The Puma HC1 first entered service in 1971, and the RAF currently has a fleet of 34 aircraft available to the front-line Support Helicopter Force. The aircraft are operated by Nos 33 and 230 Squadrons, both based at RAF Benson. The combined Puma Force is separated into 5 operational flights and an operational conversion flight, which offers flexibility in its role with both desert warfare and arctic warfare specialist equipment available for fitting to the aircraft.
The Pumas are used as battlefield helicopters within the Joint Helicopter Command and provide tactical troop and load movement by day or by night. The aircraft can carry up to 16 passengers or 12 fully-equipped troops, or up to two tonnes of freight carried either internally or as an under-slung load. The other major role is that of casualty or medical evacuation support, for which up to six stretchers can be fitted.
For self-defence, the Puma also has a defensive-aids suite. This suite includes an integrated radar warning receiver, a missile-approach-warning system, an infrared jammer and automatic chaff and flare dispensing equipment. In addition, two cabin-mounted general purpose machine guns can be fitted for use by the crewmen.
The aircraft is appearing as part of the Air Tattoo's SkyLift 2012 operational theme.