RAF flypast in pictures: Best photos as RAF Puma helicopter celebrates 50th anniversary

Trooping the Colour: The Queen smiles during Red Arrows flypast

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RAF helicopters will fly in formation on Wednesday, covering much of the UK as they mark 50 years of service of the Puma helicopter. The Pumas joined the RAF in 1971, and have been an invaluable part of numerous missions in the 50 years since. The Puma is a medium-lift helicopter that has been utilised throughout humanitarian missions and combat operations in locations all around the globe.

The Puma has seen combat in a range of areas by a variety of different operators.

Significant operations include:

The Gulf War
The South African Border War
The Portuguese Colonial War
The Yugoslav Wars
The Lebanese Civil War
The Iraq War
The Falklands War

The Puma, full name Puma HC Mk2 XW22, can carry up to 16 soldiers, while in emergency situations six more troops and four additional personnel can get inside.

Domestically, the Puma has assisted with flood relief efforts by providing icing helicopter lifting capabilities.

Most recently, the Puma played a vital role in the British Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pumas were deployed last year to help transport equipment and staff to northern England and Scotland during the initial lockdown.

To commemorate 50 years of service, Pumas have been given a new lick of paint, having taken its maiden voyage with the new colours earlier this month.

The tail fin of the helicopter model is embellished with the Union Jack flag in representation of its British roots.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) logo on the cabin door has been replaced with a bespoke Puma 50 sign specially for the event.

Up to 10 helicopters will leave the RAF Benson base on Wednesday morning for the celebratory flypast.

Taking to Facebook, RAF Benson wrote: “[Today] a formation of Puma helicopters from RAF Benson will mark 50 years of Royal Air Force service with a national flypast.

“The first Puma helicopters were delivered into service in 1971.

“A formation of up to 10 Puma helicopters will depart RAF Benson [this] morning as part of a training sortie that will include flypasts of notable locations for the Puma Force over the last 50 years.

“This includes sites that hold historical significance for the Puma Force as well as those that provide support to delivering current Puma operational capability.”

RAF Benson shared a proposed route map of the planned flypast.

However, the force said the Puma helicopter will be “unable to fly over everywhere”, likely due to time constraints.

RAF Benson said: [The maps] provide an illustrative example of some of the locations that will be visited.”

People who want to get involved and share their own images of the Puma on social media should do so under the hashtag #Puma50.

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