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“To think an aircraft we bought in 1980 would fly all the way through to 2060 is incredible, especially for a helicopter,” says Young. “The trick will then be to try and maintain the fleet in harmony and make sure we do not create fleets within fleets. Going through a transition, we will always end up with some marks that are slightly different from others, but we need to make them as similar as we can to reduce through-life costs and maximise value for money for the taxpayer, as well as meet crucial operational requirements.” The planned out-of-service date for the Puma is 2025, but Young expects that, like the Chinook, its operational life will be lengthened. “It’s a really capable aircraft and there is nothing to stop it flying

successfully beyond 2025. Unless there is some significant or substantial change in the context or environment, why discontinue operating something with which you have such a wealth of experience?” Young points out that the immediate customer – Army Command (the budget for helicopter operations across the services resides with the Army) – was “delighted with the outcome and the aircraft they have got, and the new capabilities that they bring. Joint Helicopter Command is a tough customer and seems to be pleased with what we have provided.”

The RAF’s fleet of 23 Pumas has been fitted with new engines that increase the helicopters’ power and range

Air Vice-Marshal Young was promoted to Air Marshal in April 2016 and now is Chief of Materiel (Air), managing the RAF’s fixed-wing fleets INSPIRATION AND INNOVATION AIR POWER 2016

3.1 Upgrading the helicopter fleet.indd 69


23/06/2016 14:53

RAF Air Power 2016 – Inspiration and Innovation  

An official publication of the Royal Air Force

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