The Royal Air Force plans to upgrade its fleet of Puma helicopters to enhance their performance and add ten years of extended service to the aircraft.

Under the for £300m programme, 28 Pumas will be upgraded with new and more powerful engines, new flight control equipment and modern cockpit and communications technology along with options to add two further aircraft to the programme.

The upgrade, to be conducted by Eurocopter UK, includes a £220m contract to equip the Puma fleet for at least ten years of further service, a £45m for new engines and a £35m for other contracts to support the upgrade.

New engines provided by Turbomeca will also be fitted to the helicopters, which will provide 35% more power and 25% better fuel-efficiency than the existing engines, while range and payload capacity of aircraft will also be upgraded.

UK defence equipment and support minister Quentin Davies said that the programme would provide the RAF with 28 helicopters able to transport troops in the hottest and most demanding conditions that might be encountered in Afghanistan.

The RAF currently operates a fleet of Puma support helicopters in two operational squadrons as battlefield helicopters within the Joint Helicopter Command.

Deliveries will begin in 2011 and the first 14 aircraft will enter into service by the end of 2012.