relief planners who joined the Scottish Government’s Emergency Co-ordination Centre team in Edinburgh earlier this week. The team of military planners and liaison officers are now co-locating at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh. This team will be supported by the Battalion Headquarters of Penicuik-based 2 SCOTS, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Additionally, a wider team of military liaison personnel will be made available to every health board in Scotland.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“The creation of these helicopter hubs is the next step in our Armed Forces’ contribution to tackling the coronavirus outbreak whenever it appears throughout the United Kingdom. Our aircraft are ready to support emergency services and local communities wherever needed across the highlands and islands of Scotland – the Armed Forces have always got your back. In addition, our superb military planners and logisticians are engaging with the governments and health services of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to support their efforts in responding to the virus.”

Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney said:

“Scotland’s public services and our NHS are working flat out to support the effort to tackle Covid-19. Our Scottish Government resilience operation has always had a strong working relationship with the Armed Forces, offering assistance during severe weather, and we welcome their support during these unprecedented and difficult times.”

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Gubby

I wonder why they needed an A400M to transport one patient. Suppose there must have been a good reason.

DaveyB

The round trip distance is 520 miles, mostly over water. An A400 can also do the trip faster. A Puma without the internal ferry tank would need to refuel in the Shetlands before it returned.

Craig

I think your mileage calculation is way off the mark, but is a moot point as I don’t think the Pumas were even at Kinloss at the material time. Bear in mind a Coastguard helo is based at Sumburgh and is used for patient transfers if the Scottish Ambulance Service air ambulance can’t do the journey. The A400 flew up from Brize, the squadron CO boasting that they were “out the door less than three hours after receiving the call”. We’re looking at a patient who needed a fairly large medical team that would not fit in a helo or… Read more »

Noth

What about the Bae 146s that can do cargo ? Surely they’re a better fit for these one off ferry trips.

DaveyB

The 146s could be used, but they have the disadvantage of being configured as VIP passenger aircraft. The A400 and Herc will be configured either as a clean floor aircraft or for the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) role. Either way it will mean the aircraft is easier to disinfect after carrying patients. It will take a good couple of hours to clean the aircraft after use and is manually intensive.

Pacman27

Theres a lot of things happening that clearly shows how unprepared the UK is to stand on its own. Sovereign resilience is a key element in a nations survival and it would seem to me that the rush to rationalise everything has left us woefully short in certain areas. Surely helicopter bases and other assets should be strategically placed already, not just for search and rescue but for all contingencies. Its really interesting how seemingly small changes have a massive impact, and we can’t blame china for making sure their country gets supplies first, that is our fault and no… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

With the helicopter basing, I don’t see a problem as moving them to an existing facility is simple enough with the support from JHSS and TSW.
In “peacetime” our battlefield and maritime helicopters are based where they are needed, near training areas and the southern naval bases.

On every other point you make i agree 100% with you!

Pacman27

Just thinking about parts, maintenance etc. We have an airbase up their already seems a bit crazy not to have a load of helicopters as well What is really interesting is things like getting food delivered. If we had kept milkmen going, transitioned them to a 24/7 service (Milk/ food in morning / amazon etc in afternoon) we would be able to service the whole uk quite easily. Sometimes a service offers more than it first seems, It used to be that a post or milk person would save old folk and know what was going. on etc.. we seem… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Agree again. I used to be a Postie myself, was on the same walk for almost a decade, knew everyone, especially the elderly, with whom the Postman was a reassuring link to the outside world. Now we have a different “post person” every day on our road, they turn up only once a day, at varied times, usually late, and I feel the link is gone. On the Milkman, we, being traditionalists, kept having Milk being delivered by “Milk and More” until last summer, when we discovered that the Milkman was arriving at 2300 and leaving our milk on the… Read more »

julian1

I think a lot of things will change after this pandemic. As a country, we need greater resilience and to rely less on others: we need better funded government and public services, more resilient supply chains, greater reserves and a sovereign capacity to manufacture essentials. It may not be quite the end of globalization and it may mean a more centralized model with bigger government. Of course, nothing may change if we don’t learn….

Crabfat

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “the Armed Forces have always got your back…” Yeah, fine words – I wonder if they remember this at the next Defence Review? I doubt it. OK, call me a cynic…

David

Totally agree. After this, the economy and public finances will be shot, so expect swingeing defence cuts…..

