Royal Air Force (RAF) Akrotiri helicopter capability transfers from Griffin helicopter to Puma helicopter. RAF Akrotiri is home of the Cyprus Operations Support Unit which provides joint support to British Forces Cyprus. The official transition to the Puma Force in Cyprus took place on 31 March. Helicopter support to British Forces Cyprus has transferred from the Griffin HAR Mk.2 to the Puma HC Mk.2. The final sortie by a Griffin saw it lead the newly tasked Puma over RAF Akrotiri with Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston and Commander British Forces Air Vice-Marshal Peter Squires aboard. The Puma team will take over the capabilities from the Griffin from 1 April 2023.
Since 2003, the Griffin has been an integral part of the capabilities for British Forces supporting joint UK/ Cyprus training and military exercises, and undertaking emergency response and firefighting duties. This is an important day for our helicopter capability as we welcome the Puma Force to British Forces Cyprus and bid a fond farewell to the Griffins who have done such incredible work here in Cyprus over many years, including emergency response for casualty evacuations, fighting the annual wildfire scourge – which in the last few years have been the biggest in a generation – and supporting military training and exercises.
“Today sees the culmination of 15 months of hard work, commitment and professionalism. Personnel from Strategic Command, British Forces Cyprus, the Joint Helicopter Command and RAF Benson have delivered a seamless transition of helicopter capability for British Forces in Cyprus,” Group Captain Royston-Airey Station Commander RAF Benson said.
“The Pumas will bring continuity of that capability and will additionally be able to carry more and operate at night, which is fantastic for us. I look forward to working with them as they continue to deliver all the services which earned 84 Sqn such a wonderful reputation and special place of respect and admiration throughout Cyprus,” Air Vice-Marshal Squires Commander British Forces Cyprus said.
Bell Griffin HAR2 is a SAR helicopter based on the Bell 412EP, operated by No. 84 Squadron RAF since 2003 at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. The Griffin HAR2 is equipped with night-vision goggles and a FLIR/ TV turret. Owing to the hot, arid climate of its Cyprus base, the HAR2 regularly employs its crucial fire fighting capability across the region. Westland Puma HC Mk 2 is a modified Puma HC Mk1s, total of 24 upgraded with more powerful Turbomeca Makila 1A1 engines, a glass cockpit and new avionics, secure communications and improved self-protection equipment. The Puma HC.Mk 2 medium support helicopter operates under Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) control.