UK Royal Air Force (RAF) first upgraded Puma mk2 helicopter has successfully performed its initial flight from Eurocopter’s facility at Marignane, France.

The helicopter has been developed and upgraded by Eurocopter under the Puma life extension programme, which was approved by the UK Ministry of Defence in September 2009.

The life extension programme is aimed at extending the operational life of the Puma fleet, improved safety and performance and to significantly enhance its capability, especially in hot climatic conditions.

The upgrades include new engines, a digital flight control system, increased platform survivability and enhanced navigation and communications.

Puma is a rotary-wing aircraft representing one third of the UK’s medium battlefield support helicopter, used to provide day and night transport of tactical troops and load.

The upgraded helicopters will enter service with RAF in 2012, and achieve full operating capability in 2014.