Expat alien

Perhaps Rudyard Kiplings ‘Tommy’ should be mandatory reading for those in authority(?)

Cam

Let’s have a permanent flight at Kinloss.

Cam

What’s that attached to the puma in the main photo next to the “B”? What’s it used for, anyone know?

Dave
DaveyB

It for attaching the stretchers…lol.

James

I thought the puma had already gone out of service

Daniele Mandelli

No. 33 and 230 Squadrons at RAF Benson plus 28 Squadron, the Puma / Chinook OCU.

Ulya

What does OCU mean please? Unless you can’t tell me, being a red and all 😉

Mark

Operational Conversion Unit.

Ulya

Thank you Mark

Fedaykin

No, 24 Puma Airframes went through a service life extension between 2013 and 2015. It was actually a total rebuild to something very close to a Super Puma in all but name with significant new structures added to the airframe at the Eurocopter/Airbus plant in Romania. It also added new systems, glass cockpit, digital avionics, more fuel capacity and most importantly new dynamic systems including the Makila 1A1 turboshaft out of the Super Puma! In theory this was to give a ten year service life extension but considering how comprehensive the upgrade/rebuild was and how useful they are proving I… Read more »

DaveyB

Unfortunately the aircraft did not get a complete overhaul. It had a few extra strengthening webs added around the gearbox and a new torque plate to replace the original underneath the main rotor gearbox. The majority of the upgrade was to the cockpit navigation, flight control and display system. They did a fleet survey of all the Pumas. A jig was installed to measure how much wear was done around the gearbox and engine mounts. They had originally planned to do a one for one upgrade, but found a significant number worn beyond limits. It was a cash choice the… Read more »

Fedaykin

Thanks for the heads up, so I am being a bit over positive about the work done.

Personally I think Blackhawk should have been purchased in the 90’s which would have aligned with the original planned OSD for the Puma. Of course ‘Options for Change’ defence review killed off that kind of idea.

There is a genuine need for a Helicopter in this class, bigger than wildcat but can land in a smaller spot than Chinook. Merlin is just too big and complex to be a realistic replacement.

Sceptical Richard

It’s the only medium lift battlefield helicopter we have that can be rapidly deployed strategically directly into theatre in the back of a C17 or A400M, only requiring rotor blade removal. Chinook requires a lot of strip down and rebuilding. Jungly Merlins can now go on amphibious ships of course.

Fedaykin

You miss my point, Merlin is really poor at being a Medium lift battlefield helicopter. It is complex and maintenance intensive, has a sling load worse than the Puma and carry only six more soldiers. It also huge, taking up close to the same landing footprint as a Chinook. It excels at being a blue water ASW helicopter and has its merits as a long range SAR or CSAR type. It makes sense for the Commando force as it retains commonality with Merlin HM2. The RAF didn’t want them in the first placing preferring more Chinooks and they didn’t put… Read more »

DaveyB

I agree, there are a couple of aircraft available off the shelf today that could replace the Puma, the Blackhawk being one, NH90 and AW169. One of the main things to think about is not only the size, which should be comparable with the Puma. But also the ease with which it can be transported. The Blackhawk is the outright winner here, as its designed to be be air transported then available for a ground run then check flight within an hour of being unloaded. Not sure about the NH90 or the AW169. The other thing the aircraft must be… Read more »

Fedaykin

There was some ground work laid about ten to fifteen years ago for a Blackhawk purchase under FMS but it ran up against politics and was nothing to do with kits via Westlands. There was in the early 80’s an agreement made by Westland with Sikorsky to be able to license build the Blackhawk, this was done to meet a potential sale to the Saudis via the Al-Yamamah arms deal to circumvent Congressional rules banning exports to Saudi Arabia at that time by US companies. Westland was also eyeing the nascent Puma replacement requirement, Sikorsky and Westland were set to… Read more »

DaveyB

I remember the part about Heseltine, forgot it was linked to the Blackhawk buy. It explains a lot – cheers.

Dave

Mk3 chinook was delivered significantly longer ago than 10 years… more like 20

DaveyB

Yes I agree, got the Mk6s mixed up date wise with the Mk3/5s. But the packaga at the time of the Mk3 was supposed to include Blackhawks.